Egos, office politics (and romances), ruthless competition to get ahead — there are few places in television quite as exciting as the last two years at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. Rich Sommer, who plays Harry Crane on AMC’s Mad Men, says he never would have landed the role without the training he received through a unique partnership between the Cleveland Play House and Case Western Reserve University that allows a handful of students to earn their master’s degree in theater while performing at the Play House. He also credits the program for the other wonderful things in his life: his wife, Virginia, whom he met there, and his 1-year-old daughter, Beatrice.
There is no way in hell I’d be doing what I’m doing without Cleveland Play House and Case. I had in me, I think, an innate sort of comic timing and a sort of natural delivery. Beyond that, I had nothing. Every bit of technique I have I learned there.
It’s a very siblinglike relationship with the eight people in the program. You go through times that you absolutely can’t stand each other, but you would do anything for each other.
I didn’t grow up with a ton of money, and I never would have been able to do it without their assistance. Not only did they train me entirely, but they also did it for free. I will forever owe them. They were crazy to take the leap, but it paid off — at least a little bit.
My sights were always set on TV and film, but I never really expected it to work out. You leave grad school with a lot of hope, but you don’t leave with a lot of expectations. One of the things they drill into you at Case and the Play House is that this is going to be a very hard business.
I certainly don’t feel like I’m done with rejection. I don’t feel like I’ve made it.
The stage is far more difficult. For me personally, it takes a lot more work to do stage than it does to do TV. With TV, I’m generally memorizing a scene at a time. On the stage, not only are you packing an entire play in your head, but you’re rehearsing that play for six weeks. And when you’re performing it, it takes a lot of energy.
I’m pretty good at covering my own butt on stage. Generally, any mistake I made I was OK at saving myself.
Coventry was just awesome. I was right on Lancashire; I could walk anywhere. The music was great. Great music.
Nighttown. Whenever I could. The Grille & Greens salad. God, I do love that Cleveland Heights cuisine.
We lived in Cuyahoga Falls until I was 8. There’s a lot of realness to the Midwest that is definitely absent in L.A. When Midwesterners say something, they generally mean it. Here, there is a sort of glad-handing that happens. It’s OK. I’ve learned to deal with it, but I’m always grateful when I find people that are real and grounded.
Being a dad has taught me that I have a dirty mouth and I need to watch what I say.
I’ve found a protective instinct that I never knew I had — not only to protect her, but to protect myself for her. I’ve been feeling more and more as I look at her that I want to be there for everything she does.
I don’t know that my character likes Don Draper. I don’t know that you can really like Don Draper. I can’t. He’s not like the nicest guy in the world. I think Harry knows he has to kiss his ass, but I’ve never gotten any indication that he likes Don.
Herbal. They’re awful, awful. They feel like knives when you smoke them. Depending on the scene, I will sometimes go through two and a half packs in a day.
When Mad Men is over, I’m really starting over again.
Mad Men on AMC Sundays at 10 p.m. See the next crop of Case actors during Inherit the Wind at Cleveland Play House Oct. 23-Nov. 15. To purchase Play House tickets, call (216) 795-7000 or visit clevelandplayhouse.com.