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Aaron Staton talks to AMCtv.com about Ken Cosgrove's frat boy humor, smoking take after take, and how to dress like his character for Halloween.
Q: You get some of the best one-liners on the show. Which one is your favorite?
A: I do get some really great lines. Thanks Matt. Actually, I think it's, "Kurt's a homo." Pete comes back from California and Ken catches him up on what he's missed. It's so out of nowhere. I laughed out loud when I read it in the script.
Q: Do his lines ever make you cringe?
A: It was such a different time. Honestly, I don't think Ken's lines are as surprising as some of the stuff that the women say to each other. My wife and I were just talking about how the women are just as guilty as the men are in defining their roles. Most of the sexist or inappropriate comments Ken makes on the show I find funny. Not funny that it happened--or happens--in life, but it's clever. Off-color, but so cleverly written that you can't help but laugh. You get a pass if you're funny.
Q: The show does point out where women are complicit -- like when Joan reassures Peggy that the typewriter is simple enough for a woman.
A: Definitely. The women's idea of their role is equally shocking, and sometimes more disturbing. The men make these remarks, and the women are somehow flattered by them. At that time, these were acceptable pick-up lines. In last season during the office party, Ken chases down one of the secretaries to find out the color of her underwear as the other guys took bets. That's something that actually happened.
Q:What's the off-set rapport like with the other actors?
A: We hate each other. [Laughs.] It's probably boring to admit this, but we all get along. We really respect each other, not as only as co-workers and artists, but also as people. It's a place where everyone wants to be, loves to be. Everyone knows how special it is. There aren't any warring egos or anything like that.
Q: Which actor is least like their character?
A: There's something in every character that has a root in the actor playing them. Matt Weiner is very perceptive, there's something about the rhythms and the way people speak that is very authentic to the actor. But there are qualities that are dissimilar. The characters on Mad Men are struggling with pretty profound unhappiness, but I can tell you this is a happy bunch.
Q: Have you seen the survey that showed Mad Men viewers are heavier drinkers?
A: No, this is the first I've heard of that! Kind of a chicken-or-the-egg thing, isn't it? People have definitely told me that when they watch the show, they want a drink. I don't know, maybe they're just drinkers anyway. Maybe it's just Sunday as usual, but this way, they don't have to drink alone.
Q: Do people say it makes them want to smoke, too?
A: I think that the show is fair about the consequences of smoking, but what are you going to do? It looks cool. I can assure you that if you were to smoke the herbal cigarettes we smoke, the desire might fade. But herbal cigarettes are better than the real deal when you're smoking take after take. We smoke herbal cigarettes in LA due to workers' laws, but in New York, some actors decided to smoke real cigarettes. By take four they were nauseous. Even the smokers were green.
Q: We're predicting a lot of Mad Men costumes for Halloween. What should a Ken Cosgrove impersonator wear?
A: I can't think of anything! A suit, tie, slicked hair?
Q: And a copy of The Atlantic Monthly?
A: Oh yeah, that's a good idea. Let's pretend I said that. [Laughs] Perfect! Tell the people at home to roll up a copy of The Atlantic Monthly in their back pocket. There you go.