For this AMCtv.com interview, actor Robert Morse compares acting on Broadway to playing “the Rudy Vallee CEO” on Mad Men.
Q: In the ’60s, you starred on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, about working your way up the corporate ladder. How does that compare to Mad Men?
A: It’s very strange. I’m the CEO now, whereas when I first did the show, I played a window washer of the office building. So I guess I realize I’m a little older now. Time and age change one — don’t do it. At that time I was in my 20s or early 30s. I’m very happy and very fortunate I’m able to go to work and have a job at my age — one could call it the Rudy Vallee CEO part — but it’s really Robert Morse at a different juncture in his life, isn’t it?
Q: If Bert Cooper is the Rudy Vallee character, who do you think would be the window washer?
A: Well it seems to me Peggy, doesn’t it? She gets promoted every week — head of this, head of that, but never deviously. You know that in How To Succeed…, [writer] Abe Burrows once told me, “Your character never really lies. He just puts himself in a good position.” And I had never thought of it that way. But it’s true — he just bumps into the head of the company and asks for a job. Pete is too devious. And he hasn’t moved anywhere, has he really? He almost got fired.
Q: Do you feel like you’re stepping back in time with Mad Men?
A: Not really stepping back in time, but there are many values and things in the script that are reminiscent — secretaries and typewriters, etc. — of my days when How to Succeed… was on Broadway. So it is a reminder of things past, a little Proustian. Otherwise, it’s fun wearing a goatee and a mustache and having my hair plastered down. It’s fun to look completely different than you are. They write Bert Cooper very cleverly. He’s an oddball. He walks around with no shoes, his office is completely decorated in early Japanese stuff. He has these fun, odd quirks.
Q: Is it true you visit the set, even on days when you’re not filming?
A: That’s right. Exactly. I love to go into the studio on days when I’m not even doing anything. It’s like my senior club. Some people go to senior centers, well I go to my senior center. I think I’m the oldest of the group — the only one who has lived through this period. I just love this show: I show up and hit the marks and say the lines and go home. And then show up the next day with the paper and visit with everybody and have a free lunch.
Q: What’s been your favorite part about the second season thus far?
A: The second season, as far as I’m concerned, is explosive and wonderful. I’m not looking for anything really personal. I enjoy the show, coming back and seeing everybody. And that’s what the second season is about. I’m very fortunate having the chance to be employed in these dire times. From my beginnings to here — my endings so to speak — it’s very nice. I don’t have many episodes to do, but I have just enough to make me happy. I’m not the leading man any more.
Q: You do own the company.
A: That’s true…but I never get the girl!