Last night’s episode of Mad Men brought to the foreground the generational culture clash between iconic mid-century superman Don Draper and Michael Ginsberg, the up-and-coming Jewish copywriter played by Ben Feldman. We caught up with Feldman today to ask a simple question: How does it feel to be trying to out-Draper Draper? “It’s imposing,” the actor laughs, “especially when you stand in the elevator next to Jon Hamm, and he’s 35 feet taller than you.”
Given creator Matthew Weiner’s reputation for secrecy, Feldman is unsurprisingly loath to talk about how Ginsberg’s conflict with Draper will play out over the season’s remaining four episodes. “That’s for someone with a higher pay grade than me to tell you,” he says.
But he does offer an analysis of how their relationship has turned sour. “What you saw in [last night’s] episode was Ginsberg starting to realize that his ideas have value,” says Feldman, who notes that the character, for all his fast-talking bluster, was relatively naïve when he first arrived in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices. (I asked Feldman about the chemistry between Ginsberg and Peggy, and he said: “I’d be surprised if anyone who acted with Elizabeth Moss didn’t have chemistry with her.)
Feldman compares Ginsberg’s role on the show to his own place as a newcomer to the Mad Men ensemble. Let’s get down to the real question, then: Since Mad Men has a history of inspiring new style trends, does Feldman think we’re going to see an explosion in Ginsbergian plaid jackets? “Maybe people will dress up as Ginsberg for Halloween,” he says.
Last night’s episode also saw Ginsberg doing some extracurricular work for Roger, attempting to rebrand Manischewitz wine. In an intriguing real-world twist, Feldman himself has his own wine label, Angelica Cellars. When asked what the Ginsberg pitch would be for Angelica Cellars, Feldman says: “The [Mad Men] writers give Ginsberg the most brilliant pitches. We don’t even really do that much advertising. Although I did design the picture on the label.” No doubt Jon Hamm is currently working on a different picture, probably with a smiling devil.
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