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Interview: Stephanie Drake

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Baltimore native Stephanie Drake is an up and coming actress who is ready to make her mark in Hollywood through hard work and perseverance. The multi-talented actress has worked in theater, television, film and has done voice work as well.

She’s made appearances on shows like The Middle, Jimmy Kimmel Live and now can be seen playing Meredith on the hit AMC series Mad Men which will begin its final season on Sunday, April 13 at 10 PM ET/PT. Stephanie sat down with the Pop Culture Principle to talk about working on Mad Men, the power of social media and what advice she would give to up and coming actors.

Pop Culture Principle – What made you decide to become an actor?

Stephanie Drake – When I was 7, my dad took me to New York to see my first Broadway show which was The Phantom of the Opera. I know it sounds so cheesy, but it was like a light bulb went off and I just knew while sitting there that this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life. From then on, I was always interested in acting. I went to the performing arts high school in Baltimore County where I took it to a whole other level. I then went to USC for college and have really been acting ever since. It’s kind of hard to believe that a seven year old could be bitten by the bug, but I was.

Pop Culture Principle – Actors sometimes have to take interesting jobs while finding work. You worked in retail for a while. How was that experience?

Stephanie Drake – It was better than waiting tables, at least for me. I tried that for about 4 months, but went right back to retail. Working retail was fine, but I don’t miss it. The one good thing was that I always worked in men’s sportswear. Helping men is much easier than helping women.

Pop Culture Principle - You appeared on an episode of The Middle. What was the experience like for you?

Stephanie Drake – The Middle was so great. Working on that show was very different than working on Mad Men. Mad Men is very much shot like a movie, as I am sure most people can tell. We can take up to 12 hours to shoot one scene on Mad Men. For The Middle, I got there at 6 o’clock in the morning. I was in three scenes and I was out by 10am. It was really quick and it was so much fun working with Patricia Heaton who is amazing. She was so much fun to watch. She was really helpful during the scene that we had. She gave me some suggestions and advice and I think it turned out really well. It was a great experience.

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Pop Culture Principle – How did the audition come about for you for Mad Men?

Stephanie Drake – Wow, it’s been about 3 and a half years since my audition. I got a call from my agent saying I had an audition for Mad Men; of course I was super excited. I actually had a date that night, so I had to call my date and cancel on him and he totally understood. I had never seen the show before, so I watched an episode of it On Demand to try and get an idea of the genre and the tone of the show. I went in and had my initial read with the casting director and she then asked me to come back later that day for the producer session, which is always good news. I went in and I had no idea that the producer’s session would be hosted by Matt Weiner. There were at least a dozen people in there and he was the one who was sitting front and center. We just started chatting and he found out I was from Baltimore and we talked about that. I then did my scene and it went really well; he laughed at a few different places which is always encouraging. Then about an hour later I got a call from my agent and then a week after that I started working on the show. It all happened so fast.

Pop Culture Principle – Did they say this was a one-time appearance or it could be a recurring character?

Stephanie Drake – When I auditioned they said it was possibly recurring, but of course you don’t want to get your hopes up. Even just being in one episode would be amazing. Who would have thought 3 seasons later I’d still be here. It’s been amazing.

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Pop Culture Principle – Meredith comes across a bit spacey, but she also takes up for herself. Was that important for you to get across to the audience?

Stephanie Drake – Yes. I am sure you can remember from the very first episode, she was that girl who was very shy and kept to herself. She even said that she was happy being nobody, but then when the time comes, she can stick up for herself which I think is fantastic. It’s a quality that I like to think I have in myself personally as well. Then at the same time, she’s so spacey and ditzy that you can’t help but love her.

Pop Culture Principle – One of the interesting dynamics on the show is the relationship between Meredith and Joan. What is it like working with Christina Hendricks?

Stephanie Drake – She’s fantastic. The first season was when we really butted heads. She’s wonderful in person and so nice. We love to sit around and chat about my dating life. It’s always great seeing her and working with her.

Pop Culture Principle – One of the standout scenes with you and Christina is with her throwing the airplane. How did you both prepare for that scene?

Stephanie Drake – That’s probably still to date one of my favorite scenes. I think at the beginning of it, no one knew how the airplane breaking was going to turn out. They had a stunt double there for me that day just in case, but we never actually used her. There was also a stunt coordinator there to tell Christina exactly where to throw the plane. When you throw a model airplane, you don’t know where the pieces are going to land or if it’s going to hit you, but I felt totally safe and comfortable.

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Pop Culture Principle – Mad Men has some great fashions, how much input do you get with Meredith’s wardrobe?

Stephanie Drake – Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t really have a say in what I wear. I leave it up to the amazing costume team; they know what they are doing. I pretty much love everything I get to wear so I am never disappointed. I’ll try on so many different dresses and when I get to set that day, I walk into my trailer and see my costumes hanging up. I get so excited every time. I’ve noticed over the last three years that for Meredith, there are lots of bows and lots of flowers. The costume designer Janie Bryant calls me her little Barbie doll that she gets to dress up.

Pop Culture Principle – Did you do any research for your role on Mad Men?

Stephanie Drake – You know, I didn’t. For a show like Mad Men, at least for my character, everything is there in the script for me. So, I’ve never had to do any research unless there is a reference I don’t know; then I will look it up. Other than that, I’ve never had to do any major research.

Pop Culture Principle – With Mad Men coming to an end soon, how does it feel to know you were part of one of the most iconic shows on television?

Stephanie Drake – It’s been amazing and I feel so lucky. If you look at my resume, I haven’t really been on that many shows. I can’t believe I got to be a part of something so special.

Pop Culture Principle – What will you miss about Mad Men?

Stephanie Drake – I’ll miss everything. Everyone is so wonderful to work with. Going there is like a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows everything that is going on. I’ll miss having a steady job definitely. I’ll miss the Kraft services on set which was amazing! Especially the spa water!

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Pop Culture Principle – What can fans expect in the final season of Mad Men?

Stephanie Drake - I can't say much about the final season except it will be great and you won't want to miss it! I wish I could tell you more!

Pop Culture Principle – You did a very funny sketch on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. How did that come about and how was the experience?

Stephanie Drake – My agent had me meet with the casting directors on that show. An entire year went by and they call my agent and said they wanted me to come in and do the sketch. My agent called me at noon and asked if I could be in Hollywood by 1pm. So, I got ready and my agent was reading me the lines over the phone while I was driving because I had no time to look at the script. I got there and it took about 3 hours to shoot it all and it aired that night. Talk about instant gratification. It was a blast and the best way to spend a day. It turned out great and was so much fun to watch.

Pop Culture Principle – Social media is a big part of society today. How involved with social media are you?

Stephanie Drake – I am a big fan of social media. I jointed Twitter not that long ago. It’s fun. I really get excited when I get new followers; probably more excited than I should. It’s a great way to keep in touch with people and a great way to share my news with people that I don’t know and may never meet in person. It’s been great keeping in touch with people from my home town of Baltimore and them being able to see some of the exciting things I am doing out here.

Pop Culture Principle – As an actor, what would be your definition of success?

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Stephanie Drake – Success to me means just being able to work consistently on projects. They aren’t always going to be great, but as long as you are working. As long as I feel positive about what I am doing and how I’m feeling, I think that is the most important. This job is so hard, especially when you are first starting out. If every year I feel like I’m progressing, then I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and I am doing it successfully. I don’t think every actor’s ultimate goal is to be super famous, if it happens, that’s great. All of my working actor friends and I just want to work because it’s fun and that’s why we are here as simple as that sounds.

Pop Culture Principle – Any advice for up and coming actors who want to get into the business?

Stephanie Drake – My advice would be just don’t give up. It’s easy to get down and not want to try as hard. There are so many distractions. You just can’t give up. I know that is easier said than done for sure. Just start doing things to keep yourself busy. For me, I play tennis and read and go see live music. There will be months where nothing is happening and as silly as it sounds, hobbies are a life saver!

We'd like to thank Stephanie again for taking time out of her schedule to talk with us. If you are interested in keeping up with what is going on with Stephanie and her career, check out the links below:

Stephanie Drake Official website click here.

Stephanie Drake Official Twitter click here.

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