Vincent Kartheiser’s character, Pete Campbell, had been put through the ringer this season of AMC’s Mad Men. The actor maintains he doesn’t do anything special to get riled up.
“I have techniques that I use, but there’s nothing particular I use to get worked up more than I would use to get any other emotion,” he explained in an interview with Vulture. “I don’t want to get technical because not only is it boring, it’s also personal. But sometimes, if I’ve done many takes, and I still can’t get it, I will naturally become aggravated with myself.”
Kartheiser also had to face some physical challenges while playing Pete, particularly during a recent scene when he had to fall down a set of stairs. “Fear is not something that you really engage too much in while you’re acting,” he said. “The things that really scare me about acting have nothing to do with physical harm. It’s more emotional harm to one’s psyche. That five minutes before you walk onto a stage to do a performance that you haven’t done before is a much more paralyzing fear, a fear to your core that is really indescribable and yet overcome-able. And so fear of physical harm…I embrace that. Falling down the stairs? I mean, I make an ass of myself much more as Vincent than Pete ever could on that set, so basically, I’ll do something as Pete, and then [the cast and crew] will say, ‘Gosh, why can’t you be more like that?’”
Despite the difficulties of playing Pete, the actor recognizes that he is “constantly getting great lines on the show. The whole challenge is to not ruin if from page to performance, to keep somehow the hilarity and the intensity that’s on the page.”
Even though Kartheiser has received rave reviews for his portrayal, he doesn’t always watch his performance on the show.
“I’ll watch parts. I’m always impressed with how they’ve managed to make my performance palatable because that really is quite a feat, and I’m very impressed by that team of people,” he said. “I would say that has much less to do with me and much more to do with the team of professionals and technical people behind the scenes, the editors and the director and the post-production producing team. I enjoy watching the other actors that act across from me, and I learn a lot about my flaws and my mistakes by watching what I do, so I do watch sometimes, and it’s always a humbling experience.”