|Mad Men character|
|First appearance||"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (1.01)|
|Last appearance||"Person to Person" (7.14)|
|Created by||Matthew Weiner|
|Portrayed by||Christina Hendricks|
|Aliases||Joan Holloway (maiden name)
Joan Harris (married name)
|Occupation||Director of Agency Operations (Season 4-),
Junior Partner (Season 5-)
Office Manager (Season 1-2, 4)
Housewife (Season 3)
Sales Associate at Bonwit Teller (Season 3)
|Family||Gail Holloway (mother)|
|Spouse(s)||Scotty (last name unknown; ex-husband)
Greg Harris (ex-husband)
|Children||Kevin Harris (with Roger)|
|Romances||Roger Sterling (ex-lover)
Paul Kinsey (ex-lover)
Fictional character biography
Joan was born on February 24, 1931. From Season 1 through Season 3, Joan is the office manager at the advertising agency Sterling Cooper. Her primary responsibilities are to manage the secretarial, steno, and telephone operators pools; attend to the needs of the executives; and organize agency events. She is also seen during meetings with the heads of departments, implementing Roberts Rules of Order, taking notes, and reminding the male staff of their duties to their clients, and assisting the CFO, Lane Pryce, with SC financial duties.
Joan had a lengthy romantic involvement with her boss Roger Sterling, Jr. (John Slattery), which ended after Sterling suffered a heart attack. After Marilyn Monroe's death, Roger walks into his office to find Joan lying on his couch and crying. Realizing she is upset over the similarities she sees between the actress's life and her own, Roger comforts Joan by assuring her she will not end up alone and in despair like Monroe.
Sometime before the start of the series, Joan was briefly married to a man named Scotty. Though Scotty is never seen, she mentioned to a friend in the season 6 episode "To Have and To Hold" that her marriage to him was the "worst six months of my life."
Joan had also had an intimate relationship with Sterling Cooper copywriter Paul Kinsey sometime before the series began; Joan ended the relationship because Paul had "a big mouth" (implying that he bragged about the relationship to others). Her roommate, Carol, whom Joan knows from college, has expressed romantic interest in Joan, too, although Joan ignores her romantic overtures.
In Season 2, Joan gets engaged to Greg Harris (played by actor Samuel Page), a doctor at St. Luke's Hospital. As the season goes on, Joan is clearly torn between wanting to be a well-off, married woman—the pinnacle of Joan's ambitions—but fears that she will become a bored, lonely housewife. Her feelings are exacerbated when she is briefly given additional responsibilities at Sterling Cooper reading television scripts to determine ad placement, which thrills her. However, Harry Crane hires a young, somewhat clueless man to take over the ad placement job, to her disappointment.
In "The Mountain King", Greg picks Joan up at Sterling Cooper for a dinner date. Greg meets Roger Sterling for the first time and immediately picks up that he knows her likes and dislikes. Joan attempts to dismiss his suspicions by claiming that Roger only knows her well because of how long she has been with the agency. Greg is unconvinced and then follows Joan as she goes into Don Draper's office to lock up, forces her to the floor, and rapes her.
In the interim between Seasons 2 and 3, Joan and Greg have married. In Season 3's third episode, "My Old Kentucky Home", it is revealed that Greg is not the accomplished surgeon that Joan had hoped he would be. She leaves Sterling Cooper to become a housewife in Season 3, but is later seen by Pete Campbell working at Bonwit Teller due to Greg's failure to receive a promotion. Joan mentions to Pete that Greg is considering going into psychiatry, in hopes of salvaging his career.
Joan helps Greg prepare for an interview to be psychiatrist, but he fails to get the job. The two have a heated argument, ending with Joan's smashing a vase over Greg's head. Joan later places a call to Roger Sterling's office after hours, asking him to help her find another office manager job. Greg ultimately obtains an officer's commission in the Army where he will serve as a military surgeon, and tells Joan she will no longer have to work. Despite this, Joan comes to the aid of Don, Roger, Bert, and Lane to launch the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce by finding accounting materials and client records. When the new company sets up shop at The Pierre hotel, Joan takes the position of office manager.
At Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce (SCDP)
Joan is recognized by most (though not all) of the staff as being integral in SCDP's daily operations. A notable feature of Joan's new office is an intercom to the conference room that she can use to monitor meetings within, a feature conveniently forgotten by everyone except her and Peggy.
In Season 4, Joan and Greg are shown trying to conceive, but their marriage is strained by Greg's having to attend basic training and later being sent to Vietnam. In his absence, Joan and Roger briefly rekindle their affair, after being mugged one night while walking home from a friendly dinner. Their night of passion leaves Joan pregnant, so she and Roger decide to "take care of it". Joan makes an appointment at an abortion clinic but in the waiting room, she is mistaken for a mother waiting for her daughter to get an abortion. Joan realizes her time to conceive is running out so she decides to pass Roger's baby off as Greg's. Also in season 4, Joan also receives a title-only promotion to Director of Agency Operations, in recognition of her role in keeping SCDP afloat amid its recent financial troubles. Other season 4 developments include Joan's working relationship with Peggy, the only other high-ranking woman at SCDP.
In the Season 5 premiere, Greg is still in Vietnam, and Joan has given birth to a boy named Kevin and is finishing her maternity leave from SCDP, making plans for returning to work while her mom, Gail, is staying with her to help with the baby.
In "Mystery Date", Greg returns home from Vietnam, but informs Joan he is being ordered to go back for an additional year. However, it is revealed that Greg actually reenlisted voluntarily since the army makes him feel purposeful, even though the war is becoming increasingly dangerous. Joan becomes enraged and throws him out. Joan tells him he has never been a good man, alluding to his marital rape. He threatens to divorce her if he leaves but Joan simply tells him to leave.
In "Christmas Waltz", a process server shows up at the SCDP office to serve Joan with the divorce papers, which upsets her. Joan yells at SCDP's receptionist, Meredith, and storms off. Don offers to take her out for the day and the two test drive a Jaguar, and then to spend the remainder of the afternoon drinking in a midtown bar, during which time she confesses to Don that she is unsure of how to start over now with a baby.
In "The Other Woman", Joan is taken aback when the partners (minus Don, who dissents) present her with an offer to sleep with Herb Rennet, in order to secure them the Jaguar account. She eventually agrees, thinking that all of the partners agreed to the offer. At Lane's suggestion, she demands 5% of SCDP and a voting partnership instead of the $50,000 lump sum she was initially offered (although unbeknownst to her, Lane persuaded her to turn down the lump sum to cover up his embezzlement). As partner, Joan's overall role in day-to-day operations doesn't change much beyond the fact that she now votes in partners' meetings.
In "Commissions and Fees", Joan discovers Lane's body while trying to get into his office. She later expresses confusion to Don over Lane's suicide and believes that if she slept with him, he would not have died. Don tells her that she is worth more than her body, which she is grateful for. In the Season 5 finale, Joan appears to have taken over Lane's accounting duties and presides over the acquisition of new office space for the firm.
At Sterling Cooper & Partners (SC&P)
At the start of Season 6, Joan has settled into her new role as partner at SCDP. In "To Have and To Hold", Joan discovers that Harry Crane's secretary, Scarlet, has been having Dawn, Don's secretary, punch out her time cards. Joan confronts them and fires Scarlet, much to Harry's fury. He yells at the other partners for letting Joan do whatever she wanted, clearly resenting being passed over for partner. He implies that he knows Joan essentially prostituted herself for her partnership, much to Joan's humiliation.
In the same episode, Joan is visited by a childhood friend, Kate, who now works for Mary Kay. Kate expresses her admiration for Joan, believing that Joan's partnership has more power than it actually has. This causes Joan to realize that she must stop acting like a secretary, and transfers many of her office manager duties to Dawn so that she can concentrate on more important duties.
In "Man with a Plan", Joan presides over the complicated physical logistics of SCDP's merger with CGC. CGC's secretaries express irritation at being placed under Joan's command, but she brushes them off to warmly welcome Peggy back. Bob Benson, an eager new hire in accounts, later walks in on Joan in extreme pain and discreetly escorts her to the hospital, even getting her expedited care. Joan is suspicious of Bob's motives for helping her, but her mother advises her that not every good deed is a front. Joan quietly steps in to save Bob's job when he is about to be laid off.
By "The Better Half", Joan has accepted Bob's friendship and is seen preparing to go to the beach with him and Kevin. Roger appears unannounced and is suspicious of Bob's presence. Roger attempts to be part of Joan and Kevin's lives, but she tells him that she intends to let Kevin grow up thinking that Greg is his father.
In "A Tale of Two Cities", Joan goes on what she assumes is a blind date with an Avon executive, arranged by Kate. It turns out to be a business meeting, as Avon is looking for a new direction. Joan is eager to expand her role in the firm and recruits Peggy to assist her in securing the account, but nearly blows it by excluding Pete from the proceedings and coming on aggressively at the meeting. Peggy is able to narrowly salvage the situation and the two women again reach an understanding.
Later on, Joan easily sees the attraction between Peggy and Ted Chaough, but doesn't mention it to Don until they go over budget for a commercial. Joan is shocked when Don smooths the client's feathers by saying the expensive idea was that of the deceased Gleason, averting the client's anger but embarrasses Ted and takes credit away from Peggy in the process. This and Don's earlier impetuousness in firing Jaguar makes Joan wary of Don. When Thanksgiving of 1968 approaches, Joan agrees with Cooper, Sterling and Cutler in placing Don on leave, being concerned with Don's erratic behavior and its overall effect on the firm. Joan reveals that she has made arrangements for Creative to continue functioning, with Ted Chaough overseeing Peggy long-distance. On Thanksgiving, Joan invites Roger to spend it with her. When Roger responds negatively to the presence of Bob, whom Joan had also invited, she warns him that she is allowing him into Kevin's life, but not hers.
In Season 7, Joan completely cedes her office-manager role to Dawn Chambers and becomes an account executive, handling Avon and Butler Footwear, in addition to taking a more active role as a partner. She proves capable and a quick study, though her personality seems to have hardened considerably and grown more money-conscious (motivated more by her status as a single mother than out of greed alone). She initially bears a clear animus against Don for having previously fired Jaguar, thus costing her a substantial amount of money when the public offering falls through. She casts a vote to fire Don for "costing me money" when he violates the terms of his return, though she later favors the sale to McCann-Erickson because it stands to provide her with more than $1 million. Joan also rejects a marriage proposal from Bob Benson, on the grounds that both of them deserve real love and not an "arrangement" to cope with Joan's financial difficulties and Bob's need to hide his sexual orientation.
During the second half of Season 7, Joan has gained confidence in her new position, and during a business trip to SCDP's West Coast office, she meets a wealthy and very charming real estate developer whom she begins dating (though he initially expresses regret over the fact that Joan has a small child). However, as her personal life begins to come together for the first time since her divorce from Greg, she suffers professionally when SCDP is absorbed into McCann. When she takes issue with lewd, sexist treatment she receives from her male colleagues at the new agency, she complains to Jim Hobart, the Director at McCann, who responds first with condescension and then with contempt. When Joan threatens legal action, as well as to reveal McCann's misogynistic culture to the New York Times, Hobart offers to buy Joan's remaining contract out for half of what it's worth. Though she first vows to stay at McCann and fight, Roger convinces her that it would be more pragmatic to take the money and walk away.
Embodying the role of femme fatale, Holloway is a bold and sassy character. Creating the character, Mad Men 's creator Matthew Weiner tried to make the character appear not as a television stereotype but an unpredictable and complicated woman. The Boston Globe has said that Holloway occupies "a sort of middle ground between the show's main female characters, who represent opposing paths for women of their day"; as Betty Draper (January Jones) gave up a modeling career to become a housewife and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) tries to become a copywriter in "a world where men routinely call women 'girls', and sometimes literally chase them through the office". Holloway is considered the queen bee of the office secretarial pool, with a sharp sense of office politics and protocol. While her conduct is generally professional, she is also apt to bully her subordinates a little in order to make her point. As shown in the third season finale, her role at Sterling Cooper (and later Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce) is made clear. The office is essentially unable to operate without her, as no one else knows how the office is organized.
Joan was born on February 24, 1931, is 5 feet 8 inches tall, is a green-eyed redhead, and her New York State drivers license (as of Season 2) indicates she weighs 140 pounds. She lives at 42 West 12th Street, apartment 4C. As the show is now set in the late '60s, many commentators seized upon Joan's friendship with the apparently gay Bob Benson and pointed out that the Stonewall Inn is not far from Joan's residence.
In an interview with USA Today, portrayer Christina Hendricks explained that people think her character is "hot" because "She's got fire to her. She snaps back. And men love her because she's in touch with her sexuality and femininity. The men in the office can play with her a little bit. They can tease her, and she's not going to be in the bathroom crying later." In the season two episode "Maidenform", each secretary is categorized as either a Marilyn Monroe or a Jackie Kennedy as a campaign for Playtex; when asked what kind of woman Holloway is, Kinsey answers: "Well, Marilyn's really a Joan, not the other way around".
Creation and development
Weiner was influenced by Helen Gurley Brown's book when he wrote the part of Joan. He originally envisioned Joan as a "smaller", "mousier" and more "sharp-tongued" character, but he changed his mind when Hendricks was cast. Initially, Joan was set to be a guest role only. However, the role was extended to regular status because of Hendricks' "on-screen magnetism".
Hendricks first read for the part of Midge Daniels, a recurring character in the first season, and was asked to return and audition for the role of Joan. She had only received a small part of the script and when she read the scene from the pilot in which Peggy Olson visits a gynecologist, Hendricks thought it was "messed up" because she did not yet know the show took place during the 1960s.
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- Ryan, Maureen (August 6, 2008). "'Mad Men' Calvacade of Stars, Part 5: Christina Hendricks on Joan Holloway". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 20, 2009.
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- Writ: Weiner, Matthew; Albert, Lisa (August 3, 2008). "Flight 1". Mad Men. Season 2. Episode 2. AMC.
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