Q: Paul leaves the advertising world and joins the Hare Krishnas. How did you get into Paul’s head in his new place in life?
A: I had some conversations with Matt [Weiner] about it. I was kind of shocked that was how Paul was being brought back, and delighted because it was so far from anything I had ever imagined. The clues on how to approach it were in the text of the scenes… The way I approached it is he found the Krishnas in a place of desperation and he was really hanging on to what little stability he could find, and comfort in the world and acceptance.
Q: Did you really have to shave off all your hair for the “new” Paul?
A: I really did! That was the first question they asked me after they asked if I was free to possibly come back. They said, “Would you be willing to shave your head?” but they couldn’t tell me exactly why yet. So of course I was like, “Oh my God! Did he go to Vietnam or did he have cancer?” I ended up actually shaving it twice because they had me come back a couple months after we shot the episode to re-shoot a scene.
Q: Are you more like the Paul of old or the Hare Krishna Paul?
A: I think I’m more like the old Paul. Matt was very good at writing for us as he got to know us as people, so there are parts of me that are similar to Paul, but any character is going to be an amplification of our natural characteristics. Paul is just Michael amped up ten times.
Q: Paul and Harry are reunited in this episode. How did a season apart affect your camaraderie with Rich Sommer?
A: Not at all, because we’re still very good friends. We
sit around and we play board games together or we’ll go on hikes and
we’ll argue. We’re like two bickering brothers. The fact that I got to
go back and work with Rich was such a joy, and we kind of viewed
it as Matt Weiner giving us both a gift.
VIDEO: Inside Episode 510, “Christmas Waltz”
Q: Paul writes a script for Star Trek. Are you a Trekkie in real life?
A: Growing up, I loved Star Trek very much. My brother was a huge Trekkie. He used to sit and record every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on the VCR. We had a library of home VHS tapes of every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that ever was.
Q: What would an episode written by Michael Gladis be titled?
A: My Star Trek title would be “All the Heavens in the Twinkle of Her Eye.” It would be, of course, a love story of some sort.
Q: Colm Meaney was on Star Trek, and now he’s a major player on another AMC show, Hell on Wheels. Have you seen him on it?
A: I started watching Hell on Wheels because Anson Mount [who plays the show’s lead] is a friend of mine, and I started watching to support him. I’ve seen every episode of Hell on Wheels. I love it. I’m very jealous of Anson — I’d love to do a Western one day.
As for Mr. Meaney, there was only one man you’d ever want on the Enterprise manning the teleporters while you were on an “Away Team” on a hostile planet: Chief O’Brien. He could beam you up at the last possible second better than anyone else in the fleet. I was delighted to see that Colm “Chief O’Brien” Meaney was on Hell on Wheels. He’s a hell of an actor and perfect in that role.
Q: You’re known as somewhat of a pipe connoisseur. What can you tell us about the pipes Paul smoked in past seasons?
A: The pipe that I smoked for the whole first season was a Peterson pipe that Matt and I chose together. I started to get to know more about pipe smoking and I realized, for the subsequent seasons, that a real pipe smoker actually has many pipes that they rotate throughout the week because it’s not good for the pipe to smoke it every day. I started buying pipes myself and lending them to the show, so in the second and third season you see a much wider variety.
Q: Is it more fun to watch a Mad Men episode you’re in or one you’re not in?
A: One that I’m not in, absolutely. I can just pay attention to the story and not have to think about my performance. I’m one of those actors that hate watching themselves!
Q: How has your work on the show influenced how you look at advertising today?
A: Advertising campaigns have had a huge effect on our consciousness and our tastes. It’s cool — the power of it — and it’s everywhere. You can’t avoid it, so I think it’s just made me more conscious of it.