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Mad Men’s Rich Sommer on the Emmys, Pete and Trudy’s Dancing, and That Lawn-Mower Scene

On AMC’s Mad Men, Rich Sommer plays Harry Crane, head of (and only member of) Sterling Cooper’s TV department. Harry’s a nerdy office punching bag, though with the ascent of TV as a viable advertising platform, he’s garnered more respect in season three of the show. Sommer honed his acting skills onstage and at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York before landing a supporting role in The Devil Wears Prada, and subsequently Mad Men. He spoke with Vulture yesterday about the Emmys and Sunday's already legendary lawn-mower scene.

The foot! What happened with the foot this week?
It got cut off.

Well, yes, we know. What was it like to film that?
When I got the script, I read that foot scene, and I thought it was kind of crazy, and I couldn’t really see how it fit in. So I was surprised at how well the episode turned out. I was a little nervous about that scene. For the past few weeks, the writers and the editors have been saying, “Oh my God, just wait until the lawn-mower episode — it’s unbelievable! It’s unbelievable, it’s a great episode,” and I was just like, “Oh, great! Good.” And then I saw it and I was like, “Wow! It is a really good episode.”

Harry almost got a promotion, on top of all that excitement.
I know, it was this close! A lot of people online think he still has that promotion, and I want to call them and say, "No, no, he had it, and then it all went away when the lawnmower ran over that guy’s foot." The funny thing is, I actually called [creator] Matt Weiner after I got that script, and said, “Wait, so I don’t actually get that promotion?’ And he was like, "No! It’s all gone!" Which is why I play a good Harry. It took me a couple readings to get that.

How did you get the part?
It was just an audition. I’d had a terrible, awful pilot season. I got zero callbacks except for Mad Men. I auditioned, I went in for a callback about a week later, and then another week went by and I was sure it was gone. And I got a call on Tuesday at about noon, and they said, "Can you be here in two hours for a read-through?" And I said, "Er … yes!" And so I put on pants, which I wasn’t wearing at the time, and called my wife, and raced out the door.

What was this year’s Emmy ceremony like for you guys? You didn’t quite clean up like last year.
Honestly, we were getting a little nervous at the end. I caught eyes with Aaron Staton [who plays Ken Cosgrove] and Bryan Batt [Sal Romano] and Michael Gladis [Paul Kinsey], and we’re all like, "Oh, boy, this might not be going our way." We were nominated for sixteen awards and as of when they announced the Drama award, we’d only won two of them, so we were a little nervous. But it really … I mean, it’s easier to say now … it really wouldn’t matter. I imagine it will help when Matt [Weiner] goes to renegotiate his contract next year after season four — that’s a good thing. I’m very glad we won! But we kind of did it already: We came and we were a baby show, the first basic-cable show to win, and we did it last year.

When are we going to get a Harry episode?
[Laughs] Well, of course I know what’s coming; we’re done with filming now. I can only speak about what’s happened so far and say that Harry is more present in the office than he has been in the past, which I really appreciated. Because in the last couple of years, it’s been, like, one or two episodes in which Harry has B or C story lines, but then he’s barely there the rest of the year. Whereas this year, it’s been really fun to sort of be bubbling at the surface of everything, always at least there to pipe in or throw in a little quip or something. I’m very, very pleased with how much we’ve seen of Harry so far.

The dynamic between Harry and his wife, Jennifer, is interesting.
Jennifer and Harry are both trying to advance, to get elevated status, but Harry only knows how to do it through work — he doesn’t know how to glad-hand, or kiss ass outside of work — and Jennifer can only accomplish that goal through social stuff. For example, on the dance floor during the "Derby Day" episode, when Pete and Trudy start taking over the dance floor, and Harry walks Jennifer off, it’s very upsetting to her. She wants them to be Pete and Trudy.

That scene was hilarious.
Oh my God, that dance was unreal. I knew they’d been taking dance classes and rehearsing it, but I didn’t know to what extent. And when we did the first rehearsal and they busted it out, I was amazed. It was beautiful.

You moved from New York to L.A. for this show, right?
I miss New York, but I don’t miss being broke in New York, which is what we were. We were flat, flat broke. I don’t know if it’s the sunshine, or the fact that I actually have a job, but I do like L.A. a lot. In New York, it can be gray and rainy and cold, and you still don’t have any money, and you feel like a bad Dickens character. Out here, even if you’re downtrodden, it’s nice out.

Who’s your favorite Mad Men character?
It’s hard to dislike Roger Sterling. That guy is really funny.

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