In this interview, Vincent Kartheiser, (Pete Campbell on AMC’s Mad Men) discusses what makes him good at fight scenes and the most shocking thing Pete’s ever done.
Q: Pete has sideburns! Are those real?
A: Yeah, they’re real. I grew them on the off-season just for fun and the show kept them.
Q: You’ve been shaving your hairline for the role. What was it like going out in public like that?
A: I would just go out in public. It was like nothing… It’s not like anyone looks at you differently if you’re balding.
Q: John Slattery says, you two get along famously off-screen. What’s it like having to play up tension between your characters on camera?
A: Let me just start off by saying he gets along famously with everybody… He’s a charming son-of-a-bitch and everybody loves him. I can’t resist him, as much as I try to, and what’s it like working with him and hating him as a human being, as Pete Campbell? It’s actually quite easy, because disliking someone that everyone finds charming and funny…everything that they say just grates on you… It’s quite fun actually, getting to listen to him make the room laugh and that hurting me to my core and making me want to just destroy him even more.
Q: What’s been the one thing Pete’s done that has shocked you the most?
A: I think trying to blackmail Don Draper was shocking because he’s capable of anything, that guy. It just seemed like a crazy thing and a really ballsy thing. Also, asking Joan to do the deed last season. I was surprised by that.
Q: Matthew Weiner explained Pete’s decision to offer Joan to the Jaguar rep, saying, “Pete’s a businessman.” Do you ever find yourself defending Pete?
A: People ask me about that, and I say, “You know, Pete is really the only one with the stomach to explain how the sausage is made.” Everyone else wants to eat the sausage, and he’s like, “Well, I’m gonna go slaughter the animal and stuff it into a pork lining”… He thought it was important to have a car [account], and he went out and made it happen.
Q: Pete has a complicated relationship with Don. How has that evolved through the seasons?
A: I would say they have a mutual respect for each other at work. And a mutual dislove for each other personally. I think they used to not respect each other work-wise, and they used to not like each other personally.
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Q: Were you surprised at Pete’s self-analysis at the end of Season 5?
A: I am aware that he’s a malcontent, and I think the way he put it was beautiful. He realized a lot about himself last season. I wasn’t surprised that that’s who he is, but I’m surprised that he actually came to the conclusion of it. It’s actually quite a hard thing to become aware of, so we’ll see if it actually has any effect on him.
Q: As an L.A. native, can you relate to Pete not wanting to make the “epic poem” of a commute from the city out to the suburbs? Are you more city mouse or country mouse?
A: I’ve lived in the city for so damn long now that I’m probably a city mouse now, but I tell you, every time I go out and stick my toes in the mud, it makes me wish I was a country boy again. I miss the good ‘ol days of not minding a tick on my head and a mosquito bite on my ass. I enjoy getting my hands a little bit dirty, and stubbing a toe and skinning a knee.
Q: You’ve said that you like physical acting. Does that extend to getting punched?
A: Yeah, I’m really good at that kind of stuff. I enjoy doing it. I am a man of his body. I believe you’re either a man of your mind, a man of your heart, or a man of your body. And I am a man of my body, and it is enjoyable for me. It’s kind of my sweet spot.
Q: Is that what makes you good at fight scenes?
A: I’m not great at it. I’m just better at it than some other things. You know, it’s like Jon Hamm is great at everything, and then there are a couple of things that he’s less great at and just really good at instead. And I’m awful at everything, and then just a couple of things I’m pretty bad at. So that’s one of the things that I’m pretty bad at.