Can one ad agency handle two Don Drapers? AMC’s Mad Men (Sundays, 10/9c) raised that question this season when SCDP impulsively merged with Cutler Gleason and Chaough, putting first-class creatives Don and Ted Chaough under the same roof. And as a result, Kevin Rahm finds himself more than ever a wonderfully long way from Wisteria Lane. TVLine invited the Desperate Housewives alum to reflect on his frontburner status with the acclaimed cable drama, size up Ted-versus-Don and tease (best he is able!) what’s to come in Season 6’s final three episodes — including the answer to the Bob Benson mystery.
TVLINE | Could you have imagined, when you first appeared on the show some three years ago, it would lead to this?
Hell no. Absolutely not. When I got the job, it was supposed to be two or three episodes, and I felt lucky enough to do four that year, and two last year. But when they told me they wanted me to be more a part of it, I was very happy.
TVLINE | When did [series creator] Matt Weiner first give you an idea that the merger was coming?
When I read the episode. [Laughs] He told me during [Episode] 13 last year that he had big plans, but he gave no inking of what that meant. The first five episodes [of this season] were great, then I went, “Oh, OK, there it is!”
TVLINE | As you first started reading that Detroit bar scene, did a light bulb go off for you as it did for some viewers, “These guys are going to align”?
I didn’t get it until Don said, “Do you want to get in some trouble?” — quoting the kid from the bar in [the premiere]. I was like, “Holy cow,” yet when you look back on it, it made perfect sense.
TVLINE | Until this past Sunday, things were in flux with the new firm’s name. Were there any side bets on set as to what it would be?
I was pitching Chaough & Co…. Chaoughville…. No, everyone was joking about all the letters, how we were going to need a bigger wall to fit everyone. I was pleased with [Sterling Cooper & Partners]. It’s a nod to the old school. Obviously, Cutler and Chaough decided to do that to save face, because they lost Manischewitz. It was almost an “out” for them.
TVLINE | Being as objective as you can, how do you think Ted measures up to Don as a creative force? Is he every bit his equal or mayyybe a half-rung below?
I would argue that he’s just as good. The information we had until this year had only been from Don’s point of view — Don is the one who said Chaough’s in his “rear view mirror.” Now, we see that Chaough works better with people than Don does, and that will be something we learn more about as we go,.
TVLINE | When they shared their Chevy pitches, Don wasn’t the least bit dismissive.
One of the things Matt said as we were rehearsing that scene is, “You both have to like the other person’s pitch — but you can’t show them too much.”
TVLINE | Cutler (played by Harry Hamlin) has tried to lead Chaough to “the dark side,” pitting their people against Don’s. How tempted might Ted be?
I found that scene interesting, when Cutler goes to Chaough to say, “Let’s clean house. Let’s get rid of them.” This goes to who Chaough is as a businessman, when he says, “You need to stop thinking of ‘us versus them.'” Chaough was under the impression, “Now we are on the same team. Now we work together,” so he was surprised and dismayed. I feel like he’s the only one, other than Peggy, who is like, “Why are we fighting?” I don’t feel like he is tempted at all to get rid of people, and this goes back to the difference between Ted and Don. Ted is all about, “The best idea wins.” He turns to Pete and says, “All new business is your business. Who cares who got it?” We’re not putting stars on everyone’s name.
TVLINE | Right — and if Joan stumbles onto the Avon account….
That’s awesome. We should embrace that. It’s money for all of us. We all win.
TVLINE | In an online featurette, Elisabeth Moss says Ted is just “a good guy.” Is that how Matt positioned him to you?
He never put it that way. He was kind of seen as a d–k the first couple of seasons, because again you’re seeing him from Don’s point of view. But as we see him more, in the office, he gives his chair to a secretary, he’s telling Pete, “All business is good business”…. Matt actually had to pull me away from “good guy” and “be a boss” a couple times this year. Like in the scene with Peggy and Joan, “Did you do this?” We’ve seen the good side of Ted, now we have to see him take charge.
TVLINE | Did you lament that Chaough didn’t get hopped up in the “speed” episode?
[Laughs] That was a Catch-22. As an actor, I would have loved to have been in those scenes with those guys. But I would not want to have to play that; playing drunk is hard enough. Those are those things that can go south real quick. But all those actors did an amazing job.
TVLINE | Lastly, I have two burning questions: Have we seen the end of Ted/Peggy? And what is up with this Bob Benson guy?
I can say nothing on either. But I can say, as a fan of the show, I think everyone will be pleased when they find out what happens with Peggy and Chaough and who the hell is Bob Benson.
TVLINE | In your mind, was that kiss a rare moment of weakness?
I think so. It also was gratitude. It comes out of a moment where he thinks she’s going to call him “nice” again and she calls him “strong.” It was gratitude more than anything else.
TVLINE | And on the Bob Benson issue, did the cast bat around any theories?
Oh yeah, we had bets on that. But I can’t say what those were — it may give away too much!