Don Draper probably power ranked everyone in his life, so why wouldn’t we power rank the post–Mad Men careers of everyone who starred in the show? (In case you’re wondering, Don Draper’s power ranking goes: 1. Whoever invented Canadian Club, 2. Sally, 3. Anna Draper; last place: any woman who ever showed him genuine affection.)
Three years after the show’s final episode also feels like the right time to take stock of everyone’s post–Mad Men careers—a sufficient amount of time has passed to allow everyone to make moves, sign new deals, become new people, and generally cash in on whatever stock and/or potential they had accrued while appearing on one of the best dramas to ever air on TV. The years since Don Draper closed his eyes and dreamed up a Coke commercial haven’t gone exactly how you’d expect—for example, Matthew Weiner’s son has really disappeared—but that’s what makes this list so interesting.
To come up with the ranking, my colleagues Miles Surrey and Kate Halliwell and I considered a large collection of actors, ones who had speaking roles in more than three episodes of Mad Men. From there, we rated not only the actors’ post–Mad Men résumés, but also more amorphous factors like public persona and personal brand awareness, which is basically to say that yes, January Jones’s performance on Instagram was taken into consideration. Recency bias was also a factor—these are power rankings after all—so those who have been more prominent as of late got a boost. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Now, pour yourself a stiff drink, eat a bunch of raw oysters, run up 23 flights of stairs, and then keep reading. —Andrew Gruttadaro
54. Marten Holden Weiner (Glen Bishop)
We shan’t forget that Matthew Weiner cast one of his sons as the boy who had a big crush on Betty Draper, which was objectively strange. But the sins of a father shouldn’t be laid onto his son, and the real reason Marten Holden Weiner is dead last on this ranking comes down to the fact he has just other one acting credit to his name. Young Weiner played “Nerd” in the comedy short Weird Science 2: Strange Chemistry, which also happened before Mad Men even went off the air. If the most newsworthy post–Mad Men moment was when his auteur dad told Vulture that Holden Weiner threw a house party while he was out of town—well, that’s dope, but not exactly groundbreaking. —Miles Surrey
53. Aaron Hart (Bobby Draper #2)
52. Maxwell Huckabee (Bobby Draper #1)
51. Mason Vale Cotton (Bobby Draper #4)
The Bobbys are bad—only one Bobby is decent. We all probably saw this coming, considering how these kids were being replaced at a blinding clip. Aaron Hart and Maxwell Huckabee haven’t even acted since 2013. What do we think: Were all the Bobbys just bad at acting, or did January Jones scare them away? —Gruttadaro
50. Brandon Killham (Young Dick Whitman)
My pie-faced son—a.k.a. Teen Paul Rust—starred in a Geico commercial that aired while Mad Men was still on. That [Grimaces.] is about it. —Gruttadaro
49. Elizabeth Rice (Margaret Hargrove)
48. Embeth Davidtz (Rebecca Pryce)
47. Crista Flanagan (Lois Sadler)
46. Beth Hall (Caroline)
45. Joel Murray (Fred Rumsen)
44. Robert Morse (Bertram Cooper)
If Morse’s career has gone downhill since Mad Men, it’s only because his best days happened long before he donned Bert Cooper’s signature bow tie. Morse has been acting since the mid-’50s, in everything from Alfred Hitchcock Presents to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. So what if he’s done little else beyond American Crime Story and, uh, Teen Titans Go! in recent years? You’ve had your heyday, Bertie. Cash that retirement check. —Kate Halliwell
43. Michael Gladis (Paul Kinsey)
42. Mark Moses (Duck Phillips)
41. Charlie Hofheimer (Abe Drexler)
40. Harry Hamlin (Jim Cutler)
39. Brian Markinson (Dr. Arnold Rosen)
Here is a collection of serviceable white dudes who, since Mad Men, have been serviceable playing white dudes in a handful of shows. It’s probably a tad disrespectful to lump ’80s legend Harry Hamlin in here, but this ranking is a “What have you done for me lately?” ranking, and lately, Harry Hamlin has only starred in a few low-impact shows like Shooter and Law & Order True Crime. —Gruttadaro
38. Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell)
Kartheiser’s low ranking is thanks in part to heightened expectations: When you play one of the funniest, smarmiest characters in an all-time great ensemble, people expect big things. Kartheiser’s post–Mad Men work hasn’t been a total loss—mini-arcs in Casual, Genius, and The Path are nothing to scoff at—but nothing has broached Pete Campbell levels of good.
Here’s the thing: Three years is not a long time, and it’s entirely possible that Kartheiser’s next great role/performance is just around the corner. Julia Louis-Dreyfus had eight tepid years between the final season of Seinfeld and the first season of The New Adventures of Old Christine, and another two between Christine and Veep. On the other hand, if Kartheiser never reaches the heights of Pete Campbell again and is regarded more as a One Great Role type of actor, we’ve seen this story before. If that’s the case, don’t worry, Vincent, the careers of Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), and Michael C. Hall (Dexter) are nothing to scoff at either. —Surrey
37. Anne Dudek (Francine Hanson)
36. Aaron Staton (Ken Cosgrove)
35. Bryan Batt (Salvatore Romano)
I honestly thought Aaron Staton was gonna have a strong career after Mad Men, but he’s really only been a spot performer in a few shows (Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Showtime’s Ray Donovan, Hulu’s Castle Rock). His biggest non–Mad Men role is probably still as the star of the 2011 video game L.A. Noire.
Sort of a tough look. —Gruttadaro
34. Jared Gilmore (Bobby Draper #3)
The One Bobby Draper to Rule Them All, Gilmore has almost entirely built his career on a leading role as Henry Mills in ABC’s Once Upon a Time, which he held for the first six seasons before a time jump meant an older actor had to take his place. Contemporary fairytale stories aren’t my thing, but Gilmore was a main character on a network show for six years—whereas the other Bobby Drapers’ acting résumés seem to have been vaporized by Thanos. Once Upon a Time has wrapped, and Gilmore is only 18. His arrow is pointing up—if we revisit these rankings in a few years, maybe Gilmore will leap into the top 20. —Surrey
33. Talia Balsam (Mona Sterling)
32. Melinda McGraw (Bobbie Barrett)
31. Christopher Stanley (Henry Francis)
30. Jessica Paré (Megan Draper)
Considering the buzz surrounding her introduction to the show in 2010, the hype around Jessica Paré has pretty much crashed and burned since the end of Mad Men. She landed a supporting role in Lovesick in 2016 (no, not the good TV show version, the bad movie version) and memorably told Saoirse Ronan to “shave down there” in Brooklyn. Paré is currently on SEAL Team with David Boreanaz, which just aired its second season on CBS All Access. A job’s a job, I suppose. —Halliwell
29. Trevor Einhorn (John Mathis)
I’d just like to note that Trevor Einhorn—who played the nerdy, low-level copywriter who once scathingly summed up Don Draper’s charm as “You’re just handsome”—got a makeover and is now a hot nerd. —Gruttadaro
28. Peyton List (Jane Sterling)
27. Allan Havey (Lou Avery)
26. Sam Page (Greg Harris)
25. Jay R. Ferguson (Stan Rizzo)
I’m calling this the Character Actor (and the Lol, Peyton List Is Poison Ivy in Gotham) Corner. Since 2013, Ferguson has played an FBI agent on three different shows: Ray Donovan, Twin Peaks: The Return, and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. He knows what’s good. I half expected Ferguson to be one of First Man’s many That Guys. As for Havey, he now plays a recurring character on Billions, a national treasure. All these actors are doing just fine. —Surrey
24. Cara Buono (Faye Miller)
Two things: One, Faye was the greatest and had one of the greatest lines in Mad Men history (“You only like the beginnings of things”), and I still hurt for her after what Don did. Two, Cara Buono is ranked this high primarily because she flirted with Billy in one of the best scenes from the second season of Stranger Things. —Gruttadaro
23. Kevin Rahm (Ted Chaough)
22. Patrick Fischler (Jimmy Barrett)
Patrick Fischler is one of those immediately recognizable actors whose name I believe no one has ever actually memorized. Since a brief 2008 run on Mad Men, he’s done pretty damn well for himself. He played the Waffle Nazi on Pushing Daisies, which alone merits his placement here, but he followed that up with roles on Lost, Southland, Californication, and Once Upon a Time. As if that wasn’t enough, Fischler also appeared in Twin Peaks: The Return last year. Maybe one of these days we’ll learn his name for good. —Halliwell
21. Caity Lotz (Stephanie)
20. Zosia Mamet (Joyce Ramsay)
19. Julia Ormond (Marie Calvet)
18. Alexis Bledel (Beth Dawes)
So, aside from Caity Lotz, it’s pretty safe to say that these actresses owe their post–Mad Men success to things that are not Mad Men. Zosia Mamet, who played Peggy’s lesbian friend in five episodes, is certainly more recognizable as Shoshanna from Girls, which she’s parlayed into a couple TV roles (You’re the Worst, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), a part in Under the Silver Lake, a movie that is never going to come out, and a brief career as a rapper; Julia Ormond is a legend; Alexis Bledel was Rory Gilmore before Mad Men and she continued to be Rory Gilmore after Mad Men (and one of the handmaids in The Handmaid’s Tale). Really, the only one to get a legitimate post–Mad Men boost was Lotz, who turned a small part as Anna Draper’s niece into a large part in the CW’s Arrowverse. —Gruttadaro
17. Christina Hendricks (Joan Harris)
Hendricks hasn’t necessarily been lacking in work since Mad Men … it’s just the quality of the work that’s concerning. She was one of the biggest names in television during the series run, which is almost hard to imagine merely three years later. She appeared Another Period on Comedy Central, then in Hap and Leonard on SundanceTV—neither of which could be classified as particularly successful ventures.
Perhaps most baffling of all have been Hendricks’s forays into holiday films, including a depressing appearance in Bad Santa 2 and the now-legendary Pottersville: the egregiously photoshopped Michael Shannon starrer in which Hendricks does … this.
She’s bounced back a bit since then (thank god) with roles in Tin Star, The Romanoffs, and Good Girls, and it feels like we’re ripe for a Hendricks-aissance any day now. Just please get this woman a part worthy of her time and talent. —Halliwell
16. Rich Sommer (Harry Crane)
15. Rosemarie DeWitt (Midge Daniels)
14. Teyonah Parris (Dawn Chambers)
Though they’re clustered together in these rankings, these three actors are on diverging yet exciting paths. DeWitt has dipped her toes in horror, starring in the underwhelming Poltergeist remake and the Jodie Foster–directed episode of Black Mirror. (OK, so not traditional horror, but if you’ve watched “Arkangel,” you know that child-surveillance shit is really scary.) Sommer featured in both of Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer follow-ups, and is Betty Gilpin’s mopey-ass husband on GLOW, which he’s a little too good at.
And then there’s Parris, who’s on the precipice of a full-on breakout into stardom. She rocked Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq and will star in Barry Jenkins’s forthcoming If Beale Street Could Talk. She’s also nabbed a leading role for the pilot of a potential CBS drama called Murder. ([Whispers.] It’s about crime.) If that show goes anywhere promising—be it the semi-prestige route, an NCIS-type of popularity with killer ratings, or 9-1-1 levels of stupid—she’ll easily crack this top 10. —Surrey
13. James Wolk (Bob Benson)
12. John Slattery (Roger Sterling)
If we had done this ranking two years ago, James Wolk may have been in the top 10. At that time, Wolk was the star of Zoo, a patently absurd yet beloved show that was averaging almost 9 million viewers per episode. That means 9 million people were watching Wolk do stuff like this:
Unfortunately, the show fell off—averaging only 2.65 million viewers in its final season before ultimately being canceled—though it still maintained a fiercely loyal niche audience. Since then, Wolk’s had a brief run on Billions and Amazon Prime’s Goliath; most recently, he starred in the CBS All Access show Tell Me a Story, which I only know exists because IMDb says so. In summary, things have been solid but “not great, Bob!” for Wolk. He still has a ton of potential though, if you ask me.
As for Mr. Slattery, my silver-haired dad followed up Mad Men with an ensemble appearance in a Best Picture, roles as Dwight Eisenhower and Tony Stark’s dad, two perfect comedic stints on Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Veep, and a couple episodes on Weiner’s new, less-good show The Romanoffs. On second thought, maybe Slattery should’ve cracked the top 10. —Gruttadaro
11. January Jones (Betty Draper)
Let’s just face facts—the only real job January Jones has landed since Mad Men is on The Last Man on Earth. She’s funny! The show is funny! But still … not great! That said, Jones’s post-Betty success must not be measured by strict, inflexible means. Who needs a stream of steady movie and TV work when she can curate her own body of work via Instagram?
It’s hard to sum up just what makes January’s Insta so, so good. Is it the seven-page skincare routine posts? Her commitment to Betty Draper memes? Or is it the public shaming of food-delivery companies accompanied by an unrelated bikini pic?
Ignore her IMDb page—Jan contains multitudes, owns 7,000 pairs of sunglasses, and she’s doing fucking great. —Halliwell
10. Ben Feldman (Michael Ginsberg)
Ginsberg is one of the few members of the Mad Men ensemble to rise up and become a leading man (on TV at least). After a false start as the costar of NBC’s rom-sitcom A to Z, which was canceled after 13 episodes, Ben Feldman’s gone on to star in NBC’s Superstore, an unsung network comedy that’s much better than you’d think and has aired 61 episodes and counting. He’s also showed his range in a recurring role on Silicon Valley playing Pied Piper’s lawyer Ron LaFlemme, an anti-Ginsberg if there ever was one. He’s doing pretty well. —Gruttadaro
9. Danny Strong (Danny Siegel)
Danny Siegel was only in a few episodes of Mad Men, but as the guy who Don Draper plagiarized off of, he was a memorable character. And he deserves to be on this list off the strength of his post–Mad Men career alone. Since playing Siegel, Danny Strong has appeared in Girls, Justified, Love, the new Gilmore Girls, and Billions. Next year, he has a role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Also? HE FREAKING CO-CREATED EMPIRE. —Gruttadaro
8. Abigail Spencer (Suzanne Farrell)
Stock is way up these days for Abigail Spencer, or as I like to call her, Meghan Markle’s Close Personal Friend Abigail Spencer. Along with the fateful Suits role that led to her royal wedding invite, Spencer has had a genuinely staggering amount of work over the past decade, including roles on Hawthorne, Burning Love, True Detective, and Grey’s Anatomy. After a great turn in Rectify, she then starred in the wildly popular, oft-canceled-and-reborn Timeless. Up next, she’ll star in Reprisal, a Hulu movie described as a “hyper-kinetic revenge tale following a relentless femme fatale who, after being left for dead, leads a vengeful campaign against a bombastic gang of gearheads.” I’m in. —Halliwell
7. Linda Cardellini (Sylvia Rosen)
Cardellini has kept herself busy, between the good (The Founder), the bad (the Daddy’s Home franchise), and the hilariously expensive on Netflix (may we never forget that the company green-lit three seasons of Bloodline, a show more about nothing than Seinfeld). Cardellini’s high ranking here isn’t due to a specific role—rather, just a lot of solid work. I think she was legitimately great in Bloodline, but there’s only so much you can do with a nonexistent plot and vacant stares at Florida sunsets.
2019, however, is already looking promising for Cardellini. There’s the lead role in the horror flick The Curse of La Llorona—which I can only base on the merits of how frustratingly effective some of its first trailer’s jump scares were—as well as Netflix’s comedy series Dead to Me, executive produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. Those are the guys who were behind one of 2018’s best shows, Succession. If Dead to Me can give Cardellini what Bloodline should’ve, balance in the TV universe can be restored. —Surrey
6. Maggie Siff (Rachel Menken)
Let’s keep this simple. Siff went from being the first of Don Draper’s many brunette flings—she essentially exits the show once Don’s affair with Rachel wraps at the end of Season 1—to literally urinating on Paul Giamatti as his wife-dominatrix while simultaneously emotionally manipulating the employees at his arch-rival’s company in Billions. Maggie Siff is living her best life and should frankly be ranked higher. Whomst else is peeing on Paul Giamatti? Anyone? That’s what I thought. —Surrey
5. Jon Hamm (Don Draper)
Hamm’s post–Mad Men career is a tough one to judge—at no. 5, it somehow feels like we’re underrating and overrating him. On the one hand, he’s been legitimately good in several post–Mad Men roles—Baby Driver and Beirut, in particular—and has been consistently active with no signs of slowing down. Over the next two years, he’s set to star in a Noah Hawley movie with a stacked cast, Neil Gaiman’s mini-series Good Omens, and Top Gun: Maverick, a movie he was born to wear aviators in. On the other hand, in the past three years Hamm has probably been most recognized as the “guy in the H&R Block commercials,” which is a really tough beat.
This is what happens when your peak is Don Draper, one of the best, most iconic characters in TV history—it throws off all means of judgment. Hamm was unbelievably good as Don, and we’ve all been yearning to see him repeat that performance but … the truth is he probably never will. For most actors, the perfect role comes along only once. It feels like most of Hamm’s post–Mad Men roles have been reviewed with the caveat of “Yeah but, it’s no Don Draper,” which isn’t fair because nothing will ever be Don Draper!
We should probably stop judging Hamm on an impossible curve and start regarding him for what he really is: a consistently solid working actor who once found a role that was a perfect match. He’s done just fine since Mad Men, our absurdly misguided expectations be damned. —Gruttadaro
4. Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper)
After a tumultuous childhood in the Draper household, Sally Draper has thrived in the genre that makes the most sense: horror. Along with carrying Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on her immensely charming shoulders, Shipka has appeared in The Blackcoat’s Daughter and The Silence. She’s also had a few other TV roles, including going from Betty Draper’s to Bette Davis’s daughter on Feud. And as for upcoming projects, they’re primed to roll in at an alarming rate. Watch this space. —Halliwell
3. Jared Harris (Lane Pryce)
This king—not just because he played King George VI in the first season of The Crown—has been a perpetually underrated actor for far too long. Finally, though, it seems Harris is getting his due. AMC’s The Terror was a masterclass in tension and a study of what happens when men are stripped of every impulse but the will to survive. Harris imbued Captain Francis Crozier with empathy—not just for his fellow nautical explorers trapped in the Arctic, but the Inuits whose land they were trespassing on—and delivered a haunting final expression as the expedition’s sole survivor that’s been etched in my memory for months.
Harris also recurs on one of my favorite shows, The Expanse, as Anderson Dawes, a man frequently at odds with his own vocal chords. (I cannot begin to describe this accent Harris is attempting, but it’s quite memorable.)
I want Jared Harris to be in everything. But for now, I’ll settle for Amazon Prime’s drama series Carnival Row, costarring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne and premiering in 2019. —Surrey
2. Alison Brie (Trudy Campbell)
The end of Community and Mad Men in 2015 could have spelled career disaster for Alison Brie, as she was suddenly without a steady role for the first time in years. What’s a relatable-hot-girl-turned-solid-actress to do?
A lot, as it turned out. In 2017 alone, Brie landed roles in two Oscar-nominated movies, The Post and The Disaster Artist; she racked up a bunch of great voice work in The Lego Movie and BoJack Horseman; she married the good Franco brother; and then she starred in Netflix’s absurdly great comedy GLOW, becoming a total badass and picking up a Golden Globe nomination in the process. I feel comfortable saying she can now beat up every mad man on Mad Men, which is a mark of success if ever I’ve seen it. —Halliwell
1. Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson)
Could it be anyone else? While she appeared in her fair share of films after Mad Men ended—may we never forget her wholly uncomfortable sex scene with Claes Bang in The Square, because it’s literally unforgettable—Moss has been perhaps the single most successful television actor of the past decade. Peggy Olson? Of course, iconic.
But she also did two seasons of Top of the Lake, a Twin Peaks–esque whodunnit vaulted by Moss’s beleaguered detective Robin Griffin. (Season 1 nabbed Moss’s first Golden Globe win.) And, of course, there’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s ostensibly dystopian series that felt horrifyingly close to reality by the time it arrived in April 2017. So much of that excellent first season relies on close-ups on Moss’s face, which conveys a mix of sadness and resentment that’s often just subtle enough to get away with in front of her Gilead oppressors. The Best Actress Emmy Moss received for that first season didn’t just feel like karmic justice for all the times she got snubbed as Peggy; it was an incredible performance in its own right.
Moss is a supernova. She’s Jordan during his string of ’90s championships, Rafael Nadal on clay. This is exactly how Moss should be feeling right now (just pretend she’s carrying a case of awards):
Long may she reign. —Surrey
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