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Bryan Batt plays Salvatore Romano, an art director who hides his homosexuality behind a heterosexual marriage. Here he discusses playing it straight among the boys of Sterling Cooper.
Q: As an openly gay man, how do you view Salvatore being in the closet during the '60s?
A: It's exactly what would happen. People stop me on the street and ask me when is Salvatore going to come out, and my response is, "To what?" There was no real gay community back then. There's been so many great strides made in just a short amount of time to have a vocal gay community. It's very interesting to see so much press about openly gay actors. I always just consider myself an actor. That's first. But as a gay man it's very interesting to play this character because people forget what people had to go through at that time.
Q: How about the tensions between Sal and Kitty (his wife) and Ken (his co-worker) in "The Gold Violin"?
A: Salvatore has kind of a crush on Ken... I think he just connects with him artistically when he makes that comment about Cooper's Rothko painting. A lot of men want to be around other men and don't want to have sex with them. As for Kitty, we made a conscious decision that Salvatore is very much in love with her. People do get married because they enjoy each other's company. That just builds the torment. I don't think it was an intentional thing to hurt Kitty. Sal immediately is sorry he hurt her feelings, because he really does care.
Q: What's it like to play Sal when he's with the Sterling Cooper guys while they're ogling women and attending strip shows?
A: Well, now he has the perfect cover. He can go to the strip clubs and say, "No, I'm married," so he's not forced to participate in the hanky panky. When I get into character, the minute they slick the hair back and I put on the suit and the pinky ring, it kind of just happens. He's so much more reserved than I am: Great posture, very calculating, always analyzing what's going on around him because he has to fit in. He's very guarded, and had to be at that time. The hardest thing about playing him is that I'm an open book and Sal is not. It's indicative of the different eras. The costumes, the setting, everything helps to put me in that time. It's hard not to play contemporary. You have to play the period.