Q: What’s been your favorite moment for Bert Cooper this season?
A: I was so very happy that I have a new office this year… I was living in the corridors and the chairs and eating apples last year, and I never had my own place. So it’s kind of nice.
Q: When did you find out you’d be getting an office again?
A: I just showed up on the first day of rehearsal and they just said, “By the way, look around, we have a whole new set.” I was just absolutely amazed at the work they had done. It was a whole new Mad Men set with stairs and offices and more room.
Q: Cooper’s office has some pretty funky décor: Japanese sculptures and grass walls. Do you have any input in how the space is decorated?
A: Not at all… I spent a long time in Japan many, many years ago. And actually I have great reverence for the Japanese culture, so I was kind of surprised that it fit in with my own thinking. The artwork is wonderful. The picture over the sofa is the most pornographic picture you could have imagined by a Japanese artist and…the furniture itself is quite Japanese, and I still take my shoes off when I’m in my office. [Laughs]
Q: Cooper’s argyle socks are pretty great. Do you get to keep those?
A: Dear Janie Bryant keeps me stocked with a full box of argyle socks. Sometimes, every once in a while, I’ll ask if I can borrow them for this weekend and she’ll say, “Sure, just bring them back.”
Q: Do you grow your moustache and goatee every season for the role?
A: That moustache and goatee is put onto me by our wonderful makeup man called Ron Pipes. They make the moustache and the goatee and then they glue it on… Around the third year, they asked me if I’d like to grow one myself. And I said, “God, no. I don’t want to walk around with a moustache and a goatee, thank you very much.”
Q: What else do you do to get back into character?
A: I show up and try to learn my lines and I go, “Tell me what to do.” I put the moustache on. The goatee on. They do my hair. They cut it down and they give me some great clothes to wear… I’m just amazed that it all comes out okay.
Q: Cooper was supportive of the merger and taking the company public. What do you think he would do with the money?
A: It keeps him engaged and feeling part of something, especially with all the changes. I don’t think he needs the money. He has a ranch in Montana with cattle… I think he likes to watch everyone have a go at each other. And now and again he steps in to watch and referee. But I think on some level he loves the chaos.
VIDEO: Inside Episode 612, “The Quality of Mercy”
Q: Cooper asks Pete for a glass of Spirits of Elderflower. Ever actually drink that?
A: [Matthew Weiner] likes to pull things like that out of Cooper that are eccentric. It sounds like some sort of brandy or a wine… I don’t drink, but when I did drink, whatever bent my elbow and put alcohol in my mouth, I enjoyed. [Laughs] I was never fancy about it. You can start out fancy and then you get drunk, and then you don’t care what you’re drinking.
Q: You lived in New York during the late ’60s. What do you remember about the MLK assassination and its aftermath?
A: The mind forgets things, especially pain… The way they did it on Mad Men was very refreshing to my memory because I went, “Oh yeah.” People marched. There was anger. There was an uproar of course. It was a blow. And it was unheard of. There was the Kennedy killing too. There was so much gun stuff that is still reverberating today.
Q: Philandering is a big Mad Men theme. Do the personal lives of the characters on the show seem historically accurate to you?
A: That’s the way life was. Or is. [Laughs] We were surrounded by that in the ’50s and ’60s. I don’t think there’s anything that we’ve done [on the show] that I haven’t witnessed or seen in and around the streets of New York… It was a very swinging time. Drinking and cavorting, which was fine. Everything was okay, you just had to wake up and look at yourself, sooner or later.