Mad Men
The Rich Sommer Interview

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"He Wants To Be A Guy, But Also Wants To Be A Man"
CB: So given how heavily the time period in which it takes place informs the show, when you got the part, did you bone up on the zeitgeist of that period at all? RS: I did a little bit, you know, I went to the Strand in New York, and I bought a couple books on advertising back then -- one was The Mirror Makers. To be honest, Michael Gladis and Aaron Staton and I had remained good friends after the pilot, and we all stayed in contact. And when we heard that we were all cast, we all kind of set out with the goal of doing research, but Michael ended up doing more than the other two of us, so I pretty much cheated off of him. CB: Was there anything about the period you were surprised to learn, or that was especially interesting for you? RS: Yeah, I mean…I think I was taken aback by the same thing that the viewers seem to be taken aback by, which is the rampant…freedom, I guess? The freedoms of drinking and smoking at work, or saying completely horrible things to whoever you want with no repercussions, and doing horrible things to people with no repercussions. I don't…I don't believe that's how every person in 1960 was, but I do believe that there were offices not unlike Sterling Cooper, where the people were loose of morals and with vice and freedoms. CB: So in the pilot, one of the theories advanced is that society as a whole has a death wish, and that's used as a possible explanation for the mass appeal of smoking. And that seems like one of the points that today could still hold up -- tons of people still smoke. RS: Oh, sure. CB: Now do you think there are other examples of the show's messages still being applicable today? Or do you see it as more of a period piece? RS: Oh, I think it's…I mean, it's a period piece in the way it takes place then, but I think it's so clearly being written in 2007, you know what I mean? CB: Yeah. RS: I feel like it's not, this show -- even, let's say, just for a kick, that it were a true story, and every character in the show was exactly how they are, I think if it were written in 1960, it would be so different, you know what I mean? The feel of it wouldn't even be anything like it. So I think that there are…there are lessons, sort of -- I mean, I don't feel like it's necessarily meant to teach any lessons, but I do feel like there are definitely, you know, things like, "When you're mean to women, you look like a jerk." [both laugh] You know, et cetera. I mean, there's more to it, but I think that…it's a drama, you know? And I think it's about lying for a living, and how people pay for those lies, and how the line between their professional lives and their personal lives is so blurred that you can't even make a distinction.

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Mad Men

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