“Not great, Bob!”
That surly reply by 1960s ad man Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) to ever-chipper colleague Bob Benson’s (James Wolk) elevator inquiry “How are you?” has taken on a viral life of its own since Sunday’s (June 23) Season 6 finale of AMC’s “Mad Men,” the drama’s top-rated year-ender thus far.
That one line’s immediate popularity stuns Kartheiser, as has much of what’s happened in his career since the acclaimed series began.
“This whole season was wonderful,” he tells Zap2it, “full of so many complex changes and emotional shifts for the character. I was happy that we gave it that kind of buttoning at the end of the season. We kind of wrapped up some of the issues and left some of them very open, so that we get to discover next season what happens.”
Pete’s apparent move to California — where he may get to be “free of everything,” if estranged wife Trudy’s (Alison Brie) prophecy holds true — is among those open-ended matters, but Kartheiser hesitates to get ahead of “Mad Men” creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner in forecasting where that goes.
“I used to have thoughts of what should lie ahead for these characters,” Kartheiser says, “and what I found out after about two seasons was that all my hypotheses about what could happen, or what I thought would be cool, were not as good as what actually was written.
“At a certain point, I just put all of that to bed and focused all of my energy on doing my job … putting my imagination to rest, if you will.”
Kartheiser is having a big year all around. He’s part of the voice cast of “High School USA!” — one component of FOX’s “Animation Domination High-Def” block, premiering Saturday, July 27 — and is working this summer in his native Minneapolis in a Guthrie Theater staging of “Pride and Prejudice.” And he’s engaged to “Gilmore Girls” alum Alexis Bledel, who guest-starred as Pete’s ultimately temporary love in “Mad Men” Season 5.
“I’m very comfortable in the spot I’m in,” he maintains. “I think Jon and John and several of the other actors who haven’t had the opportunity to direct yet, but may, have a real intellectual understanding of the show that I don’t know I’m quite as quick to understand.
“Also, I have no experience directing other actors or setting up shots or working with editors, any of that sort of thing. I may have aspirations for it later in my career, but I would want to do it on something where the stakes were lower, maybe a short film I’d written with my friends. Ultimately, with ‘Mad Men,’ I would feel too much pressure for someone who has so little experience in that field.”