Q&A: Andy Umberger (Dr. Arnold Wayne)

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He talks to Betty about Don and Don about Betty. Now he’s talking to amctv.com. What kind of doctor is this? Actor Andy Umberger helps us understand the Mad Men shrink.

How do you prepare for a role when you have so few lines?

A: That’s really the easy part. You don’t have to say anything. You just react. That’s what, for me, acting is all about, an action and a reaction. It’s really wonderful to play off what January (Jones) gives me as Betty and what I like about this is some of the reactions have to be very subtle. As an actor, I find that exciting.

Q: In those scenes, it’s almost like your notepad and her cigarettes are saying more than the characters.

A: Yeah. Absolutely. She has those moments where “I”m going to smoke here.” It’s a nervous tick or a way to calm her nerves a little bit when something is very uncomfortable for her to talk about. And, of course, Dr. Wayne’s notes, where he chooses to take the notes.

Q: Is that scripted? When he chooses to make a note?

A: No. Those are just choices I made as an actor. In the final episode, Matt came to me and said yeah don’t write there. I can’t remember now what it was but I remember thinking he knows the show so well and these characters that he would know that Dr. Wayne wouldn’t write about that.

Q: What are you writing?

A: If she makes a comment about someone in her family I may make a note that yes there is some tension there… I’m not getting smart or cute with writing strange stuff. I try to stay in the moment. I tell props, when they take the notepad, I say don’t look at my notes. Not because I’ve written anything revealing. It’s just that I’m a terrible speller so I don’t want them to read my grammar.

Q: The ad men don’t think too highly of Dr. Wayne’s profession. Does he care?

A: I’m sure he knows there are a lot of people that think what he does, they’re comparing him to a witch doctor, but he knows as a doctor what his training is, he believes what he’s doing is helpful. Although he may not care to hear of his profession spoken about in such a way, he has to dismiss it and move on…from the set design in his office I think he’s doing pretty well.

Q: What is wrong with Betty?

A: Not being a real psychiatrist I would hate to try an actual diagnosis of her problem but I think at this point he’s just trying to get her to open up, just to get to the root of some of the problems. In the final episode, what she said in her session was really kind of a breakthrough, talking about her husband’s infidelity. I think he finally said “ah ok now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’ve cracked the shell and we’re going to get to the real insides, the real meat and really find out what’s going on.”

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