'Mad Men' adding disclaimer to episode featuring character in blackface

"In its reliance on historical authenticity, the series producers are committed to exposing the injustices and inequities within our society that continue to this day," the disclaimer says in part.
Image: 'Mad Men'
Vincent Kartheiser, Jon Hamm and John Slattery in AMC's "Mad Men"AMC

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By Daniel Arkin

When the Emmy-winning period drama "Mad Men" returns to streaming later this month, an episode featuring one of the main characters appearing in blackface will be prefaced by a disclaimer, the studio behind the series said this week.

In a statement Wednesday, Lionsgate shared the disclaimer that will be attached to the third-season episode, "My Old Kentucky Home," when the series arrives on Amazon's IMDb TV streaming platform July 15.

“This episode contains disturbing images related to race in America,” the title card will read. “One of the characters is shown in blackface as part of an episode that shows how commonplace racism was in America in 1963."

The title card will go on to read:

"In its reliance on historical authenticity, the series producers are committed to exposing the injustices and inequities within our society that continue to this day so we can examine even the most painful parts of our history in order to reflect on who we are today and who we want to become. We are therefore presenting the original episode in its entirety."

"My Old Kentucky Home" features advertising executive Roger Sterling (John Slattery) wearing blackface as he performs the title song for his wife Jane (Peyton List) at a country club party.

The party guests are shown laughing at the performance, with the notable exceptions of Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm), who asks his wife Betty (January Jones) if they can leave.

Sterling at one point says: “I did this at home for her with a little shoe polish. She thought it was a scream.”

Lionsgate's announcement comes as the producers of other high-profile series — including "30 Rock," "Community" and "Scrubs" — have pulled episodes featuring characters in blackface from streaming and syndication. (The three sitcoms aired on NBC, a unit of NBC News' parent company, NBCUniversal.)

The film and television industries are reckoning with issues of diversity, inclusion and representation amid nationwide protests against systemic racism following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

In its statement, Lionsgate confirmed that reruns of "Mad Men" would air starting this fall on the cable channel AMC, where the show originally ran from 2007 to 2015.