Mad Men, Season 5

Rich Sommer on the Evolution of Harry Crane
Talking television.
May 21 2012 11:31 AM

Mad Men, Season 5

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Rich Sommer on how Harry Crane has always been kind of a jerk.

Harry Crane.
Harry Crane (center)

Photograph by Jordin Althaus/AMC

This is the thing about Harry: I don’t actually think he’s changed much. A lot of people talk about how different he’s become over the five seasons, about how he’s more of a jerk now than he used to be. Maybe I’m quibbling with semantics, but my take is that his ever-ascending status allows him to open up a bit more, and allow himself to be more of who he has always been.

It’s a silly “actor thing,” that we’re not supposed to judge our characters. I’m not supposed to say that Harry can be a prick most of the time. I’m supposed to say that he’s just “misunderstood,” or that you guys just don’t know what’s happening with him underneath, or something.

Meh.

I think he was always a bit of a jerk. I don’t like him any less because of it, or like playing him any less (that’s for goddamn sure). I just think that if you look back at the early seasons, and see how he interacted with Paul/Pete/Sal/Ken/Don/Peggy/Joan/et cetera back in the day, he’s pretty much the same guy with a different job title. He wears suit separates and straight ties now, but he’s doing the stuff he always would have done had he been in a higher office position. He’s a nerd who got on the TV train at the right time.

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ALL OF THAT BEING SAID:

I also think he has a good heart. I truly identify with Harry. I am often acerbic. I can be mean in an (oft-failed) attempt to be funny. I stick my foot straight into my mouth on an hourly basis. But I would buy the shit out of a bus ticket if it would help you out of the cult you got sucked into.

So that’s how I feel about Harry.

The chanting: That day was bonkers. We chanted for what felt like forever. My knees were exploding, because I am an old man. I don’t know why Harry got so sucked into the experience. I think it has to do with a couple of things. He’s clearly unhappy at home. I don’t know what the future holds for Harry and Jennifer, but from here, it doesn’t look like they are that perfectly matched. Who knows if it’s bad enough to end it—Don’s line to Joan about “how bad it has to get …” comes to mind—but they are not having too much fun with each other. And it seems to me that people looking for answers seem slightly more susceptible to falling into “moments” like that.

Plus, those chants are designed to be hypnotic, in a way. Right? I don’t know much about all of it, but it’s my understanding that part of the goal is to become lost in the repetition. We shot the scene over several hours, at one point letting the camera run for a very long take. I get it. You do sort of fall into it.

So I think the chanting, combined with searching for some happiness, combined with not wanting to directly shit all over an old friend who seems really into what’s happening, all led to Harry riding along for a moment. But he snaps out of it pretty quick. Which my knees were most appreciative of.

Man. How great was it to have Paul Kinsey back? I know viewers have missed him, but I have missed him even more. Getting to work with Michael Gladis again was the highlight of my season, for sure. He is so, so great. And he fits so perfectly in that world, even with the topknot and yellow robe-thing.

And, Patrick: The scene with the phone booth was certainly written that way. I can only think of one improvised moment that’s ever made it into the show, and it was a baby doing the improvising. Maybe there are others, but they’re not from me. First off, our writers have an unbelievable ear for conversation. Secondly, they write our lines specifically for us, the actors playing the parts. It’s unlikely Aaron Staton (Ken) would sound exactly right saying a Harry line, and it’s a 100-percent guarantee that I would have ruined, “Ken. Cosgrove. Accounts.” It’s easy to say lines that are written in exactly your cadence.

Hare hare,

Rich

Rich Sommer plays Harry Crane on Mad Men.