When it comes to the return of Mad Men, who better to discuss important television matters than the head of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s television department, Mr. Harry Crane — Rich Sommer? First matter at hand: Where will season 5 pick up after the loose ends of season 4?
“A little time has passed since the end of season 4,” Sommer teases to EW, but reassured, “A lot of the questions that people have from season 4 are answered pretty quickly.”
That doesn’t mean the air of intrigue that surrounds the characters, in their home lives and in the office, including the ambitious (sometimes overly so) Harry, will suddenly disappear in season 5. In fact, just the opposite. “A lot of why Harry is the way he is has to do with his personal life, so I think that’s always there in some way. I think almost everything that these characters do — Don, Roger, all those guys — is somehow driven by their work. Even their personal lives are clearly affected by it. You’ll definitely see that’s true for Harry as well,” Sommer says.
But even with the brief time that has passed, Sommer said fans will notice a difference in Harry. The 34-year-old actor, who spent his Mad Men hiatus making movies, including the Tribeca Film Festival entries Fairhaven and The Giant Mechanical Man, tells EW, “It’s interesting because as we move forward in time, from season to season, and we move ahead in varying measures of time, you start to see the way that they indicate that, whether it’s by fashion or by historical events that happened. If you physically look at Harry, the difference between season 4 and season 5 costume-wise, prop-wise, was a pretty hard left.”
Will Harry, a man who Sommer lovingly referred to as a “douche bag” at the Mad Men PaleyFest panel, change on the inside, too? “It’s funny. When season 1 started airing and people were just starting to watch the show, they would say to me, ‘Oh, thank God for Harry. He’s the only nice guy on the show. We need that anchor.’ In my head I knew he was about to cheat on his wife. So I was always like, ‘Yeah, well… nobody’s perfect!’ He’s still that guy, he’s still the nice guy, but also, his situation has changed dramatically. He’s been given power where before he had zero. I think one of the true measures of someone is how they deal with that sort of situation.”
Whether or not Harry will wield that power and become a Hollywood power agent or stay put at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is up in the air. Or rather, it’s up to Matthew Weiner, who previously told EW, “History will show that Harry Crane has the most important job in the agency.” Though Sommer hopes Harry sticks around at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for as long as possible, rather than pursue television ambitions — “[He’s] riding a wave that won’t crest until the Internet” — he also understands the advertising beast.
“These guys certainly didn’t stick around forever. You think back to season 3 when we lost Salvatore Romano and Paul Kinsey. Obviously, like with any office, these guys are moving on to bigger and better things and certainly that’s possible for Harry,” Sommer acknowledges, and then adds with a laugh,”I just hope he doesn’t ruin everything before he goes. He’s notoriously made some dumb decisions.”
Still, playing Harry, dumb decisions or not, remains a joy for the Upright Citizens Brigade alum, who often provides the show’s comic relief. Who didn’t love it when Harry told Peggy at the end of a client meeting that she had lipstick smudged on her teeth (Season 4, “Chinese Wall”)? Well, maybe everyone but Peggy.
“Matt [Weiner] is very generous with me with funny lines in certain situations, yet keeping it rooted in a very real way,” Sommer says. “A lot of us come from a comedy background, and I think that’s something really important to Matt, that an actor be able to handle comedy well because it’s such an important part of the show to him. As we got to know each other better, [the writers] got to know our sense of humor and they started really making sure that Harry was funny… in a sort of sad sack way.”
Sommer, who will make his Broadway debut this spring alongside Jim Parsons for the revival of Harvey, also joined some of his Mad Men cohorts voicing L.A. Noire, though he considers himself more of an old-fashioned board gamer. “People have said to me, ‘They should make a Mad Men board game’ and I’m like, ‘What would it possibly be?’ ” said Sommer. Despite the fact that the large ensemble doesn’t always get to work together, they cherish the times when they do. “We’re also a very close cast, it’s a very social, fun group,” he said. Can you really blame the guy for wanting to keep Harry at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for as long as possible?
Mad Men returns to AMC this Sunday, March 25, for the two-hour fifth season premiere at 9 p.m. ET.