SacMag writer Corinne Litchfield recently sat down with Sacramento-based actor Kevin Rahm, who plays conflicted adman Ted Chaough on the AMC series “Mad Men,” now airing its final six episodes. Here, in an excerpt from their interview, he talks about “Mad Men” mania, ’70s facial hair and Ted’s doomed affair with Peggy Olson.
What was so awful about California for Ted Chaough? Was it all the damn Sunkist oranges? Was it he couldn’t see Don Draper in the rearview mirror anymore while he was out there?
That’s a good question. I think part of it was Peggy. I feel like he made a decision based on what he thought was right, versus what was right for him. What was interesting about Ted is that he was the anti-Don, and kind of always did what Don wouldn’t do.
In watching (Season 7 Episode 8) “Severance” last week, in the scene with Ted, I kept looking to see if Ted was wearing his wedding ring.
Nope, not wearing a ring.
The way Ted was talking, I thought, that’s not the way a happily married man would talk.
Right. Absolutely. That’s one of the things I love about “Mad Men”: You glean so much information that’s not spelled out for you. Things like he’s not wearing his ring, he’s talking about going to this party where there’s going to be a bunch of Vogue models. So we know he was miserable in California. We don’t ever hear about his wife again once he goes there, other than “Nan loves it here.” I think what we can glean from Ted now is that it didn’t work out. It wasn’t really California as much as it was making the wrong decision. I don’t know that he and Peggy, if he had stayed in New York and he’d left his wife for her, if that would have worked out either.
In “Severance,” and I’m sure we’re going to see more of this play out, he didn’t look all that happy.
No, things are not resolved…that stuff doesn’t go away.
All this armchair analysis that “Mad Men” fans do: Does that surprise you? How does it feel to be part of a show where people are pulling it apart, scene by scene?
That’s the way the show is made, so it’s not surprising. That’s the way Matt [Weiner, show creator] is. Everything’s there for a reason. He’s recently said in the press that no scenes happen that aren’t necessary. That’s what I love about that show. There’s no scene where Don asks, “So, what happened to Nan?” We just learn it by watching the relationships. What’s funny is when the fans know more about the world than I do, when they’re like “Remember in that one scene…?” That’s daunting only when people are asking me questions that are out of my own depth, that I say I don’t know. But it’s flattering and exciting.
Everyone’s talking about the mustaches, the sideburns. With all the period suits and hairstyles for “Mad Men,” did you have moments on set where you looked in the mirror and thought, “Whoa, I look like my dad/uncle/grandfather”?
Family relatives, absolutely. My dad never had a mustache that I saw, but my grandfather had a pencil-thin mustache. When I first slicked my hair back and put on what we call “the Mad Men helmet” and the clothes, I looked like my grandfather. What was more shocking was seeing the women walk by in the outfits with their hairdos. It reminded me of my mother and her friends a lot.
Based on your IMDb profile, you and John Slattery have a history of working on the same projects: “Judging Amy,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Mad Men.”
There’s one more that isn’t on IMDb. I played the role John originated in a play called “Three Days of Rain” by Richard Greenberg at South Coast Repertory. I did the revival four, five years ago, and I played the part he played.
I’m glad it’s finally out and I don’t have to hide it anymore: I’ve been stalking John Slattery for 15 years. I know where he lives, and he knows I know where he lives, and it’s a little awkward. When I showed up on the set of “Mad Men,” I only knew two people other than the casting directors and Matt [Weiner]. Jay Ferguson [Stan Rizzo], who I worked with on “Judging Amy” for one year—we showed up around the same time on “Mad Men.” I walked in the room and there’s Jay and I was like, ah, someone I know and love. John and I never had any one-on-one scenes together on “Desperate Housewives.” But he saw me across the room and said, “Kevin, come here,” and introduced me to Jon [Hamm], [Elisabeth Moss], he made me feel very comfortable. Instantly I felt more at ease, as much as you can be at your first table read for “Mad Men,” which was still daunting. I’m just waiting on his next job so I can figure out what show I’m going to join.
I had this dream that the final episode was set in the ’80s and Peggy was the last one standing. Can you confirm or deny this?
I can neither confirm nor deny. But I’d love it if that were true, that she’d killed everyone with some kind of katana. Like “Kill Bill” style, where she’s standing there, severed heads all around, in a Madonna outfit, a bloodied Michael Jackson glitter glove on her hand.
For Part 2 of this interview, go to http://www.sacmag.com/Sacramento-Magazine/May-2015/SacMag-Exclusive-Interview-With-Kevin-Rahm-of-Mad-Men-Part-2/