**Spoilers from Sunday’s episode follow.**
The actor who plays Chaough, Kevin Rahm, has spent more than a decade in TV and is in his third season appearing on AMC’s “Mad Men,” but in a very real way, the bigtime really hit with Sunday’s season-six sixth segment, “For Immediate Release.”
“I was elated,” Rahm told Variety on Monday. “When they offered me the chance to join the cast on a more regular basis, Matt (showrunner Matt Weiner) said that some good things were coming. Lizzy (Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy) had read the script before me, and she said, ‘I can’t wait for you to read episode six — you’re going to be so excited about the great thing that happens.’ “
That “great thing” easily could have referred to Chaough’s kiss with Peggy midway through the episode, not to mention Peggy’s goofily amusing fantasy bedroom encounter with Chaough later on. But those moments ended up being a prelude to Chaough’s middle-of-the-night encounter with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and their spontaneous plan to merge firms.
“I was a fan of the show before I joined the cast,” Rahm said. “When I get a script, I read it as a fan first, and I get excited and see it as a movie in my head – then I go back. When I read it, I literally did a little dance — for the fans of the show it’s so exciting. It seemed like (a season finale), like something we would do in episode 13 and then be gone for a year.
“This season has been a roller coaster: click-click-click going up the hill for five episodes, (then) episode six we’re right at the top going down and really starting the ride.”
It says something about the number of huge moments Rahm had to play throughout the episode that an early scene, in which he learns one of his partners has pancreatic cancer, risks being forgotten. Talk about a ride: Rahm said he shot that scene, infused with sadness, the same day as his big kiss with Moss.
The scene with Don in the bar came another day but was five pages in length, Rahm said – an eternity in television.
“In one episode, I had more to do than I have had for two seasons,” he noted.
“The only difficulty is that you get into a rhythm of doing X amount of work, and then all of a sudden you have more to do … changing your focus, changing your preparation. But that’s what you want as actors — you want to be working that hard.”
The evolution of Chaough, now a series regular, from his initial pop-ins on “Mad Men” has been an interesting one, and Rahm doesn’t necessarily see it the same way as others do.
“Everyone started calling him smarmy and cheesy and a little dickish, and I was more surprised by that,” Rahm said. “I never saw him as being dickish. I saw him as being a tough competitor and being different from Don; he handles things differently. And I really think Don’s a real dick sometimes. The way Ted handles things is more likeable. I was not surprised to find he’s a good leader, who someone like Peggy would want to work for.”
As far as the romantic angle, seeds of interest have been offered, and the New Year’s Eve episode earlier this season dropped hints of trouble in Chaough’s marriage, but Rahm doesn’t think that his character had been plotting a move on Peggy.
“It’s kind of in the moment,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a planned thing. I don’t see it as him finding the opportunity to do that. His care for her is very different, based on her talent and their working relationship, and that can be a different thing from a marriage.
“Obviously things aren’t perfect (in the marriage) —there has to be some room there. (But) that thing for Peggy has to do more with care for her in the business environment, which I imagine he hasn’t had in a woman.”
In any case, the fantasy sequence provided some levity in the episode’s developments, especially considering the shuttling of Rahm with Peggy’s actual boyfriend, Abe (Charlie Hofheimer).
“It was really funny,” Rahm said. “I’m there watching her kiss him and he watches him kiss me. It was fun, (even if) it was a little awkward — a changing of the guard in a way.”
Rahm didn’t see the episode until about midnight the night it aired, some five months after shooting. Even for him, unexpected treats remained.
“They write so well on the show,” he said. “They do scenes, and we’ll do them three different ways. … That’s rare in television that you can do it multiple ways and still tell the story. So I remember what happens, but I have no idea how it’s going to play.
“The nice thing being so separate from it is I didn’t have special thoughts about which (approach) I liked better. … I’m far enough removed from it that I don’t have those strong opinions of it. I kind of just get to watch it as a fan.”
As much of a fan as Rahm may be, he is most assuredly part of the show now. And even though “Mad Men” doesn’t have a mass audience, the import isn’t lost on him.
“This has been my job since ’99, and I’m grateful for that,” Rahm said, “but this is something different. It doesn’t have the big audience like ‘Desperate Housewives’ had … but I feel like people are just now figuring (me) out.
“Before I did ‘Judging Amy,’ I was on a sitcom and people were like, ‘Can he do drama?’ And after that … ‘Can he do comedy?’ Until you become a man — until you become Jon Hamm, and everyone knows you — I think you are constantly being rediscovered.”