On last night’s Mad Men, Ginsberg had a moment. A sad, surprising, shocking moment. Actor Ben Feldman, whose new show A to Z was picked up by NBC, is in New York this week for the Upfronts, and we got a chance to talk to him this morning about poor Ginsberg, what he did with that bloody prop, and his theories on what’s going on in his character’s mind.
I’m so glad you’re here because I’ve gotta say, last night—
You watched last night.
Holy fuck. [He laughs.] Alright, here we go, let me pull up — here’s the three-second version [we watch the GIF posted on Vulture].
Ohhhhh. See, I haven’t seen it yet.
Now, what are we looking at?
I still own [the nipple], by the way.
It’s in a bag in my house. My wife has not seen this episode, and she doesn’t know what happens, and I have that so I can show it to her after we sit down and watch it.
She’s going to be so grossed out.
She’s going to be terrified.
What is that? Is that like a piece of pepperoni?
That was — no, I don’t know. The props people put it together. They’re incredible. I mean, they — there’s nothing— [laughs, still watching the GIF.]
I hope Elisabeth Moss didn’t see what was in the box beforehand.
[To his publicist] Will you look at it — this is what I was describing. They whipped this together and when we saw it, Matt — you know what’s funny, Matt Weiner came down and talked to them for a long time about exactly how much blood we wanted there, and how much he wanted on me, and what he wanted this bandage to look like. It was very, very specifically in his mind, that entire image.
Did Elisabeth Moss see it before she opened the box?
Yeah — they didn’t want to show her and I think Lizzie wanted to, Lizzie was like, “I’m gonna need to see it at some point; it’s not like we’re only going to do one take.” I don’t remember if they did end up actually showing her before the take, but it’s kind of hard to look down at that thing and not be creeped out.
Absolutely. So that came up in the script, and what did you think?
Matt actually sat down and talked to me a couple weeks before we shot that episode and explained — before anybody had read the script — and explained everything that was going to happen.
Okay, why did that happen? Something was wrong with him? Is he having an issue?
I think that’s up for interpretation.
What do you think? You know better than we do.
I — trust me, I do not.
But what’s your theory?
I mean, I think Ginsberg has had a very, very strange, tragic life. I think his life began — you know, there was the whole Holocaust thing, and him believing that he’s from Mars. And he’s never fit in in any kind of world; everything’s just been, you know, he’s strange. He’s kind of crazy. Or some people would categorize him as crazy, I guess.
And it just welled up?
And it just, I think it got to a boiling point, and I think at his heart, he’s a creative person and he’s an artist, and he saw the company going in — it’s Lou’s company, you know. And [Don], as far as he can tell, has essentially been castrated. And it’s not about creativity anymore; it’s about a computer and numbers and stuff like that. That’s not a world he can exist in. And he needed to [giggles] release some tension.
Do you think the feelings for Peggy are genuine?
I think they’re — I think that one could look at them as other emotions, misplaced. I think a therapist would have a field day with someone like Michael Ginsberg. I am not one.
Are you excited to do a romantic comedy like A to Z now?
I am [laughs].
It’s a little different. It’s also nice to be on a show with just a couple people. Mad Men, it’s like an 800,000 person cast, so it’s kind of cool to have a little tiny club.
And you get to dress like it’s 2014.
I get to look normal. Yeah, Janie Bryant on Mad Men, who’s brilliant, if she didn’t put me in something and go, “[Laughs] I’m so sorry,” then that outfit doesn’t make it to air. Like, it needs to be ridiculous. So it’ll be nice to wear clothes that fit.
Alright. So good to see you again.
It was good to see you. Cheers. [Walks a couple steps away, says to publicist] See, I told you, I was like, “Somebody will be creeped out today. You’ll know who saw the episode yesterday because they’ll be creeped out.”