‘Mad Men’ Actress Who Plays Firm’s First Black Employee Says She Has ‘A Lot of Responsibility’

The actress who plays the ad agency's first black employee says she's got a lot of responsibility on her hands.

By Jorge Rivas Apr 13, 2012

The LA Times has an interview with Teyonnah Parris, the actress who plays Don Draper’s new secretary and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s first black employee on the hit television series "Mad Men."

It’s a big deal because Mad Men is one of TV’s most popular shows and hasn’t really dealt with race explicitly yet. Parris says there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the role too.

Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

From the LA Times:

LA Times: A lot of people were concerned that Dawn was simply window dressing, like, ‘look, the token black character that will signal the changing times.’ And we sort of got to know a little bit more about her in last week’s episode, but it was mostly through the eyes of Peggy. What are your thoughts on that? 

Parris: Um, I think Peggy is the perfect person for us to learn about Dawn. She’s the woman on the show who is more open-minded, feminist — she doesn’t even know she’s a feminist, but that kind of air about herself. I thought it was pretty cool to see her mind-set and her beliefs and these things that she stands for sort of tested and see how that plays out for Peggy — because, you know, we hear her talk about how her boyfriend is covering the riots in Chicago and all kinds of things. And then we have this heart-to-heart and at the end there’s the purse thing. The subconscious judgments that her character harbors and probably didn’t even realize it.

I realize a lot of responsibility comes with this role. it’s the first time the show has had an African American in the office, but I try not to let it overwhelm me.