Joan Holloway

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Joan Holloway
Joan Holloway Wiki.jpg
Joan Holloway
Mad Men character
Portrayed by Christina Hendricks
First appearance "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (1.01)
Created by Matthew Weiner
Aliases Joan Holloway (maiden name)
Joan Harris (married name)
Red (nickname)
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)

Joan P. Harris (née Holloway) (born February 24, 1931) is a fictional character on AMC's television series Mad Men. She is portrayed by Christina Hendricks.

Fictional character biography[edit]


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 (such as keeping in touch with clients and keeping track of expenses), and assisting the CFO, Lane Pryce, with SC financial duties.

Joan had an affair with her boss Roger Sterling, Jr. (John Slattery), ending it after Sterling suffers a heart attack. After Marilyn Monroe's death, Roger walks into his office to find Joan lying on his couch and dabbing her eyes. 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.

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 (implied to be the pinnacle of Joan's ambitions) and fearing 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, until Harry Crane hires a young, somewhat clueless man to take over the ad placement job, to her surprise.

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 becomes suspicious that Roger seems to know Joan's likes and dislikes. Joan has not told Greg she'd had an affair with Roger; instead she says she has worked there for nine years (implying that she has been with the agency since 1953). He 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. A highlight of Season 3's third episode, "My Old Kentucky Home", is a furious Joan's coolly-accomplished rendition, in American-accented French,[1] of "C'est Magnifique", accompanying herself on the accordion for her dinner guests, at Greg's insistence.

Joan 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 at the hospital where he works. Joan mentions to Pete that Greg is considering going into psychiatry.

When Greg fails to land a job as a psychiatrist, despite Joan's having helped her husband practice for the interview, the couple 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 decides to obtain an officer's commission in the Army (where he will serve as a military surgeon), informing Joan that he can now provide for her, and she will no longer have to work. Despite this, in the Season 3 finale, when Don, Roger, Bert, and Lane need help with the clandestine launch of the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Roger calls Joan to help them find 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)[edit]

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, and she and Roger furtively discuss the matter over a hasty lunch. Initially, she states she will "take care of it" and is later shown sitting in the waiting room of an abortion clinic and riding the bus home later that night. Some months later, however, in the season finale, she is seen speaking with Greg over the phone about her pregnancy, having informed him the child is his and promising to send him a new picture of herself. In the same episode, she 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. Her mother, Gail, with whom she has a somewhat tense relationship but whose help she nonetheless needs, 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. When it becomes clear that Greg actually reenlisted voluntarily, Joan becomes enraged and throws him out of their home, saying she's glad the Army makes him feel like a man, because she's tired of trying to do it. He protests that he is "a good man", but Joan tells him he has never been a good man, even before they were married, "and you know what I'm talking about" (alluding to his raping her on Don Draper's office floor). He issues an ultimatum before leaving, saying if he goes, their relationship will be over. Joan agrees and Greg promptly leaves home.

In "Christmas Waltz", she is upset when a process server shows up at the SCDP office to serve her with divorce papers and, after an angry outburst at SDCP's receptionist, she abruptly leaves the office with Don, first to 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 that she sleep with a high-profile client (Herb Rennick, from Jaguar), in order to secure them an account. She eventually agrees, thinking that all of the partners agreed to the offer (later learning to her chagrin that Don was vehemently opposed). At Lane's suggestion, she demands 5% of SCDP and a voting partnership instead of the $50,000 lump sum she was initially offered, which the partners are forced to agree to. Joan's overall role in day-to-day operations doesn't change much beyond the fact that she now votes in partners' meetings (expressing irritation at the secretary who replaces her taking notes).

In "Commissions and Fees", Joan discovers Lane's body while trying to get into his office one morning. She later expresses confusion to Don over Lane's suicide, unaware that Lane had embezzled funds using Don's signature (and that Lane's suggestion that she demand a partnership, rather than the $50,000 lump sum was, in part, an attempt to keep the embezzlement concealed[citation needed]). 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)[edit]

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 has been having Dawn (Don's secretary) punching out her time cards. Joan, well aware of the hours Don works vs. those that Harry does, confronts them, during which Harry's secretary tries to convince Dawn to cover for her. A furious Joan fires her, but Harry vents his frustration and expresses resentment over Joan's having been made partner and the way she achieved it, while he himself has been repeatedly passed over. A visit from a childhood friend during this same episode causes Joan to reevaluate her priorities and goals.

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 offers to escort her out under the cover of bothering her as he does everyone else. Bob remains with her at the hospital and his quick thinking gets 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 (Bob is, of course, totally unaware of his history with Joan). Roger wants to be part of Joan and Kevin's lives, but she tells him that she intends to let Kevin grow up thinking that Greg, a military man and potential hero, is his father, and that Roger is too unreliable to be a father figure.

In "A Tale of Two Cities", Joan goes on what she assumes is a blind date with an Avon executive, arranged by the aforementioned childhood friend from "To Have And To Hold". It turns out that this is a business meeting, as Avon is looking for a new direction, and both her friend and her date seem unaware that Joan runs Operations and not Accounts. Joan, who by now has become interested in expanding her role at the firm, 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 chemistry and attraction between Peggy and Ted Chaough, but doesn't mention it to anyone until they go over budget for a commercial, when she informs Don. Joan is shocked when Don smoothes the client's feathers by saying the expensive idea was that of the deceased Gleason, averting the client's anger but embarrassing Ted and taking credit from Peggy. As a result, when Thanksgiving, 1968 approaches, Joan joins 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 itself, Joan invites Roger, who has been excluded from his daughter's house, 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.


Embodying the role of femme fatale,[2] Holloway is a bold and sassy character.[3][4] 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.[5] 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".[6] Holloway is considered the queen bee of the office secretarial pool.[7][8] 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.[9] 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."[10] 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".[11]

Creation and development[edit]

Weiner was influenced by books of Helen Gurley Brown when he wrote the part of Joan.[12] He originally envisioned Holloway as a "smaller", "mousier" and more "sharp-tongued" character, but he changed his mind when Hendricks was cast.[13] Initially, Holloway was set to be a guest role only.[13] However, the role was extended to regular status because of Hendricks' "on-screen magnetism".[13]

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 Holloway.[12] 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.[12]


  1. ^ The joke is that the atmospheric "French" song about "magnificent" true love is Cole Porter's, from Can-Can (1953).
  2. ^ Ripley, Tim (July 25, 2008). "See Mad Men Already". Daily Democrat (Woodland, California). 
  3. ^ "Where style matches substance". The Age. April 16, 2009. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  4. ^ Penner, Steve (August 22, 2008). "Does Mad Men make you mad?". Portsmouth Herald News. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  5. ^ Ryan, Maureen (August 6, 2008). "'Mad Men' Calvacade of Stars, Part 5: Christina Hendricks on Joan Holloway". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  6. ^ Weiss, Joanna (September 21, 2008). "What the women of 'Mad Men' can teach us about Sarah Palin". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  7. ^ Prato, Alison (October 12, 2008). "Some Like it Hot: Christina Hendricks". New York Post. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  8. ^ Salem, Rob (July 27, 2008). "Don't be mad, baby". Toronto Star. Toronto, Ontario. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  9. ^ Writ: Weiner, Matthew; Albert, Lisa (August 3, 2008). "Flight 1". Mad Men. Season 2. Episode 2. AMC.
  10. ^ Carter, Kelley L. (October 23, 2008). "The women of Mad Men evolve". USA Today. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  11. ^ Writ: Weiner, Matthew (August 31, 2008). "Maidenform". Mad Men. Season 2. Episode 6. AMC.
  12. ^ a b c Wieselman, Jarett (July 24, 2008). "Mad about Christina Hendricks". New York Post. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  13. ^ a b c Elsworth, Catherine (January 19, 2009). "Christina Hendricks: a fine figure of a woman". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 

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