'Mad Men's' Blankenship: Dying To Go To The Emmys

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AMC's Mad Men is one of the big favorites at Sunday night's Emmy Awards — and this past season's most memorable character may have been Don Draper's new secretary, Miss Ida Blankenship.

Played by Randee Heller, Miss Blankenship was a departure from the attractive, attentive young girls that usually wait on Draper. She stole every scene she was in, even in death. Her passing was both shocking and comical and became one of the most talked-about moments of the TV season.

The role earned Heller, 64, her first Emmy nomination — as outstanding guest actress in a drama series. Heller didn't win; the Emmy went to Loretta Devine of Grey's Anatomy. But the experience has been "magic," Heller tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

Mad Men is set in 1960s New York and revolves around the advertising firm of Sterling Cooper (which evolved into Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce). Back in the '60s, Heller herself worked at a Madison Avenue firm, so she knows firsthand the difficulties that women faced in the workplace then.

"They just treated you like dirt. And women were second-class citizens, you know, 'Get my coffee,'...and everything has just changed so dramatically in the last 50 years," Heller says.

The role of Miss Blankenship and that memorable death scene has re-launched Heller's career. A few years ago, she was taking bit parts just to hold on to her health insurance and on Sunday night, at the age of 64, she'll make her first-ever trip to the Emmys.

Here's how she puts it: "I consider myself like Cinder-elder."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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