Nov 022009

Continuing my conversation (see Part 1) with Michael Gladis. A casual weekend afternoon, and a lot of fun talk. Jump on in!

So am I…Do you have a back story for Paul in your head? His life?
Somewhat. I’m not an actor who really focuses on that stuff. I’m much more concerned with serving what’s on the page, and I think if you do that then everything is pretty much taken care of. But I do have an idea, from conversations with Matt early on. Once in a while we would throw out ideas, or he would throw out ideas for story lines that never made it into Mad Men but still kind of served as hooks in my head for where Paul was, and where he came from. I don’t necessarily want to tell you what it is.
No, because it might show up. When I spoke to Bryan [Batt] last week, I found out that [in] the Season 3 opener, the bellhop scene was something that Matt had in mind when he was filming the pilot.
So don’t tell me anything that Matt has in the back of his head. It could end up in the script.
I won’t.
But that’s kind of thrilling, isn’t it? That the bellhop scene was in Matt’s head in 2006?
That’s amazing. I’m not surprised at all. Also, once in a while they’ll tell you of an idea, I have a couple [in mind]; he’ll tell you about an idea he has for your character, or one of the other writers will tell you of something they’re tossing around. And you search the script. Every time a script comes you’re like, “Is this the one? Where this happens? Did it happen this time?” And it never makes it in, it just gets cut out. But then you get something like episode 10, and you’re like “this is so much better.”
That was a wonderful showcase.
It’s pretty funny.

And it reminded me of; one of Roberta’s favorite things is Gilda Radner in the brownie uniform, being the little girl playing in her room.
…And it reminded me of that kind of being alone in a room acting by yourself.
And it’s so free, and you’re drunk, so you can throw your body around, and you can giggle to yourself. It’s got to be like play time. It’s got to be like what made you want to act in the first place.
It’s all play time, which is the wonderful thing about my job. The fact that I get paid to do this is wonderful, and I feel very lucky. Always.

What does Paul want in a relationship, do you think?
In a relationship with a woman?
[laughs] I imagine he dreams of finding his partner. I think eventually he really wants someone who challenges him, and who matches him, and who inspires him. He wants what everyone wants in a relationship, I guess.

Do you think he misses Joan?
Yeah, I think he does.
How could you be in a relationship with Joan, and then not miss her?
I know, right?
You two together are marvelous.
Christina Hendricks! Everybody talks about how beautiful Christina Hendricks is. And she is. But what is not talked about enough is how incredibly talented she is. For example, that scene between her and Don in the waiting room of the hospital.
It was amazing.
I mean, acting-wise, that’s crystalline. That is such amazing, beautiful, subtle, wonderful acting. I watched that, and I was so proud of my friend. Of my friends, I mean, Jon was incredible too. But the two of them together, and watching Christina, and just the poise and the skill of her acting is breathtaking. I think she’s incredible. So for me to get to do scenes with her ever, I’m just so happy.
She’s very subtle.
But so full of life! There’s so much going on inside her head and in her heart. And it’s there, it’s there but it’s not forced and it’s not pushed. It’s just there.

Anytime that Christina wants to drop us an email, I would love that interview…She can contact Basket of Kisses. We’ll treat her right.

You guys do treat us right, we’re very grateful.

[Mad Men is] the best thing that’s ever been on television. It really is. I’m not even going to brook a debate over that.

That’s a debate for other people.
I’m a media geek and proud of it, there are other television shows that I love passionately, but this is a gift.
It really is.
Because I love writing about media, this gives me so much material.
I haven’t been doing it so much this season, I actually kind of stopped reading most of the online content. Last two years I was really on top of it. But when I do read online, what strikes me and impresses me the most is the depth of analysis. People see connections like that Zapruder film reference; I never would have thought of that. There’s such thoughtful discussion about this show. It really inspires such incredible conversation. That’s really gratifying to see.
That’s what I love about it. I think that if you love to write about media, sometimes you’re grasping at straws. You’re going to find subtext in Grey’s Anatomy [when] it’s not there.
And this is an embarrassment of riches.
Yes. I feel like I can knock it out of the park and write an essay that is picking up on all these subtleties, and then I go read somebody else and they picked up on three things I missed.
It’s thrilling.
It’s open to such interpretation that there are many different views. All of them in one form another are right. Or wrong.

I think it’s all there. I think if you have talent as a writer, you end up putting more subtext in than even you realize. And Matt is definitely such a person.
Well, and it’s always been [a question] with the arts: Which is more important, the interpretation or the intent? The artist’s intent or the audience’s interpretation? And the truth is neither. Sometimes they have little to do with each other, and people interpret the art in ways that the artist never intended it to be, but it’s still a legitimate experience for the viewer, and that’s what’s most important.
It’s the great debate in the arts that will never end. Because there are times when somebody will over-interpret something and you will look at it and go ‘Come on! It didn’t mean anything!”
And sometimes to say ‘Hey, stop longing for interpretation’ is a legitimate thing to say.
Right. True.
Right? I mean sometimes people are finding it in Hammer horror, and it’s not there. I think what’s rewarding about Mad Men is you can always trust, it’s like a safety net. You can interpret your face off and know that it’s there.

You did a guest shot on one of my favorite shows.
Which one?
[big laugh] That character! Dean Gill, I’ll never forget. You know what’s funny about that character?
That he was obsessed with kittens?
The kitten killer. I call him the kitten killer. One of my best friends from New York, Chad Beckham, he’s my dear friend and a playwright: He was out in LA. He had one of his plays being produced in L.A. and he was staying with me. So he’s one of my old friends from New York and he comes out. I’d gotten the role. I was due to start filming the next day. We were laying in the hammocks outside my house and drinking a little whiskey and he was running lines with me, and I kept doing these silly voices. I kept doing like, Hannibal Lecter voices and we were just making each other laugh. [I was ] just trying to make him crack up. At one point he turned to me and he said, “You know, if you keep doing these voices, you’re going to end up doing one tomorrow on set.” And I was like, “Naaah.” So I called him up in the middle of the shooting day, and I was like “Hey Chad. You know what you said last night? Well it was right. This guy’s going to be really weird.” [laughs]
He was really weird. And actually, either you’re very, very good, Michael, or I’m kind of [stupid] because I didn’t realize it was you until the credits rolled.
Good. I love that, I love that. That to me, as an actor, as a character actor, that’s always a compliment.
I thought you were really lost in it. He was creepy and strange and scary and stupid. He was not Paul Kinsey and he was definitely not Michael Gladis.
Yeah, he was a weirdo. But he was fun! Whatever.
I loved that show.
It’s a good show. They were really nice. Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi were lovely. Lovely to work with.
And Christina had a recurring on it.
She did.
Yes, and I miss it. But they did…wrap up all the loose ends and ended it beautifully, which a lot of shows don’t get to do.
Oh that’s good. I didn’t even get to see the end of the series.
It was satisfying. Not as satisfying as if it had kept going.

Also [I wanted to mention] that radio show with your sister [Chion Wolf].
[laughs] Thank God for your sister, who sprung to my defense.
That was crazy! That lunatic ad person.
Oh, it’s fine. It was just very clear he hadn’t watched the show.
Well, he was selling a book.

Are you going to be doing more radio with your sister or elsewhere?
I don’t know. If they ask me back, sure.
And you were so nice to [Basket of Kisses], also…on Kevin Pollack, you and Rich.
That was fun. I like hanging out with Rich, so to do it with Kevin Pollack was even more fun.
You were so nice to us, thank you.
Oh, come on, you guys are great!

We think so. But it was so nice. I actually went to the liquor store last night to buy vodka and I saw the Crystal Head [which they drank on the show]. It can’t possibly be $50 worth of vodka in there.
It’s very smooth vodka, though, I’ll say that. I have to find a bottle for my step-brother, I think he wants to try it.
Well, we have some here at my local liquor store. I’m sure it’s easy to find. I’m a little emotionally involved with my Ketel One, I really do love it. I didn’t think it was going to be that much better.
How does it compare to Ketel One? It’s a little smoother than Ketel One. But $50 for a little bottle in the shape of a skull. I mean, it’s worth it maybe for the bottle. I think it’d be a nice vase. I think some flowers sticking out of the top of the skull would be pretty cool.
It…could be cool.
It’d be a good Halloween prop too. Just carry it around.
Or even better, it’d be a good prop for Hamlet. “Alas, poor Yorick.” No, maybe not. Strike that.

Tell me your favorite Paul scene. Do you have one?
To this day yeah, absolutely. It’s Nixon vs. Kennedy, with Joan on the steps.
Oh, that’s mine! I was going to tell you my favorite Paul scene [after you told me yours] but we have the same one.
We have the same one. No, that I think will probably always be my favorite scene.
It’s beautiful. It’s very authentic.
That was really lovely. And that was also, I mean, there’s a lot that ties into that. Not only the product, I mean how the scene came out was wonderful, but that whole day of shooting, the experience of shooting that episode, to those of us who are regulars on the show in Sterling Cooper, that was one of the most magical days of shooting that we’ve had…that [Nixon vs. Kennedy] party. I think for those of us who’ve been lucky to be on the show for as long as we have, that’s up there in terms of the work experience of working on this show, that was one of the best days. And that was the last scene of the day, that was very late at night. Everybody had gone home except for me and Christina, and obviously the crew was all there. The set was kind of trashed from the party and from a full day of shooting, and we were all very tired as it was and it just played perfectly to those circumstances.
So the circumstances actually reflected the episode.
So what made it such a wonderful day?
That’s an intangible. Part of it is just how great that whole sequence is. But it was all of us…towards the end of a season, all of us, we had really hit our stride in terms of making that set, Sterling Cooper, our home, and doing this really wonderful work. We had such momentum by that point, and such belief in what we were doing. And then it was really [that we were] so enjoying doing this wonderful, wonderful work together and getting to kind of party together.
So it was like the party in a way.
Except you were getting paid.
But we were getting paid.
Love that!
Love it!

I think my sister told me that you were a James Bond person, that you were a fan. Is that correct?

I love James Bond, but I’m not nearly in your league.
Well, I’m a crazy person. I understand that. I accept that.
But I will say, I don’t know how you feel”how do you feel about the last Bond film?
Quantum of Solace? I thought it was [just] okay. It was too dark.
See, I didn’t think it was even a Bond film.
I get that. Sometimes after I see one of these Daniel Craig movies, I kind of want to go home and pop Thunderball in the DVD player.
Right? ‘Cause there were no gadgets, right?
It’s just, they could have cracked a joke. There were a couple of things that were funny. And he could have smiled.
He never said “My name is Bond, James Bond” right?
He never did.
He never said that, there were no gadgets, and he spent the whole movie heartbroken about the woman from the movie before.
That is not James Bond.
Pouty Bond.
That’s not a James Bond movie. You know what that was? That was a Jason Bourne movie with English accents.
You’re right.
That’s what it is!
Yeah, and it was a mistake. But they’ve made mistakes before.
I trust the Bond franchise to bring it back. They made A View to a Kill and recovered from that one.
Right. Indeed.
So. But I remember that you had mentioned that to Roberta and she was like, Oh you should be talking to Deb!
She sent it to me. So I knew I had a James Bond question to ask you. Do you have a favorite Bond movie?
Ooooh, that’s a tough one. Quantum of Solace.
Try again!
No, of course not. I just told you it was a Bourne movie. I like the ridiculous ones. I like the campy, cartoony ones. Maybe”it’s so hard to pick. What’s my favorite? I’m fond of Moonraker.
Oh, you really like the silly stuff.
I like the silly stuff, I really do. Anything in that vein. I like Roger Moore almost as much as Sean Connery. A lot of people don’t. He was my first Bond. When I grew up, when I first saw Bond movies, Roger Moore was my first Bond, so there’s a special place in my heart for him. I don’t know”I don’t know that I can pick one. What’s yours?
Oh, From Russia with Love.
No question about it. I love the ones that are edgier, and I love everything about it. I love the ones that are really great travelogues too. Istanbul is amazing. I don’t know that any of, I don’t know what percentage of Basket of Kisses readers care about this, but I care very much.
You all be damned! Put a hold on Mad Men for a second and ruminate on Bond.

Yeah! We can talk about other things. You’re an actor who does other things. Have you got plans for, jobs lined up for between seasons now?
Hey! That’s not right!
Nothing lined up. I’m in New York right now, just kind of looking around. I’m here for the whole month and part of it is to try to finagle some way to get somebody to pay me to do some acting back here in New York again, whether that be in the theater or film or TV. So I’m kind of scoping out the scene here, trying to see if anyone will hire me. And if all else fails I’ll go back to LA in November and I’m just going to start auditioning.
Does the series help? I mean it’s got to, right?
I hope so. I mean, people are certainly a lot happier to see me walk into an audition room. Which is a big change from three years ago, with the dull tolerance of my presence. But now people are actually, once in a while, happy to see me, which is nice.
“The dull tolerance of my presence” sounds painful.
[laughs] That’s the actor’s life, for the most part. When you’re a struggling theater actor in New York who’s been around for nine years, and nobody knows what to do with you, that’s what it feels like sometimes.
I think I’m glad I’m a writer and my rejection is not face to face.
You have to make friends with rejection, I guess, as an actor, in a weird way.
As a writer, you get a lot of rejection. But not in person!
Generally via the mail, where you can, if you see it coming, you can put it down until you have ego strength.
That’s tough. It’s good training for me too, in terms of like, trying to date women, too. A lot of face to face rejection there.

Awesome! Acting helps you with women!
It’s supposed to! That’s why I started acting in the first place in high school. To try and get girls!
You’re using a tone that suggests to me that it didn’t work.
Not so much. [laughs] I don’t know!
I keep telling my son, high school is not the best place for attractive nerdy men. College is the best place for attractive nerdy men.
College is the best place. And then after college it’s Williamsburg.
[laughs]I’ll tell him!..I raised a beautiful, talented, geeky, intellectual dancer.
That’s great. What dance does he do?
He mostly does tap, tap is his first love.
And he’s pretty good. This does not get girls in high school.
Yeah, but it’ll pass.

So you can see where this is heading”a total sidetrack into me bragging on my son. I mentioned at one point that he was going to “a small, quirky little college.”

Yeah, I went to a small, quirky little place too. I liked it very much.

And then it was time to wrap up. I again extended a party invitation, and we both expressed hope he’d have New York work so that he could be in town for the party.

Deborah, it was a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much.


  4 Responses to “Michael Gladis–Part 2: That’s crystalline.”

  1. What a thoughtful, charming guy. Now I wish there was more behind-the-scenes stuff with him on the DVDs. In fact, I may have to brave the insanity that is the AMC site and seek some out.

    Side note — If I were fifteen years younger, I'd be all over your geeky, intelligent dancer boy. That's just how I roll. (Also, I was totally the female equivalent. It didn't get me dates either. College was definitely a better venue for such pursuits.)

  2. […] part two. Tags: a capella, Cuban Missile Crisis, John Slattery, Ladies Room, Law & Order, Michael […]

  3. great interview. Hopefully someone will see fit to more than "tolerate" his presence with an acting gig between seasons.

  4. Robin D (and anyone, really):

    I highly recommend his appearance on the Kevin Pollak show.

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