Allan Havey self-identifies as a Mad Men superfan, so he doesn’t care if most of you want to push the cardigan-wearing Lou Avery out a window. Lou was given a gentle spanking by Jim Cutler in Sunday’s mid-season finale, and will potentially be sent on his way if and when the firm is officially acquired by McCann Erickson. If that’s not good enough for haters, too bad! Vulture talked to the actor and stand-up comedian, who last appeared in the final season of The Office, about Lou’s many redeeming qualities, his very specific way of geeking out on set, and the time he filmed a very special episode of Louie.
What did you think about Cutler dismissing Lou as a hired hand?
I suspected something was coming from above. Cutler’s the only guy [who] could ream Lou out, so it didn’t surprise me and I thought it was kind of fitting.
The title of the episode, “Waterloo,” hinted at someone’s demise — I just thought it might be Lou’s. WaterLou. Too obvious, I know.
You know what? Lou has a dream, and Lou’s working hard. Lou came in and saved the day when Draper called the Hershey company a whorehouse — by the time that got back to Lou, that’s what he’d heard, anyway. He’s been in the business a long time, and these kids aren’t going to scare him.
A lot of people wanted Lou to get his comeuppance. Too harsh?
It wasn’t comeuppance. They wanted Lou to die. They wanted Lou to die a very painful death. I didn’t think people liked my character, but I wasn’t expecting that harsh reaction. But it’s understandable because people are invested in this show. They are emotionally involved in the characters, and this guy comes along, and he doesn’t fit in with what they want Mad Men to be. It doesn’t bother me a bit.
What did Matthew Weiner say about Lou when you got the job?
He’s just a regular guy. Great business guy, everybody loves Lou, Lou does a good job. The direction was perfect, because that’s the attitude I had. I’m not gonna act like a dick, I don’t have to. I just met Peggy, she gives me a tag line, and I’m supposed to reel over? I’ve already decided, let’s move on. Lou’s very much from that generation, World War II, the Depression, you do your work, you accept your orders, and you move on. That guy is my dad and his friends. I know that generation. I was around in ‘69 during Vietnam and when things got heated up. I know who this guy is. When I got the part, and I read those first scenes in that first, I thought, I can do this. This is a perfect fit for me.
And then you celebrated with a party?
No, I sat down and kind of took a nap and took a deep breath. Naps are great. I couldn’t tell anybody. I lied to everyone but my wife.
What did you think about “Scout’s Honor” and Lou as frustrated cartoonist?
Lou has a dream like all of us. If I hadn’t been a stand-up comedian out of college and gone into business, that would have been my “Scout’s Honor.” He probably sent it to Stars and Stripes when he was in the army. I love that about him, that he has his own creative thing outside of advertising, like Ken Cosgrove and his writing. I also love that he’s close to his wife and his son.
And the cardigans …
As soon as our costume designer Janie Bryant brought it out, I said, “Really? Powder blue?” And I like cardigans! I wear them. But now my wife hid them all from me. She won’t let me go out in a cardigan now.
That’s about your safety. I read that Mad Men is your favorite show. You’re on the last season. How did you make it count?
When they were doing camera setups or there was a break, I’d go into one of the offices and I’d sketch. When I found out that Lou liked to sketch, I’d sketch my own products and came up with my own tags. Just for me. I didn’t show anybody. It helped me calm down. I don’t bring my cell phone to set. I’m not a cell phone freak. I don’t even have an iPhone. I have a flip phone. But yeah, you watch the show — I’ve sat in every seat on the set. I went around and did that. That’s as far as my fandom went.
Ha! That’s a good, not-embarrassing way to geek out.
I did ask Jessica Paré during the Christmas party, I said, “Did you have any idea you were going to wind up being married to Don Draper?” And she said, “No.” I thought, Jeez, I could marry Joan and I don’t even know it. And at the table read for this last episode, episode seven, all the guest stars go around and say their name and who they play. When it came to Robert Morse, everyone stood up and burst into applause for like three minutes. It’s my favorite memory from the show. I’ve been a big Robert Morse fan since I was a kid.
Were you on set when he shot that dance in his songs?
There were only two scenes I wanted to watch. That, and the threesome.
Oh, I’m sure.
No, I wasn’t on set. I wanted to be. But that’s another thing: If I wasn’t shooting, I didn’t want to get in the way. I was having such a good time working with everyone. After five minutes on a set of not doing anything, you’re kind of out of place. I did pitch an idea to the writers one time and I got a laugh.
What was that?
I said, “What if Don has a fevered nightmare and in his dream, Lou, his nemesis, is in bed with his wife and ex-wife?” And I got a big laugh from the writers.
What else do you remember?
I was thrilled that I got a chance to work with Kiernan in episode two. I learned something from her.
What did you learn?
Well, we were rehearsing the scene and she was quiet, and I thought, Oh, she forgot her line. No. She didn’t forget. She was in the moment. She was wondering what this creep was doing in her dad’s office. I was the one who wasn’t in the moment. So when we did it again, I didn’t say anything to her, I just said to myself, Havey, just get back into it. Learn from this actor who’s been here for seven years.
Will Lou be back?
We’ll have to wait and see.
You were on one of my favorite episodes of Louie, “Telling Jokes/Set Up.” Are you and Louis C.K. friends?
Yeah, we know each other from the comedy clubs. He called me and said he had this part, and he actually wrote it for somebody else but that person couldn’t do it. I said, “Louis, I can’t imagine anything that would keep me from doing this.” Then I read my part, but I didn’t read the rest of it, because I don’t like to do that. I like to be surprised, and boy, was I. I had just the one scene with Melissa Leo, but to watch her work was a real education. I love being in the business, but I’m still a fan. I still get a kick out of everything.
During your stand-up on the episode, you joke about having a Bing Crosby penis. Is the stand-up in the script, or did you bring that with you?
The stand-up is all mine. He said, “Go up and do 15 minutes and I’ll get something out of it.” I’m usually nervous before I do stand-up for anyone, but we had already shot the hot-dog scene, so once we got through that — and I’ve been working at the Comedy Cellar since it started, so I felt pretty comfortable. You always want to do a good job for your friends.