Vincent Kartheiser was out of breath. Instead of taking the elevator, he had decided to run up six floors from one interview to the next. Why? Why not! He still had tons of energy, none of which was used to talk about the new season of Mad Men, which series boss Matthew Weiner and the cast were promoting on an especially windy Saturday in Los Angeles’s Beverly Wilshire Hotel last month. Reporters were warned in advance that no news would be breaking here. (Jessica Paré wouldn’t even confirm that they had shot in Hawaii.) Instead, Vulture spent the afternoon letting Kartheiser, who has already gone into great detail about his punchable face with us, do whatever he felt like, from his best Matthew Weiner impression and playing dead to flinging paper footballs.
You’re very slim now.
I’m totally out of shape is what I am. Let’s not talk about it.
Did Matt tell you Pete needed to lose weight?
No. I lost weight after last season was done, and I just didn’t put it back on.
Did he ask you to put it back on?
Yes. I couldn’t. I didn’t say no. I was doing a play and I was onstage four hours a night, sometimes eight hours a day, and I was just sweating balls. Didn’t have time to eat like I was supposed to. Just couldn’t put it back on. I tried to slam it in and then it didn’t stick. By the time we started shooting I was still thin and I asked him, “Well, do you want me to gain it through the season?” And he was like, “No.”
You’ve also got new sideburns this year.
I had those before the season began, yeah.
Matt has said definitively that Pete would not be committing suicide this season. What do you think about that?
That means that he probably will be committing suicide this season.
Are you calling him a liar?
I’m saying if Matt gives you a spoiler, there’s probably a reason.
How far are you along in shooting the season?
It’s hard to say. I mean, they kept shooting. I got killed off in, like, episode six.
I’ll tweet that right now.
Sometimes it’s part of the job.
So glad I don’t have your job. I would never twit.
I’m just not on Tweeter.
But you sound angry about it.
I think it’s stupid. I wouldn’t even know how to … It just gets into your life. Even if you’re not in it, it gets in your life. A couple of days ago someone was like, “Hashtag round butt!” And I was like, “What’s a hashtag? Is it some sort of hash? Like, ‘Tag, you’re it! Haaaaaash!’” And they were like, [yells] “No! You know! Like, hashtag, man! Hashtag!” And I was like, “No. I’m a fucking adult.” But apparently hashtag has something to do with Twitser. Twizzler. Twizzler? Is it Twizzler? I love their licorice.
I love that someone went up to you and said “Hashtag round butt.”
I don’t think they did. They said hashtag something else. I forget what it was. What is a hashtag?
It’s like a label or context or subtext for a tweet.
Oh. Stupid. Personal expression has become a form of entertainment, and that’s very sad. You used to have to earn your position to have a microphone in your mouth. Now everyone in the world has their own little soapbox to talk about what they want. I guess it’s good. What do I know? I sound like an old man, don’t I? Don’t answer that. What do you want to ask me?
Pete seems more upbeat in the premiere episode, following a very bad day in last year’s season finale.
[Sings Daniel Powter’s “You Had a Bad Day”] I had a bad day … Go on.
Is he happier?
Are there any sanctioned things you can say about him this season?
It’s really hard to say.
Alison Brie was in the promotional photos for this season. You guys were dancing together.
Looked like fun. More evidence Pete’s a somewhat happier man this season?
How do you think Alison’s doing on Community this season?
I did the first season! I watched enough of them to be like …
I didn’t mean to look accusingly at you.
I supported her! I remember when it first came out and I saw just a couple of episodes and I told her, “Hey, you’re really funny in it! You’re really good.” She knows she is a great actress, and I have tons of love for her. She’s a wonderful person. [Whispers.] I don’t really watch TV. I mean, I do, but I don’t watch that kind of TV.
I watch some comedies, but not that one. God, I sound like an asshole. I watch news and sports. I love to watch Top Gear and BBC shows.
Like Doctor Who?
Nooooo. I don’t watch that, I watch …
Nooooo. Noooo, I don’t watch dramas. I don’t really watch scripted stuff.
BBC World News?
Do you watch this show?
Oh, Mad Men. I thought you meant a show you’re on. Who are you with?
I’m with Vulture.
Oh, I love New York Magazine! I love that site. You guys write about Pete Campbell all the time.
Yes, you did a whole thing about your punchability with us.
I know, and now everyone asks me about it. It’s great! I like the articles you guys write about me, and most articles about me I fucking hate. Um, I watch a lot of real programming. But not scripted stuff. I do watch Mad Men. I watch because my friends are on it.
What did you think of this season’s premiere?
I haven’t seen it.
Because we were working. We don’t all just get to sit around watching TV.
Have you started to think about how close to the end the show is?
No. I try to live in the moment. [At this point, he gets up and grabs a purple pillow off a couch.]
What is happening?
Just put your shoes on this for a second. Yeaaaah.
Does that make you feel better?
They kind of match! They’re both purple! It’s kinda nice.
I feel bad stepping on it.
That’s okay. I was rubbing my ass on it all day.
Anything to keep your mood up.
I wasn’t in a good mood this morning. I was so depressed.
Because it’s fucking Saturday and I’ve worked every day this week.
Oh, please. I would kill for your schedule. And also, I’m like … I can’t tell you anymore.
That was going to be a Mad Men–related whine?
Yeah, I was about to drop something. I mean, I’m just laying in a coffin all day. [Laughs.] They just have me in the place like [he pretends to be in a coffin]. The whole season! “Well, no Vinnie, you don’t have any dialogue, but we need you there every day. You’re just in the background. Still against the wall.” [Laughs.] I’m under contract, so I have to. [Picks up a bunch of folded-up pieces of paper and whispers] I’m going to hit you right in the face with this! [Flings. Misses.]
Are you going to keep trying? I’m going to block it.
[Flings. Misses.] Ooooh. Okay, go ahead, ask more questions and I’ll shoot fake footballs at you.
This is fun, isn’t it?
So, Trudy —
[Flings. Misses, but it’s close.] Oh, that one was pretty good!
That was close.
Remember you have a punchable face.
[Laughs. Flings. Misses.]
Does Matt tell you —
— what to tell us? Or what you’re allowed to?
Yes. He made those footballs for me. He came here and was like, [in his best Weiner voice] “Okay, Vincent, I need you to shoot these at her face while she’s in here, okay? That’s all you need to do.”
Have you done that impression for him?
It’s really mean, isn’t it? [In Weiner’s voice] “No. No, that’s not what I sound like.”
I’m sad this isn’t being captured on video.
I did that on video once! And then I was like, “Oh my God! Please edit that out!” And then they wouldn’t, so I just kept saying, [yells] “Cuuunt. Fuuuck. Cuuunt. Fuuuuck.” So they couldn’t use any of it. So then there was just this two-minute video clip of me going, “Bleeeep. Bleeeep. Bleeeep. Bleeep.”
It explains why you aren’t one of the talking heads in those season-six preview videos.
I’m not? I’m not in the preview videos? Who’s in it? Everyone else but me? Are you serious? Hold on, I gotta make a call.
So, there’s no coaching from him, then.
Sometimes he does it. During the first couple seasons, he would. I’d call him and I’d be like, “Hey, I’m doing this interview. What should I say?” And he’d be like, “Oh, you know what to say. Just do it like this … ” Not anymore, but back then he used to give a little more.
Has anyone ever gotten in trouble because they let something slip?
What kind of trouble?
I wouldn’t know what that trouble is, but I know that some people have told their friends and then their friends who are famous have told news things like, “Oh, my friend so-and-so is on the show this year,” and then Matt will be like, “That sucks. Why’d you say that?” I don’t know what happens to them, but I will say the guy who got his foot cut off by the lawnmower? He wasn’t supposed to have his foot cut off by the lawnmower. I’m joking. But I don’t think anything too bad has gotten out.
I heard he was unhappy about those paparazzi photos from the Hawaii shoot.
If you’re taking a production like that to Hawaii, people are going to find out. You’re not gonna hide that you’re shooting in Hawaii, bro.
What kind of measures do you guys take on set normally to keep everything a secret?
My code name is Vincent Kartheiser. It’s written across every page. Or you have a number scrawled across each one. I save my scripts, actually, then once the season is out, I just throw them away. They do have an industrial shredder that you can go to and shred it. I bring my other stuff there.
Junk mail? Bills?
Who shreds their bills? Get over yourself!
Did the cast and crew do anything to mark the beginning of the season? Any pre-season rituals to welcome back —
Kotter? That’s what we do. We do a whole episode of Welcome Back Kotter. [Laughs.] It’s intense. No. Really. We have a peanut butter and jelly party.
That would be great if it were true.
It is true! The women put jelly all over themselves and the men put peanut butter and we run full speed and bop! We bounce. It’s a much hairier party than you think it is. Okay, no, we don’t have any rituals. We show up and we work.
This was a great interview!
You didn’t get anything, did you?
This will be my best interview all day.
[Yells to the publicist standing outside the room.] Did you hear that?