Elisabeth Moss wearing her favourite watch
If you’ve ever wondered what Don Draper and co. are really guzzling down and smoking, then Mad Men’s prop master, Ellen Freund, is the one to ask. Spending anything between $13,000 - $15,000 an episode on props, it’s no surprise that her team spend five days per episode sourcing the best props from auction houses, eBay and Efty. ‘People want things all the time!' Ellen tells Grazia Daily about the cast, 'Peggy is dying to take her watch so I’m desperately trying to find a double so that she can!’
Peggy's vintage watch
Ellen has a whole host of people that she relies on to make the Mad Men theme feel right, from a vintage watch and eyewear source in Canada to a specific LA cocktail bar where she gets her ice from because every touch has to feel authentic. Ellen created the infamous Lucky Strike cigarette boxes herself but the actors are all actually smoking Ecstacy Herbal Cigarettes - they cut off the filter for Don ‘because Don smokes Old Golds which are filterless’ Ellen tells Grazia Daily. Ellen had to start adding warnings on the packs in Season Four as these came about in late 1964.
Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks in Series One
So just what are they drinking all the time? ‘Our drinks props guy has a secret recipe of Water and Caramel colouring for any brown-coloured drinks and we use non-alcoholic wine and champagne and then the martinis are just water!’ But don’t feel too disillusioned, Man Men fans, Ellen describes the set as ‘a crowd that likes to party’ naming martinis, scotch and champagne as the drinks of choice for a set soiree. Now, that sounds like a fun wrap party.
According to Ellen, it’s sourcing the vintage alcohol bottles which is the most difficult part of the job. ‘We can print the labels but the actual bottles are normally a result of raiding a family friend’s liquor cabinet or finding a source on an auction website who might have things like bottles, jars, tins and cans from that era.’
Now that we’re in season five and in full swing of the late Sixties, the props team have radically changed the feel of the time. ‘1966 saw a radical change in design, colour and shape so we brought in more colour in the plastic dishware and bathroom towels’. When we asked Ellen what her sources were to get the feel right in the ad office, she says she has a few secret sources - including an English art director who worked in New York in the 60s and who Lane is pretty much based on – and looks at old photographs and adverts from the time.
Betty with her $40,000 bling
Although Ellen’s job is to look after the props, she works very closely with Mad Men costume designer, Janie Bryant, for the character’s accessories like their watches and rings. ‘Betty’s ring is a Van Cleef + Arpels while Megan’s ring is a vintage piece from Florida that I found. I prefer to use a faux ring rather than have to keep track of a $40,000 one!’ Oo er, looks like Henry really went all out for Betty...
When we asked Ellen who the on-set prankster was, she laughed and boldly stated ‘Jon Hamm always pulls silly jokes!’ which got Grazia's attention. ‘He’ll come in to shoot a take with his pants rolled up above his knees or something’ Gorgeous, successful and funny? We're sold on the real Don Draper.