Here’s the continuation of my conversation with Bryan Batt on February 9. You can find Part 1 here.
At the point we left off, I asked some questions about what’s next for the Revue, which Bryan loves doing and would love to do more of, but there’s no news to report. This segued into a discussion of doing events for the season three premiere.
Bryan Batt: [The problem is] we’re going to be working when the season premiere happens.
Deborah Lipp: Right, there’s an overlap.
And then back to the Revue.
DL: The audio I’ve heard is just fantastic.
BB: It was so much fun. And everyone, the audience ate it up.
DL: So the big thing this season was Kitty, obviously. And the interesting thing, we were discussing in some ways, with this big hole, nonetheless, Sal is the best husband on the show.
BB: [laughs] Yes! He is! He communicates with her, he feels honestly, he’s very upset with himself that he’s hurt her feelings, he listens to her. When he acts like a typical jerk man at dinner, he apologizes, and he does the dishes…
DL: He’s attentive to the fact that there’s another person there, which most of the guys aren’t; they think of their wives as adversaries or obligations.
BB: We made a conscious choice, and also I think Matt did as well. That, you know, he does love her. He does love her. And the fact that he is gay is, it has nothing to do with his love for her. And I do believe that they do have a good sex life, but I think his heart, his spirit, is, he is gay. But he does love his wife very much. So many gay men and women, who have been married to the opposite sex do love their husbands [and wives].
DL: Of course.
BB: They realize that you can’t fight something like that. Something that’s so genetic and powerful.
Now there’s a chat about interviewing, and what that’s like. Bryan is charmingly self-effacing, and concerned that he doesn’t sound his best. From there, we discuss other people we’ve interviewed, and then the subject turns to Matthew Weiner. He can be difficult to edit.
BB: Gosh, Matt is so brilliant.
DL: He’s so brilliant that he has three thoughts for every sentence.
Some more laughter, followed by a change in subject.
DL: I don’t even know if you know this, but what episode was it? Maidenform. I watched it twice and I think I figured it out, but is Salvatore’s mom living with them?
BB: Yes. You see her in the final shot of The Gold Violin.
DL: Right. Oh! Gold Violin, not Maidenform. Right. You’re fondling the lighter.
BB: Right, and she’s in the background, right.
DL: She’s in the background sleeping, and we were all talking the next day, saying “Wait, where was she at dinner?”
BB: I think she was playing Bingo.
DL: [laughs hysterically] Best answer ever! That’s great!
BB: Yeah. I think either she’s in her room or we farmed her out to Bingo or she’s teach[ing] a pasta-making class or something.
I mis-heard him here, and thought Mama was taking a pasta-making class. Bryan straightened me out.
BB: It would have to be something with the church, I’m sure it was something with the church.
DL: No, I like Bingo, we’re sticking with that.
DL: I saw in an interview where you said you thought that Salvatore has a fondness for Peggy. Have you and [Elisabeth Moss] been able to do anything with that?
BB: Not really. I mean, I like her, Elisabeth is just a lovely, lovely lady, she’s a wonderful, wonderful person, I do love her company. I just think, at a certain point Sal sees what’s happening with her and rather than being threatened by it, like some men would be, I think he’s embracing it, and, like Don is, encouraging it. And I think that’s what I meant by the fondness. That who she is, she’s moving ahead, she got the office, and other guys [were] jumping over themselves, and didn’t think to ask for it, and then she gets it. I also love Peggy’s journey. I think it’s so smartly done. People want to argue either side. They think she’s out to get ahead and cutthroat and climb to the top of the ladder of success, and things are just falling into place with a combination of hard work and ambition. In a time when [for] women, it did not happen. I love her journey.
DL: Well, she’s exactly what you were talking about before. She’s somebody with longings that were socially unacceptable.
DL: And I think that Salvatore sees that at some level, she’s like him. She’s the outcast.
BB: Definitely. I don’t think Sal feels like he is an outcast. I mean, he does hang out with the guys, not as much, but I think he thinks he’s playing the game. I really think he thinks he’s one of the players.
DL: That’s interesting. Somewhere, though, he must have that fear.
BB: Yeah. It’s in the back of his head.
DL: I mean, people who totally fit in are afraid they’re the outcast, so”
BB: Right. He’s also in the art department, he’s not one of the execs, he is on the artistic side.
BB: The one scene I remember, what was the name of the episode? When Kurt comes out, I can’t remember.
DL: That was Jet Set. That was episode eleven.
BB: That was Jet Set, right, right. And I’ll just never forget what we had to do with that scene, with the donuts. Poor Rich had to eat so many donuts, it was ridiculous. It’s so interesting because, we took so many different takes on how that could have come out. How they might take on that, although just getting back to how the writing is so important in the show; at the end of that scene it says, “Close-up on Sal’s face,” that’s exactly what they wanted, from the writing standpoint.
DL: I just used my little DVR and I went back and I watched that six times, that scene, so that I could watch everybody’s face.
BB: Yeah, It was really heartbreaking, when we shot it. ‘Cause we’re all, we’re friends, it was funny. I thought they were going to use a different take, and the one they used, people have really liked, so what do I know?
DL: Well, you looked terrified, and then you looked intrigued.
DL: And the quality that was captured was both emotions at once.
BB: Well, it’s interesting. I’m trying to remember how many different takes and what actually went down. But all I remember is poor Rich eating all those donuts.
DL: That’s funny.
BB: Cigarettes and donuts.
DL: Oh! That’s so sad.
DL: I want to give you a chance to talk about what you’re doing for your city.
BB: Oh, well, gosh. Well, before I did Mad Men, I took some time off and my partner and I opened a shop here called Hazelnut. And we have a website, and I’m doing all these other design things. I just launched some new [inaudible] items. What I’ve mainly done, since the storm, I’ve just done every possible benefit that I’ve been asked to do. And hosted benefits and organized fundraisers. Everything from the Preservation Resource Center, helping in the rebuilding process, to the theater that gave me my start, Le Petit Theater, which is 92 years old, it’s the oldest community theater in the country. Ah, what else? Habitat for Humanity”
DL: Oh, you’ve been working with them? I didn’t know. I saw the Magazine Street Relief thing.
BB: Magazine Street Relief? Basically, I organized it to get people out shopping and try to realize that certain things were open in New Orleans. We came back after the evacuation and all the stores on Magazine Street were still boarded up. And we were back, we didn’t flood, you know? One store had a little bit of glass broken and some looting. Not a whole lot, a couple. But basically…I said everyone, let’s get some wine….[we] hired a jazz band and had it in the paper. Some of the schools were opening the following week, so I knew people would be coming back into the city. Got the word out, and the streets were packed with people greeting each other, telling each other their stories of evacuation, hugging…and people had replaced things in their homes, and we gave a portion of all the sales to Second Harvest”that’s one of the ones we did a lot of work with, because my dear, lifelong friend Leanne Moses was president of Second Harvest down here throughout the Katrina experience”and we just continued doing that. It was just a grassroots kind of thing that turned out to really help people. Just to raise awareness. It’s not finished. There’s a long way we have to go down here, there’s still a lot of people that have not been able to rebuild and it’s just, to see the devastation is mind-boggling. But to see the progress is quite exciting, a lot has been done, so I’m really excited about that. But it’s an interesting place to be right now, for the last three years. Hard time, because nothing like this has ever happened in the country on this scale. I mean it’s miles and miles and miles of devastation. These people, it’s amazing that people are coming back. My brother had nine feet of water in his house.
DL: Oh no!
BB: Just completely obliterated. Everything just destroyed, practically, and he rebuilt. And then sold his house, and then they rebuilt another one….So it’s very interesting. Right after Katrina, I was in New York, and that’s, and that’s”I don’t know, I went through 9/11, and then Katrina, and I’m just hoping that one time, well, we had an earthquake [in Los Angeles], so we’re done. I’m done with all tragedies. I think we’ve had all possible natural disasters with the exception of a tornado, so I’m not going to the Midwest.
DL: Stay out of Kansas.
BB: I’m staying out of Kansas! [laughter] It’s a great time, I think, for New Orleans. It’s coming back, and bigger and better than ever. And I think what people don’t realize is that everything that is down here that they came to see before, the historic areas, were spared. All of the French Quarter is fine. All of the Garden District, the uptown area, all the gorgeous architecture that is so iconic and so unique to New Orleans, is fine. There are more restaurants open down here now than prior to Katrina”two hundred more restaurants.
BB: I don’t know how many [there are in New Orleans], but there are two hundred more since Katrina. So it’s taking a while but it is coming back. And it’s my home town and I love it. You know, there’s nothing like it.
DL: It is an extraordinary place.
BB: And my family’s here. All my family’s here, so it’s kind of fun. We opened the shop also because my nieces were growing up before my eyes and I never saw them enough, and now I’m here. I get to see them a little bit more. After this [interview], I’m going to have brunch with my nieces and have a little family life, too. One thing I loved about opening up the shop is I realized, that there’s a whole world out there beyond show business. If you just do one thing with your life, you let your work define who you are, and there’s so many other things. As I’ve said in many other interviews, I’m a firm believer in “and” over “or.” You can do more than one thing with your life. And if you have an interest you have to follow it.
DL: So now that you have a decorating shop, do you ever throw down with the art department on Mad Men, or do you just let them do their stuff?
BB: [laughs] You know, not really. I would never”well, I can’t help but love everything they do. So, they do such a fantastic job, I would never [interfere]. You know, I was thinking my apartment, my home, would be a different way, and when I got in there, it was perfect. It was different than I would have thought. What’s great about them, what their sense of design is, they’re designing for the character. If I’m doing something, I do it for what I [like], more towards my taste. So they’re really smart. And my favorite thing is they had one of these Murano glass clowns in a curio cabinet. I don’t think it made it into a shot, but my father actually collected those things.
BB: It was one of those kind of moments where you walked in and said, “Oh my God, I’m in nineteen sixty-something in my home.
BB: It was really, I mean those kind of things”in the first season, Janie [Bryant] gave me a vest with little fleur de lis on [it], for that scene with Elliot. She said “This is my little homage to New Orleans for you,” and I said “You are amazing.”
DL: That’s awesome. And Matt made you from Baltimore, which is his hometown.
DL: Very clever, he got his little hometown thing in there.
BB: Oh, he’s”I can’t wait to get back to work. I really can’t wait to get back to work. Christina [Hendricks] just texted me the other day, and she said “It was so great to be with you, with the SAG Awards, and hang out in Vegas,” because she came to the Vegas thing too. I miss them when I’m not there, I really do.
DL: Oh, that’s so sweet.
BB: Yeah, I mean we really, we hang out. It’s a very tight-knit cast.
DL: Well, I know that Rich [Sommer] is a game freak, and Michael [Gladis] is a chess freak, and I understand you’re a crossword puzzle person”
BB: I’m a what?
DL: You’re a crossword puzzle guy?
DL: Well, I read that! [In one of the interviews listed on his own website, not for nothing!]
BB: No, well gosh, no. My partner is a crossword puzzle guy.
BB: I don’t do any kind of games. I just hang out and have wine with them when they play games. I did go play pool with them a couple times. But that was very interesting, because they’re all ordering beer of course, and I go “What kind of Chardonnay do you have?” Eyes were rolled.
DL: I guess beer kind of goes with pool.
BB: Yes, beer and pool. It does work together. I love hanging out with the guys. You know Rich, well, at Harriet’s house where I was staying the last two seasons, she didn’t have cable and I couldn’t watch the shows on Sunday.
DL: Ha! I’m making a face.
BB: So I was calling Rich, going “Rich! Come on, can I come over and watch the show? I’ll bring some wine. I’ll be quiet and won’t wake up the baby.”
DL: It’s a pretty cute baby.
BB: Oh! She is a-dor-a-ble! She is adorable and I love that name, Beatrice. I think it’s beautiful.
DL: It is beautiful. It is a beautiful name. We have a real trend towards these Old World names for children now.
BB: Yes, I like that, I really do.
DL: Well, my son’s name is Arthur, so I’m right there with it.
BB: Yes, yes.
DL: He’s actually named after the Once and Future King.
DL: I have some odds and ends and then I’ll let you go, because you’ve been so generous with your time.
At this point, we launch into a completely stupid conversation, having to do with the fact that he knew someone 20 years ago that worked with a childhood friend of Roberta and mine. Stupid six degrees thing, but fun. And then I asked him what was next for him.
BB: I’m riding in Orpheus the night before Mardi Gras. It’s Harry Connick’s parade, and they have celebrities, monarchs or whatever, and I’m one of them this year. I was so honored.
DL: Oh that’s awesome.
BB: It’s going to be the 23rd of February.
DL: What do you wear for that?
BB: I’m going to wear a tuxedo. Some of the parades, they all dress up in costumes, stuff like that. All the other people are getting costumes, I think we’re going to be in tuxedos. I think, I hope. I think I’m going to wear a sixties-inspired tux, a dinner jacket. Joan Rivers is doing it too, and Jim Belushi.
DL: That’s an assortment of people.
BB: Isn’t it? Well, I think they wanted Jon Hamm, but I think he wasn’t available so they settled for Sal.
DL: Well, you’re a local boy, they have to ask you! But Joan Rivers and Jim Belushi in the same place at the same time is kind of making my head hurt.
BB: [laughs] Well I think they’re on separate floats.
DL: [laugh] Okay, good.
Now we spent some time planning (loosely) for future interviews, letting him know that we’re here for the show, and talking about seeing each other at Bouyant Billions, and generally wrapping up and being schmoozy. I, of course, thanked Bryan profusely, for his time, for the show, for contributing to Roberta and I having this great hobby, the whole thing.
BB: It’s been a pleasure.
And we said our goodbyes.