Interview with Vincent Kartheiser from Mad Men

For the love of Pete
Sun, October 19, 2008

Pete Campbell can be a jerk. But while watching last week's episode of Mad Men, we actually felt sorry for him.

There was Pete, played by Vincent Kartheiser, anxious to have at least a little fun in the sun during an advertising business trip to California. Pete's boss Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, nixed that idea with a curt, "You want to be on vacation, Pete? Because I can make that happen."

Then before you know it, dour Don takes off with some 21-year-old hot chick in a convertible, leaving Pete to make excuses to would-be clients.

In many ways, Pete -- with his rich-kid demeanour and blind ambition -- is the villain in the Emmy Award-winning Mad Men, which is set in the early 1960s and airs Sundays on A and AMC. But Kartheiser doesn't see Pete that way, and certainly, Pete wouldn't see himself that way.
"Pete is an annoying guy, but you feel sorry for him in the way you feel sorry for Steve Carell in The Office," Kartheiser said.

"Pete's life made him who he is and I think he wonders why people aren't more sympathetic. 'Why doesn't everyone like me? Can't they see what I've been through to get here? Why can't they just give me what I deserve?' "

Kartheiser, 29, looks younger when dressed in everyday 2008 clothes. The snappy suits Pete wears in Mad Men make him look older, and while it's a cliche to say people grew up faster 45 years ago than they do now, Kartheiser cautioned the clothes don't make the man.

"I actually have been through a lot more in my life than Pete has," said Kartheiser, a native of Minnesota who previously was known for his role as Connor in the TV series Angel.

"I think Pete is less of a man than me. The difference in the visual is that Pete had a finishing-school upbringing. I'm an actor, so part of my job is looking like a bum. So I think manners and age are being confused here.

"But these days we constantly hear about how kids are growing up so fast. We've always had weird ideas about that. I personally think people always are the same. To say that (people in the early 1960s) came from a different era, therefore they were a whole different breed of human, it just doesn't work. I think they were pretending more. There was a lot of posturing."

Posturing is a big part of Pete's repertoire, and it probably will continue to be. But you know, Don is a big phony himself, so Pete hardly is alone.

"Pete is a confused young man who wants to excel, wants to be worthy, wants to be valued," Kartheiser said. "He has cutting-edge ideas and he's at the forefront of change. And I think he feels others don't respond well to that.

"That said, he talks more than he probably should, and he loves the taste of his shoe."

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