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Q&A – Jay R. Ferguson (Stan Rizzo)

Jay R. Ferguson (Stan Rizzo on AMC’s Mad Men) speaks to about what Stan’s beard represents and his character’s evolving relationship with Peggy Olson.

Q: How would you characterize Stan and Peggy‘s relationship and how it’s evolved over the years?

A: I would say they are as close as a guy and a girl could get without being romantically involved. The trajectory has been really fun for both of us…starting with a very clear line drawn in the sand and a very competitive back-and-forth for supremacy that, of course, she won. And her being in his life helped him to accept that women could be in a place of power.

Q: Do you see Stan ever settling down?

A: That’s tough because, right where we are in the context of the show’s time and what year it is, it was certainly not a time when people were eager to settle down. It was almost quite the opposite. But I don’t know! I mean, listen, the right girl, the right situation, he’s getting a little older. He certainly looks the part for the time, the counterculture part of society, where he would be very much into that whole part of society that was a little bit more free. But, then again, he sometimes says things that make you feel like, well, maybe it’s just a little bit more of a show. Who knows!

Q: Do you miss the creative lounge?

A: Oh yeah, big time. That’s pretty much where it all started for Stan, and even on a personal level for me. That was where I shot my very first scene on the show [Season 4’s “Waldorf Stories”]. My first day on the job. The first scene that I shot was in that creative lounge, and I had a bunch of scenes in that creative lounge my first episode. So I was sad to see it go. I asked if I could take a little memento from there, and I took one of the little ads that were on the wall. My wife had it framed for me.

Q: Which ad did you take?

A: There were hundreds of these magazine clippings that were pinned all over that creative lounge set. And, my very first day, when I shot there, there was one that caught my eye, probably because it had bacon in the picture and I’m such a bacon lover. I think it’s an ad for Log Cabin Syrup and it’s advertising Bacon Logs — when you layer pieces of toast, maybe even French toast, with bacon. So you put a piece of toast and a few strips of bacon and then another piece of toast, another strip of bacon, and then you pour syrup over it. The ad is the image of this, which to me is gross. I was never the dip-your-sausage-in-the-syrup kind of guy, but the ad just always caught my eye. I begged and pleaded to take it when they were dismantling the creative lounge, and they allowed me to, which was very nice. And now it hangs on my wall forever.

Q: Is there anything else you want to keep from the set?

A: I would probably want my nameplate off my office door. And maybe the belt buckle that has “Stan” on it [which Costume Designer Janie Bryant discusses here]. It was an absolute gift from God that the wardrobe department found that… But, the Bacon Log thing is pretty awesome. It’s so non-descript and random that I think that’s a great memento to have forever.

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Q: We didn’t get to see Stan’s reaction to the moon landing in Episode 707, “Waterloo.” What do you think he thought of it?

A: I’m a huge space nerd and went to space camp when I was 16. I would have liked an opportunity to figure out what Stan would have to say about it. In a scene in the beginning of the episode, he’s pretty skeptical that these guys are going to make it, so I think that, given that skepticism, he would have been pretty shocked and amazed by the whole thing. And maybe cautiously optimistic that they’d be able to get back.

Q: How would you describe Stan and Ginsberg’s friendship? Do you think Stan noticed any signs of Ginsberg unraveling?

A: No matter what type of signals there had been previously, I don’t think anybody could have anticipated that he would have done what he did. That’s taking it to a whole other level of crazy. I think probably the standard opinion, Stan’s included, was that he was just a little off. That was part of his charm and probably what also made him such a great copywriter. I think everybody just took his crazy talk with a grain of salt, never thinking it would get to the level it got to. And maybe that’s why Peggy and Stan, mainly, were so upset — because obviously they would have done something or said something or tried to help him if they ever thought he would take it to that level and so maybe there was a little bit of guilt there also. But I think he always thought of Ginsberg as his little bro.

Q: Can you draw as well as Stan?

A: No. I can’t draw at all. I hate to screw up the illusion. It’s all started for me, and then I basically will just trace over whatever has already been drawn on the paper.

Q: Do you prefer Stan with the beard or without the beard?

A: I think I’d go for him with the beard. The beard has come to represent not just a physical transformation in Stan’s journey but an internal transformation as well. Pre-beard Stan was more of the jock-y, misogynist a-hole that people love to hate, and now he’s much more lovable — at least I hope — and relatable. He really is almost the antithesis of what he used to be. I don’t know that the beard really had much to do with that, but it kind of symbolizes that turning point for him.

Click here to read an interview with Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy Olson on AMC’s Mad Men.

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