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43 Things You Learn About Vincent Kartheiser by Hanging Out With Him

03 Apr 2014, Los Angeles, California, USA — Cast member Vincent Kartheiser poses at the premiere for the seventh season of the television series “Mad Men” in Los Angeles, California April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) — Image by © MARIO ANZUONI/Reuters/Corbis Photo: Maya Robinson and Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Corbis

This past Sunday’s episode of Mad Men was entirely devoid of Pete Campbell, which, we have to say, was, “Not great, Bob!” To help with Vincent Kartheiser withdrawal, we pored over the outtakes, transcripts, and notes left over from New York Magazine’s recent feature profile of the actor and found some bonus outtakes worth sharing — 43 of them, to be exact. Read on for bonus Kartheiser thoughts on Pete Campbell (“Maybe the saddest thing about Pete is that he wasn’t really hugged as a child … ”), the end of Mad Men, the latent talents of skinny-fat guys, and why happiness is overrated.

1. He’s exceedingly polite and uses phrases that seem slightly of another time. For instance, he’ll say, “My apologies,” or “cor-rect!” or sign off a phone call with “Farewell.”

2. He went to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, once, but “I just couldn’t be there because of all the young people.”

3. His friends call him Vinnie. Also sometimes: Fruity Lavender. And: VK Broiler. “I actually, sadly, gave that to myself,” he says. “It’s, like, a Burger King thing.”

4. If you ask him how to pronounce his last name (KARTH-eyes-er), be prepared for him to jarringly shout it out like he’s commanding troops in WWII: “Yes, correct — unless you’re in Germany and then it’s KAT-EYES-AH!

5. He has a mnemonic he likes to say every time he leaves the house to make sure he hasn’t forgotten anything: “Wallet, watch, keys, cock. Set to go.”

6. His best friend is the magician Derek Hughes, a childhood friend from Minnesota who does close-up magic mixed with stand-up comedy, mostly at the Magic Castle in L.A. Kartheiser reportedly introduced Christina Hendricks to her husband, Geoffrey Arend, at a magic show.

7. Kartheiser is enthusiastic about setting the mood … to talk Mad Men. He picked out the Campbell Apartment as our meeting spot because as soon as he heard the name, he says, “I was like, ‘That’s so apropos I have to go!’” The drinks he orders for us are an Old Fashioned and a Sidecar; he explains that he selected them for their names and claims not to know what’s in either of them. He also makes sure to hand off the “spill-y” one in a stemmed glass to me. When I drink it quickly to avoid the spillage, he tells me he’s concerned that I “might have a problem.”

8. His assessment of the Campbell Apartment? “It’s not my kind of place,” he says. “I liked the architecture, but it was a little too loud for me. I prefer a quiet room with a less expensive drink menu.” Pete, though, he’s sure would feel at home. “He enjoys places where the drinks are overpriced and he can pull out his expense account.”

9. He’s great at improvisational riffing. I ask him if people notice the bald spots he’s had to shave along his hairline to play Pete when he’s wandering around Los Angeles. “I don’t wander!” he says, laughing. “You made me sound like a homeless person!” He switches into a Daily Bugle–reporter accent and pretends to interview himself. “When you’re diggin’ through trash cans on Hollywood Boulevard, do people notice your bald spot? ’Cause, I mean, you’re bent over, you’re reaching for that little bit of In-N-Out Burger — I know how you do it — you pull it up, you wring it out, you dip it back into the Coca-Cola. During this whole process, does anyone see the bald spot?”

10. His actual answer: People call him “sir” more often — “May I take your order, sir?” — and women treat him differently, though he won’t go into detail.

11. He used to gain and lose weight depending on Pete’s depression levels, but gave up since he couldn’t gain a noticeable enough amount for it to matter to the audience. “The only thing it did was piss off the costumers, who were constantly having to loosen my pants,” he says.

12. Only diehard fans ever recognize him, though there’s usually one of those wherever he goes. “Well, I can’t escape my face,” he says, shrugging. When a group near us whips out a camera, ostensibly to photograph each other, he shields his face with his hand and stops talking. “Really?” he whispers to me. “They’re not taking a picture of me, but I just — I gotta do this. They’re fucking assholes.”

13. He has gotten better at interacting with fans over the years. “I think in the beginning, people would come up and give me a compliment and I’d either engage in conversation with them or I would, like, deny the compliment or something weird like that, which just spurs it to go further,” he says, “and the thing is just to say ‘Thank you.’ There’s a ten-second awkward beat and they go, ‘Have a good night!’ and that’s the end of it. I mean them coming up to me, they’re presenting an awkward situation to me. I think my midwestern roots make me want to make everyone feel comfortable, even if what they’re doing is a kind of awkward, inappropriate thing, but I don’t do that so much anymore. I’m okay with the awkwardness.”

14. Past interviews have made him paranoid of coming off seeming crazy when he’s just been goofing off. For example, the instant-classic interview he did with Vulture’s Denise Martin last year, in which he repeatedly flings pieces of folded-up paper at her. “I was being goofy and she was being goofy and she sort of extracted her goofiness from the thing and was left with sort of this just strange interview, and I think people read it and thought, This person has no respect for anyone but himself.”

15. Asking about his acting process is “a very private question,” he says. “It’s not something that’s easily explained, and the best you can do is be misunderstood. And you find yourself answering questions ten years down the line for articles you did ten years ago, and it’s just a sentence in the middle of the day, and it doesn’t fully encompass my personality, but it becomes a label that you carry with you.”

16. He says he rarely leaves his house: “There’s nothing out there.” To be fair, it is an amazing house, with a bed that suspends from the ceiling and a desk that folds out from the wall to maximize space. He renovated the 580-square-foot Hollywood cabin rather than buying a bigger place because he bought it at a bad time and would’ve been taking a loss if he’d moved. “Of course, I won’t know until I sell the property if I get the money back out of it, but it was a choice I made and one that I did grapple with for a while,” he says. “It’s hard to make those kinds of decisions, and it’s the first home that I’ve owned and I’m still learning a whole lot about what it means to be a home owner and someone who does a remodel or leases a place out or sells a place. There’s so much to learn and I’m not a very business-minded person. I’m unfortunately quite dense in that portion of my brain, so I’m sure whatever choice I made was the incorrect one, and I’ll have to live by my mistakes.”

17.  He’s a supportive fiancé. When I mention Alexis Bledel’s movie Violet & Daisy, which I loved but got drubbed by critics and flopped at the box office, Kartheiser says, “I love that movie. I really did. I know I’m a little subjective, but I thought it was so awesome, and so cool. It was so much fun to watch, you know.”

18. Though he and Bledel met on the show playing characters having an affair, he doesn’t see many similarities in their narrative versus Pete and Beth’s. “Oh, I hope that’s not our narrative,” he says. “Two very depressed people, weren’t they?”

19. He quotes Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (“You’ll lose it, if you talk about it”) to explain why he is so tight-lipped about his relationship. “It’s something I realized about the most important things in my life,” he says. “If I share them with the world and I open that door to their fuming anger that they need to get out or their adoration that they want to flaunt, it lessens it. It cheapens it; it weakens it. And it’s magical, love, and all of that is … profoundly spiritual, and it just doesn’t feel right.”

20. Growing up as the youngest of six, he was a ham and took two hours of dancing, voice, or acting classes every day after school, and on Saturdays in the summer, in addition to acting professionally at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis.

21. His mother is a day-care provider and his father sells large machinery, but everyone in his family is artistic. “My parents spent any extra money they had on us kids and our enrichment,” he says. “We didn’t have a TV, but we had a baby grand Steinway and Sons piano. We didn’t have a lot of sports gear, like skis or hockey equipment, but there was a lot of art on the walls in my house.”  His sister Elise plays the piano. “She still plays with orchestras and writes her own music and does recitals, but not professionally.” His sister Theresa writes as a hobby. His sister Andrea plays the cello. And his sister Colette went to school for modern dance. “So they do all those things and mine happens to be the one that makes money right now. I think if I was trying to be a concert pianist, that’s a hard job in any day and age. There’s a lot of jobs for actors as of now, so I got lucky in the choice of art that I picked.”

22. There’s never a moment as an actor, between jobs, that he doesn’t feel anxious. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, things are bad now,’ or, ‘Now I’m on easy street,’” he says. “If you work your way up from nothing, meaning if you don’t hit it big when you’re young and you have to do those 100 auditions per year, and you do that for 15, 20 years, thousands of auditions, there’s a constant state, there’s a little underlying thing in your life that’s like, ‘You need another job. You need to do good.’ There’s not this peak and this down, there’s just this steady tension — at least for me — of what’s gonna come next?”

23. When he says he hopes he’ll always be able to do regional theater, he means that he doesn’t feel like it’s necessary to work on the grand scale of TV or movies to make a living as an actor. “It’s a standard of living thing,” he says. “If I go to Minnesota and make $50,000 a year, it’s pretty much the same as making a million a year in New York.”

24. The careers he admires are those of eclectic actors like James Franco, who did a soap opera at the height of his fame, and Richard Jenkins, who does theater in Cumberland, Rhode Island, and only ventures out for the occasional film.

25. He says he’s not a natural athlete, but that he has great reflexes, and that if one of our drink glasses fell off the table, he’d catch it. “I always surprise people because I’m a skinny-fat guy who kinda never moves, but if I want to, I have a great will to do things.”

26. He was not naturally skilled at doing the Charleston in that scene with Trudy at Roger’s garden party, but spent days working on it. He says Weiner “knew that I have no problem making an ass of myself.”

27. Unlike Pete, he learned to drive as a teenager, and learned how to drive stick a few years ago. “It was always something I’d wanted to know how to do, and of course once I learned how to do it, every car stopped making cars with standard transmissions.” That’s actually Kartheiser behind the wheel, backing into a sign, when Bob Benson double-crosses Pete and has him drive a Camero in the Chevy showroom. “We had a stunt guy doing it, but then ultimately I could make the tires squeal much more than him, so I took over,” he says. He didn’t do the actual crash, “But I did a lot of takes where it’s me pulling back. That wasn’t some weird camera move. That was really me.”

28. Like Pete, he doesn’t know how to fix a leaky faucet. But “I can screw in a light bulb.”

29. He hasn’t become an alcoholic, no matter how often he has to drink on set. “[The show] didn’t make me a womanizer, either, or a chauvinist, or any of the wonderful things that our characters are. Thank goodness. I can’t imagine a Method actor having to do that for ten years. I think there’s a reason Method actors don’t do much TV.”

30. He thinks Pete is happier now than he was in the beginning because he’s accepted being a beta-male. “I think a lot of the world’s trouble comes from men wanting more power than they are really being given, or more respect than they are really being given,” Kartheiser says. Pete now is “more understanding of his place in business. He knows he’s never going to be Don Draper. And the moment he began backing Don Draper up and began standing behind him was the moment he got respect from anyone in the office.”

31. He loves Channing Chase, who played Pete’s mean, cold mother (“She’s the sweetest person I’ve met, just a wonderful actress and a wonderful human being”), but can’t relate to coming from such an unloving home. “Maybe the saddest thing about Pete is that he wasn’t really hugged as a child,” Kartheiser says.

32. Doing independent movies prepared him for the constant possibility of his part getting eliminated on Mad Men. “I’ve been cut out of movies,” he says. “I’ve worked on movies and then gone to see them and been like, ‘I was not in that.’”

33. His worst nightmare is getting miscast, because it means he’s depriving the audience of having the proper emotional release and storytelling experience. “So many things I thought I’d be great for and wasn’t hired for, I went and saw and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that guy was wonderful. He has qualities that aren’t readily available to me. What a great choice.’ Generally, I think people make the right choice in not hiring me.”

34. He’s convinced that him landing the role of Pete Campbell was all a matter of timing. Ten years ago, AMC was a dusty repository for black-and-white movies and any movie star who did TV was slumming it. “If they were casting Mad Men now, I never would’ve even gotten into the room,” he says. “An actor like me? No. I mean, you’d be up against Ryan Philippe and Giovanni Ribisi — you know, you’d be up against big actors for that role.”

35. He plays a lot of dominoes and cribbage on set, but says his favorite games are “emotional games.”

36. He has a large reserve of dark thoughts. “I think some people, if you were to bring up the word death at a dinner party, they would say, ‘Oh, that’s so dark, let’s not talk about it,’” says Kartheiser. “I don’t look at death as a terrible, evil thing that we can’t talk about or everyone will become so maudlin that the dinner will end in crying and disaster. I think that we should be able to talk about those things openly.”

37. His least favorite word in the world, he says, is happy. “There’s an epidemic of happiness that’s overwhelming our environment here,” he says. “That is the goal for many people, to be happy. And it’s a very petty and trite goal and it saddens me very much to see my friends and people I know focus on that in life instead of other things that I think have value.”

38. California Pete, he says, has made a conscious choice to reinvent himself. But what other people see as Pete’s optimism and carefreeness, Kartheiser sees as selfishness. “He’s able to be himself without any repercussions in California, so it allows him to live guilt-free,” says Kartheiser, “but it’s just a selfish way of living.” He thinks there’s something about California that brings that side out in people. “To this day, I find myself at dinner parties where people talk about life as vibrations and corny stuff like that, and all it sounds like to me is selfish people who don’t know what it means to have real responsibility and people who depend on them, you know?”

39. California Pete, Kartheiser thinks, has always been attracted to ambitious women, but has only recently shed the inferiority complex that kept him from actually being with one. “I think maybe he has more confidence in his abilities with his newfound position out in California,” says Kartheiser. “There aren’t a lot of other men at his job to compare himself to. Ted is kind of this suppressed shell of a man, and so he has this confidence and he isn’t as intimidated by a female who is independent and beautiful and strong.”

40. That doesn’t mean Pete has suddenly become a worthy suitor to Peggy, though. “Hahaha,” says Kartheiser. “Poor Peggy. I hope not. I think the Peggy character is a very, very smart woman and is deserving of a man of higher moral fabric than, really, any men on Mad Men.”

41. As an actor, he says, every job ends. “You prepare the moment you sign up for anything for the last day you walk away.” But knowing the end was coming in this case doesn’t make it any easier. “It’s sad,” he says. “It’s been a big part of my life, and I love those people. I look up to them, I’ll miss them. And I’ll still see them at events. Like, we have all each other’s phone numbers, I don’t think we’ll fall off the face of the earth. But it’ll be hard not to go back to work in the fall. I don’t think it’ll really become real until it’s three months after we’re done and we’re not going back, and then I’ll be like, ‘Oh, wow, it really is gone.’”

42. Mostly, he says, “I’ll miss playing Pete. I mean, he’s multilayered, he’s intense; I’ve lived in his shoes. It’s something that’s consistent and quite simply fun to play. He gets great dialogue, he can be a scoundrel and he can be petulant, and he can be a hero and sensitive. He’s a real human being and he’s flawed. So very, very, very flawed, and I’ll just miss it. I’ll miss reading those scripts. I’ll miss watching him grow old. I’ll miss being that guy.”

43. Will he miss getting punched in the face? “Well, that happens in most jobs that I do.”

Things You Learn Hanging With Vincent Kartheiser