In Mad Men, Don Draper has a troubled past: he grew up very poor, enlisted in the Korean War, and

stole the name and identity of an officer he served under.

However, the first hints of his concealing his past did not come until the second episode of the first season, when he deflects from a conversation about childhood while having dinner with Betty and the Sterlings. (The pilot episode does establish that he served in Korea, saw combat, and was awarded a Purple Heart.)

My understanding is that seven years passed between Matthew Weiner writing the first draft of the pilot and the show getting picked up. At what point in the process did Don Draper’s mysterious past get fleshed out? Was it all Weiner’s idea, or was it a collaboration between him and others?

1 Answer 1


From comments by Weiner it seems not.

It seems the backstory was added in the period between the pilot and the show being picked up.

We shot the pilot in April the year before. AMC picked it up in June. But they didn’t have a partner in Lionsgate until late September. I was finishing The Sopranos, but I had almost a year to think about what was going to happen in the show. I had a template of what the structure of the season was going be based on a movie script I had written called The Horseshoe. It was Don Draper’s back-story. I only got to page 80, but the last scene I had in the script was this guy, Dick Whitman, abandoning his own body, going to his own funeral, switching bodies with someone else from Korea. I told the story to AMC and we decided that was the first season.

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