Ten Minutes with Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser

If you've ever wanted to dress like Don Draper from Mad Men, you'll soon get your chance. Brooks Brothers will be introducing a limited-edition suit inspired by the AMC show beginning next week, a narrow, gray number designed by the men's clothier in collaboration with Janie Bryant, the show's costume designer. On Tuesday night, Brooks Brothers celebrated the new Mad Men suit with a party at the store's Midtown flagship. Douglas Marshall caught up with Vincent Kartheiser, the actor who plays Pete Campbell on the hit show, to chat about how the American workplace has changed since the wild and crazy '60s, the nature of the human condition, and David Letterman vs. Bill Clinton.

Q: Is that scotch you're drinking?

A: No, it's Apple Juice. I have an Apple Juice craving today.

Q: Really?

A: It's totally scotch. I'm in AA but I like to fit in.

Q: Ha. But speaking of liquor, you play a character on a show where there's lots of drinking going on. And smoking. And sex. It's amazing how much has changed in the workplace since those days, isn't it? It makes me wonder what Pete Campbell would think if he here today to see everyone going crazy over the David Letterman saga. Did you have any thoughts on the Letterman situation?

A: I didn't really think about it all that much. I don't know much about the situation, but I guess if you are the boss of somebody, it could be tricky. But what if there's no weirdness between the two people? Well, then, I don't know. Maybe it's okay?

Q: Have you had any romantic encounters with your co-workers in the past?

A: Oh, no. I don't shit where I eat.

Q: Were you ever tempted?

A: Let's say you are doing a TV show and you have a girl who you are supposed to have a flirtation with on the show for the next six years because it's part of the storyline. You're not going to get together on the show, but there's this ongoing chemistry and in the last season—when the show is slowing down or running out of fans—they write it in the script that the two of you start making out now. Well, if you make out with that girl during the pilot in the first two weeks and have a torrid romance, but then it fizzles—it's gonna make the next six years really fucking shitty and ruin some of the chemistry.

Q: That's an excellent explanation. So I guess that means you keep things pretty professional.

A: Well, no. I've fucked up before. I just don't do it anymore. I've been acting for 25 years.

Q: Since you were six, I understand. Amazing! So what were some of these mistakes you've made?

A: I hooked up with... Well, I can't say. Oh, God.

Q: Drink some more scotch and then we'll talk.

A: Okay, so I hooked up with someone who played a family member in a movie I did. Like a family member in the movie. Then I showed up a week later and it was really awkward because I was like, "Hey, how are you doing? I was really drunk? I'm sorry."

Q: I'm going to guess that unlike David Letterman, you've never been the victim of blackmail. And you've never blackmailed anyone yourself.

A: No, I've never blackmailed anyone, but I have been blackmailed. People have threatened me with shit. I've had "friends" say that they were going to tell people things about me that weren't true. But I was like, "Okay, do it." I think when you don't care, the motive becomes lost. I honestly don't know much about the David Letterman thing. I was in the airport and I saw it on a newspaper, so I Googled it that night and read up on it. But I don't know much else.

What is cool is that he came right out and was honest and said, "I had relationships with my staff." That's what Clinton should have done.

Q: That's a great point.

A: I just think it's the right move. Bill Clinton should have done the same thing and been like, "I got a blowjob." That happens. Men fuck up. Women fuck up. People—human beings—make mistakes. They make mistakes with their brains, their dicks, policies—all sorts of different things. We as human beings and as Americans have to accept that we are making these mistakes, so that we can fix them.

If you never believe that smoking is bad you are never going to quit. If we never challenge ourselves to say that eating meat every day is actually bad for the earth, then we are actually never going to change. If you don't say driving my car to work every day is bad for the environment, then you are actually never going to change. You have to first say, "It's bad for me. I know it's bad for me." And years later maybe just maybe you'll have the fucking guts to change and really do something about it.

So I think it's great that Letterman came out and said "this is what happened and I don't think this is something I have to hide." The world is going to judge him and then the world is going to forget. He makes people laugh and that's his job. His job is not being faithful.