Even the most die-hard Mad Men fan may have trouble recognizing Michael Gladis on his new Adult Swim series. The actor (and beard critic) who played pseudo-intellectual copywriter Paul Kinsey for three seasons now sports a fat suit and old-guy makeup for Eagleheart, a surreal comedic riff on Waker, Texas Ranger. The fifteen-minute show, produced by Conan O’Brien’s Conaco Productions, stars Chris Elliott in the Chuck Norris role and features Gladis as the paternal police chief (see a clip of Chief in action, after the jump). Vulture called Gladis to talk about his resemblance to Orson Welles and the chances that Paul Kinsey might once again turn up on Mad Men.
So, from Mad Men to Adult Swim?
After Mad Men, all I knew is I wanted my next role to be very, very different from Paul Kinsey. And I got my wish.
How did you get involved in Eagleheart?
It’s funny, it was just another audition notice, and I actually turned it down at first because the character description was for a 55- to 60-year-old Orson Welles type. And I said, “Well, guys, I am an Orson Welles type, but I’m more like a baby-faced 33-year-old Orson Welles type.”
Does your agent just have a Google alert for “Orson Welles type”?
I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to make a living off any resemblance to Orson Welles.
Neither did Orson Welles.
So I passed, and then my agent called me back and said, “Listen, these guys really, really want to meet with you, so please take a meeting.” So I met with them, they were really funny, and they said they wanted me to play this role. And again I said, “Look, I don’t know that I would buy me playing the chief of police. You guys have this weird Orson Welles thing that you’re really attached to, but I just feel way too young.” And then it came to me: I went to the producers and said, “Listen guys, I’ll do this, but I really want to play it up and wear a fat suit and prosthetics.” And so that’s how it came to be.
That is one of the most bizarre conditions I’ve ever heard for someone taking a role.
[Laughs] I know! But I really wanted to do it, because I love Chris Elliott, and he was attached.
When was the last time you saw Cabin Boy?
You know, I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid, but when I got the job, I watched it again. And really, I laughed out loud.
So you’re wearing the fat suit, but you’re also lowering your voice a couple octaves.
Yeah, and I’m not even doing Orson Welles. Here’s my deal with the Welles comparison: In terms of my characterization, we decided that we were going for a Touch of Evil Orson Welles. I think we came pretty close. But Chief kind of became his own character, in the process of working outside in: First we got the prosthetics and fat suit and all that, and then all of a sudden Chief started to take on his own mannerisms and his own vocal patterns. One reviewer compared the vocal choice to Richard Nixon. One of the prosthetics artists said I sounded like Sean Connery.
So is there any chance of Paul Kinsey returning to Mad Men? He was pretty high up in the company.
It’s a weird thing: Paul is not dead, and I think Matt [Weiner] really had fun writing for Paul. If the series does go on — there’s all that hullabaloo happening, but I assume that the series will go on — I’m optimistic that Paul will rear his ugly head again. But I don’t know how that will be: It could be one episode, it could be one scene. I think Matt knows that there’s a little payoff to seeing Paul in the late sixties. It’s just waiting to happen.
Do you have a vision of Paul Kinsey during the Summer of Love?
I would love to see Paul go full-on hippie war protester — marches on Washington, big full beard, and long hair and Lennon glasses. But maybe you’d see him and he’d be the same kind of pseudo-intellectual douche bag stuck in an office job who relates to the movement from afar. In reality, that’s probably what he’d be more like. But I would love to see him tripping on acid and running into Don Draper in Central Park.
Okay, before we go, tell me about your upcoming film Knights of Badassdom.
Knights of Badassdom is this awesome, funny, gory horror film about live-action role-playing and wizardry, with tons of really obscure heavy-metal references. For example, my character in the film is named King Diamond. I think I got the part by walking into the audition and telling the director and writers that I used to listen to Manowar and I was a LARPer. And they were like, “Welcome home!”