Is Mad Men's Pete Down for the Count? Vincent Kartheiser Weighs In on the Latest Low Blows

Pete Campbell, like any of AMC’s Mad Men, loves his liquor. But last week he found himself punch-drunk after a bloody row with Brit boss Lane Pryce. That impromptu altercation, coupled with other emasculations, left SCDP’s ambitious account manager defeated and distraught, claiming that — despite job security and boasting a beautiful wife and baby at home — he has nothing. TVLine invited Vincent Kartheiser to assess Pete’s state of mind and whether the once-plucky lad, now with an eye on middle age, has any fight in him left. (Mad Men airs Sundays at 10/9c.)

TVLINE | One of my Twitter followers had tipped me off to the fact that last week’s episode had a stunt double for you. And then I look at the episode title, “Signal 30,” which is a reference to a driver’s ed film about horrific accidents, and I was half-prepared for this to be a farewell interview.
Oh, I am sorry that I disappointed you!

TVLINE | What was the stunt double for? Because it looked like that was you crashing onto the conference room sideboard there during the donnybrook.
Yeah, I think I did most of that. [Jared Harris and I] had good stunt guys who showed us many times what to do, and then we just copied as best we could.

TVLINE | What did you think when you first saw the script where Lane puts up his dukes?
I thought the audience would be pleased – they have been waiting for me to get my ass kicked for about four seasons now, and every once in a while Matt [Weiner] gives them what they want, in a way that they didn’t expect it. I don’t think they would have expected that Jared Harris as Lane Pryce would be the one to do it, but….

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TVLINE | The episode as a whole was kind of an abrupt reversal for Pete, who was on top of the world the week prior. Are we starting a journey towards a darker place?
Well, darkness has always lied underneath the surface with Pete. He’s always been an unsatisfied and overly ambitious man, someone who wanted everything right away without having to work too hard. And now he’s done the work and he’s kind of gotten some of the things that he wanted, and he’s still not satisfied.

TVLINE | In the elevator with Don, he said: “I have nothing.” What do you think he feels he’s missing outside of William Greenberg brownies?
I think that’s something that happens when you accomplish things that you think you always wanted only to realize that they are valueless, and that you may have spent your entire life pursuing something that actually means nothing. And that can be very hard to deal with. It’s as Oscar Wilde said, “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” He’s realizing it can be very defeating to accomplish your dream and find it has little merit.

TVLINE | I dug out this quote from an interview we did during Season 1, where I had asked if Pete loved his wife. You said “The simple answer is yes, but the more difficult question is why.” I guess that’s in keeping with what you said about “getting everything you want”….
Absolutely. Trudy’s been really great for him, and he continues to kind of not be satisfied with that. But I think anyone who’s been married or in a relationship for more than five years realizes that that’s when the real work begins. He’s still relatively a young man, although he’s passing into middle age now, and he wants more than just “steady and secure”; he wants to feel alive and important and wanted. And you can’t really get that from someone you’ve had sex with a thousand times.

TVLINE | Right, what did he have the prostitute call him — “My King” or something?
Yeah — and he wasn’t really even satisfied with that. He was like, “OK. That’ll do.”

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TVLINE | Some worry that Pete conspicuously talks about owning a gun – and that it might even go off by the season finale.
Well, there you have it. [Chuckles] I mean, I can’t tell. I can’t say anything.

TVLINE | How would you typify the relationship Pete now has with Roger? “The student is now the master”?
I think the student is now the competitor. I still think there are things he could probably learn from Roger, but business has changed since Roger was out getting accounts. And maybe if Roger wasn’t so damned pretentious….

TVLINE | Is it a question of how long can these two guys co-exist under the same roof? Is something going to have to give?
I think something has to give. I think someone has to assert dominance and be the boss. Or someone has to be submissive to the other one. I think that is the truth.

TVLINE | I just hope Roger doesn’t roll over too easy. I’d like to see him try to make one last run at being the titan he once was.
Well, you still have a lot of episodes left in this season to find out.

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  1. Autumn says:

    Thanks for the interview. Very interesting. I love the Oscar Wilde quote and comparison.

  2. anon says:

    great coverage on a great show. Thanks TVLine!

  3. Danielle says:

    Good interview. Always like any insight about my favorite show I can get. Is it just me or has Pete’s voice dropped this season? Like Sally’s has changed. Lol

  4. orchardist says:

    Thanks Matt. Sorry for the misdirect on the stunt guy. I really thought that was it.

    In a way Pete DID crash and burn – metaphorically – last week and I suspect that’s what the title was getting to.

    Excellent interview. I also like the Oscar Wilde quote – very fitting. Also interesting comments about Roger. Roger does seem to have rolled over but perhaps there’s more fight left in that dog.

    Thanks again for getting the interview.

  5. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Thanks for the interview! Great questions, insightful answers. I loved it. I still think the thing with the gun isn’t really going where people think it is though. That just seems overly dramatic in a way that Weiner wouldn’t do, but that’s just my personal opinion, I could be wrong. But that gun is a symbol of Pete’s manhood at the moment. He doesn’t feel like a man at home, he can’t bring his “gun” home. He did feel like a man at work where he keeps his “gun”. But now that Lane has completely emasculated him by kicking his a–, well, now that’s just an interesting turn of events, and I can’t wait to see where it heads, because Pete will need to find some horrible way to feel like a man again, and it will probably be pretty ugly whatever he does. Not shoot people in the face ugly, unless we’re talking about….well, I’m sure you can guess what I’m talking about. Hehe, but Mad Men would never get quite that dirty.