As the newest addition to “Mad Men’s” cast, Ben Feldman made his debut on Sunday’s (April 1) episode as junior copywriter Michael Ginsberg, who he describes as kind of “brilliant, different and weird.”
“I feel like I’ve been looking over my shoulder for months,” Feldman tells Zap2it when we ask him what it’s like to finally have the secret out. Show creator Matthew Weiner is notoriously secretive and kept Feldman’s casting under wraps until (almost) Sunday’s episode aired. “It’s kind of nice to be able to relax a little bit and have a small amount that I can talk about.”
Feldman, who TV viewers know as guardian angel Fred from Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva,” says his audition — like his on-screen job interview — was utterly daunting.
“They don’t want anybody to know anything, especially strangers that are coming in to audition,” he says. “So you get a script, but names are changed and situations are changed so I had sneaking suspicions that my interview might be with Peggy and then with Don. And the first scene that I auditioned was that scene with Peggy interviewing me. And I went in for Matt and Jon [Hamm] because Jon was directing the episode. So tremendously intimidating.”
“It was a big, long audition,” he continues. “I got notes and came back the next day or the day after and still couldn’t gather if they were digging it or not. And I still couldn’t read a script until the table read.”
So what was it like for Feldman when he hit the set for his first day of work?
“I was heavily directed because I had Matt down there going over every last thing, which was really great and something I wasn’t used to,” he says. “And on top of that Jon, who’s an incredible director, was also protecting and encouraging and helping mold the character as well.”
“[Jon’s] an actor and he knows how to talk to actors. Even in the audition process, there was this moment where Matt sort of gave this monologue at one point and he was saying, ‘Try this and think about this,’ and it was a lot to take in,” says Feldman. “And I remember Jon just pausing and saying, ‘You know, or maybe just don’t smile so much.’ It was this simple thing that made an entire world of difference to me as an actor.”
Feldman plays Ginsberg with a strong old-timey New York accent. Which totally worked, but whose idea was it?
“That was a terrifying choice that I made,” he says. “The audition called for ‘Jewish charming New York energy.’ This audition meant a lot to me and I figured if I was going to take a risk it was going to be with this one and I went in and I did the first scene with this accent. And I immediately got nervous and said, ‘No accent? Did you hate the accent?’ And Matt says, ‘No, no, no, the accent’s fine.’ and that was basically the last time we discussed it.”
So did we detect a romantic spark between Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Michael?
“I can say that when I read it for the first time, I sensed that as well and could not tell if it was a potential love interest thing or if she’s just sort of quietly fascinated with this character and maybe sees this sort of outsider in herself in him,” says Feldman. “I think that’s kind of the takeaway.”
What does this mean for Feldman and his future on “Drop Dead Diva”?
“I don’t know that they’re as secretive as ‘Mad Men,’ so I’m not sure exactly how much I can say,” he tells us. “But I will say that I did go back and shoot a little bit of it a couple weeks ago. But what was going to happen to me on ‘Drop Dead Diva’ was decided long before I walked onto a ‘Mad Men’ stage and I think that my character there has seen his time — for now.”