This season on Mad Men found Harry Crane an absentee power player, constantly jetting off to Los Angeles to tend to his TV clients, away from all the drama at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and often uninformed about it. (Unless, of course, that was just what he wanted us to think.) Either way, whether he was awkwardly encouraging a copywriter to be an actor or hitting on a model, he remained a critical force of ham-handedness when he did pop up in the office. In our continuing quest to debrief every member of Mad Men at the end of season four, we checked in with Rich Sommer, who — while his 6-week-old son napped nearby — explained why Harry could be a future Hollywood superpower, and just what he was really trying to do when Joey the copywriter thought he was hitting on him.
We haven’t seen much of Harry. Which seems ironic, because when he became head of TV, the fans were sure that he was poised to take over the company.
This is the thing: I’ve tried to quell people’s excitement about that, because even if Harry did become the head of the company, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a show about Don Draper. So even if Harry Crane takes over Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and it becomes Crane Crane Crane and Crane, and he runs the world, then Don Draper moves on somewhere and you’ll follow Don Draper. You may read a headline someday about Crane Crane Crane and Crane, but you’re still not going to see much about Harry.
But he is the guy to go to for Beatles tickets.
Absolutely! I’m not saying he’s useless.
You’ve said in the past that you really love your character; have your feelings about Harry changed at all this year?
He’s definitely changed a lot this year. My feelings, I mean, they’ve grown. I think he’s a douchebag. That doesn’t mean I don’t love him any less. I know plenty of douchebags that I love dearly in real life. I think that Harry has gotten blinded by the power a little bit. You saw him scrambling for any purchase the first three years, anywhere to firmly set his feet, and he didn’t have it. Now he has that. He’s a very, very important part of the firm.
I mean, look at any nerds you knew from high school who you were like, “Ugh, he’s such an asshole all the time.” And then if they got into a position of power, they’re like “yeeaahh,” and they get real cocky about it and they’re kind of jerks, and you’re like, Oh, I see — this was there all along and now you’re just going to kick everyone now that you’re on top. I think Harry is not necessarily like that, but he definitely isn’t a guy who’s ever been perceived as, say, sexy, other than by drunken Hildy. And I think that now that he’s got a little power, he’s going to see what he can do with it. I mean, he sees what Don Draper does. This is maybe a very lame attempt at being Don Draper.
So you’re saying that Harry Crane’s story is the 1965 version of The Social Network?
[Laughs.] Possibly. It’s very possible.
I look forward to Harry inventing a proto-Facebook using index cards and macramé.
Well, please don’t blow our entire fifth season.
Can you talk about that weird moment when Harry called Joey, the doomed ad copywriter, into his office to tell him that he was a good-looking kid who could go places?
I can give it to you from the story perspective, which is, again, Harry is a guy who has found himself in a new arena, and it’s a new place where he could kind of do things that he was unable to do before. But that means that even though he’s gotten that little foothold, now he’ s like, “Well, now I can do even better. Now I can get even higher on the totem pole.” I think that part of his pitch to Joey is an attempt at further securing his place in Hollywood. The people like Harry Crane in the sixties, at least historically — and this is partially from what Matt explained to me — these guys who started low on the totem pole and then became heads of media departments or television departments, also transitioned into being our first sort of power agents in the country, because they knew everyone on the media side, and they also started to get to know people on the talent side, because they were helping to produce commercials for things. And they quickly, as advertising people, became ensconced in the entire media world. And so they were able to make connections that other people couldn’t make.
And I think that Harry is in a position where he’s trying to do that. He’s gone out to see the people at Peyton Place, and he’s heard of something they’re looking for. They’re looking for a fresh face. And Harry’s like, “Well, shit, if I can bring them the fresh face, that puts me in an even better spot.” And so I think that his pitch to Joey was really Harry trying to help himself, and trying to bring Peyton Place a new face that they wouldn’t otherwise see … I mean, Harry turns full greaseball when he’s doing that pitch, orange cigarette ash dripping down his fingers. One of the more disgusting scenes I’ve ever had to shoot. But he’s just pitching so hard, and obviously Joey is a little too blind to get what’s going on.
Is Harry’s flirtation with the model in the season finale just an attempt to be more like Don or Roger?
I don’t know what Harry would do with Carolyn Jones if he was able to help her. I mean, we’ve seen him cheat on his wife before. We know he’s capable of it, and we certainly hope he wouldn’t do it. Look, ideally, I hope that Harry is flirting and trying to see if he’s still got it, and not necessarily going to act on it. Might he? Maybe. But I hope that it’s just another symptom of a guy who’s feeling out what his power entitles him to. And “entitles” is in quotes. I don’t think he’s entitled to bedding Carolyn Jones, Model. I just think he’s trying to figure out how he can use this.
Whom do you miss more: Michael Gladis or Bryan Bratt?
Oh, that’s ridiculous. Come on. Who do you love more, your mom or your dad?
That was my next question!
A shrink once actually asked me that when I was in fifth grade. Even in fifth grade, I was like, are you shitting me? You’re awful. You are awful at what you do.
So, Sal Romano or Paul Kinsey …
I’m not going to answer that. I miss them both. I miss Bryan because he’s in New Orleans and is rarely around here. And that’s been hard; we all moved to L.A. together, Bryan and Michael and Aaron Staton and I. Michael, luckily, is still in town, so I see him almost weekly. He’s one of my absolute best friends in L.A., and that certainly has not changed. He came to visit us at work a couple times this summer. I miss him desperately, and I imagine and hope that we’ll see both of them again at some point in the story of the show.
Are you working on any new projects right now?
Right now, it’s the new project of the boy. And the slightly less new but still relatively new project of the girl. So we’re trying to finagle how to be a family of four and do all that. But right now, I’m auditioning and taking meetings and seeing what comes up, but not being too aggressive about it quite yet.
You seem to pop up everywhere these days.
I’ve had a couple of really fortunate hiatuses. I don’t know if that’s the plural for that. Hiati?
Any more installments of your Funny or Die series, “The Committee,” on the way?
There are hopes to do more. It’s hard; Drew Pearce, who writes and directs them, just had a baby of his own, and he also wrote the draft of a new superhero movie (The Runaways), and he’s got some pretty big things that he’s juggling right now. But we are discussing possibly doing one for the holidays. It’s been really, really fun. I really hope we get to do more.
It is heartwarming to see you and Mrs. Landingham talking about obscure dirty sex positions.
Yeah, very heartwarming. That’s the right word. Not “disconcerting” or “slightly unappealing.”
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