LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Mad Men" returned to television with bumper ratings, an unusually happy Don Draper and a new star, courtesy of Draper's sexy young wife, Megan.
And it's all because of a sultry performance in Sunday's 5th season premiere of a 1960s French pop song, "Zou Bisou Bisou" (Oh you, Kiss, Kiss).
Megan, played by Canadian actress Jessica Pare, was the talk of the town on Monday for her rendition, in French, of the song during a surprise birthday party for Draper and for a racy bra and panties sex scene in Sunday's new season premiere.
"In just a few scenes, she becomes 'Mad Men's' most watchable new asset," The Washington Post declared. In an unusual move for the show, the single was released on iTunes.
Pare, 29, said on Monday she had little professional singing experience but was thrilled with how her two big scenes had worked out.
"I like to sing around the bonfire, in my car and in the shower, and that is about it," the actress told reporters on a conference call.
"It was a lot of fun to do. Certainly a lot of the awkwardness and embarrassment (of the character) was definitely felt. It takes a lot of courage to do something like that. I am not sure I would gear up for it myself," she added.
Cable network AMC said 3.5 million U.S. viewers tuned in for Sunday's two-hour premiere, making it the most-watched episode ever of the Emmy-winning drama. The show had been off the air since October 2010, partly due to a contract dispute.
Pare, who began her career in Montreal at age 17 and has had small parts in movies like "Hot Tub Time Machine", was cast in "Mad Men" midway through season four as new secretary Megan Calvet at the 1960s ad agency. By the end of the season, actor Jon Hamm's suave but conflicted Draper had proposed.
Pare said she had no idea she would be thrust into the limelight in the new season until she was handed the script.
"At the time I just was like, I can't believe I am on the show, and the first thing I have to do is an entire song and dance routine for the whole cast of 'Mad Men.' That is a bit intimidating so I just focused on getting through that day," she said.
The season premiere was filmed in August 2011, and like the rest of the "Mad Men" cast, Pare was sworn to secrecy about the plot by creator Matt Weiner.
"I have been waiting for last night for months. I am really excited about it! I am really proud of the work that I did. I could not be more thrilled or honored to be part of such an incredible show," she said, describing her new role as "life-changing."
Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte