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Teyonah Parris On Playing “Mad Men”‘s First Black Employee

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“I know that this show hasn’t had an African-American in the office and I know that comes with a lot of responsibility as to how I portray this woman, but I can’t think about that. I can only go in and do what I think this woman would do. I try not to think, ‘Oh, I have to represent every single black person in the world that was there in the ’60s.’ I have to tell this one woman’s story and what that was for her. I’m kind of on the fence because as a black actress, there aren’t a lot of roles out there for us, and so you see a great show and it’s like, ‘Oh wow, I would love to be on that show. Oh, but there are no black people on it.’ So that part is frustrating and I understand that, but at the same time I don’t expect to be a part of everyone’s story if it’s not true to the story that they’re trying to tell.”

– Teyonah Parris, who plays Don’s new secretary, Dawn, on “Mad Men,” opens up about playing the first black employee at Sterling Cooper Draper Price. Creator Matt Weiner spoke really eloquently on the PBS news program “Charlie Rose” recently about how he wants civil rights issues on “Mad Men” to be historically accurate. But for Teyonah Parris’ sake, she doesn’t get stuck having to “represent every single black person in the world that was there in the ’60s.” It’s all too easy to assume one person’s story is supposed to speak for everybody. [NYMag.com]

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