A master class could be taught about the women of “Mad Men’s” Don Draper, whose existential angst has become so acute that his capacity for intimacy seems to be at an all-time low. But in season six of the series, yet another mistress gets under his skin, causing him once again to confront a profound ambivalence that no amount of bourbon can wash away.
This object of desire is played by Linda Cardellini as Sylvia, the trophy wife of a doctor who lives in the same swanky apartment building as the unhappily married Drapers. With her Jackie O bouffant, tailored clothes and a strategically placed beauty mark, one could have mistaken her as merely a sexy distraction — putty in Don’s hands. But in fact she’s in many ways his equal, introducing him to Dante and, eventually, calling his bluff after he subjects her to a dominant submissive exercise as a way of separating sex and commitment.
How did it feel for the actress to bring Don Draper to his knees? “I feel pretty good,” laughs Cardellini over the phone. “I think it’s interesting because you think that because she has this so-called conscience, that she’s not going to be able to compartmentalize as well as he does. And it seems that she does.”
Cardellini’s appearance in the series immediately sparked water cooler conversation about how drastically different she is from her role as a sullen teen in “Freaks and Geeks,” for which she was previously best known.
“It definitely has hit a different audience,” she says, “and it surprised people to see me in that sort of role. I think that was the most fun about it.”
— Steve Chagollan
For geeks spread throughout the television universe, Patton Oswalt’s guest spots on “Justified” (as the sort of constable you might describe as “simple”) and “Parks & Recreation” (as a Pawnee resident who decides to take the filibuster to another level) were nothing less than nerd catnip.
And Oswalt — a devoted nerd for many shows himself — is keenly aware of his good fortune.
“I don’t know what happened but I must have pleased the TV gods somehow because I got to be on two of my favorite shows,” he says.
The comedian was asked to riff as long as he could on any subject for “Parks & Rec” as part of his character’s attempt to stall a city council vote. When a pitch for the next installment in the “Star Wars” series that involves the Avengers franchise and Chewbacca’s severed head came tumbling out, Oswalt was as surprised as anyone.
“It was hilarious that it went viral,” he says.
Oswalt’s portrayal of foolish and bumbling cop Bob Sweeney on “Justified” lightens the neo-Western in unexpected ways. For a show that usually lives on the dark and creepy side of funny, there’s real charm in seeing a character explain that he could take out any assailant with the small knife he keeps with him — as long as his attacker approaches from the right angle.
“He’s someone who seems like he doesn’t have it together but then turns out to be just as dark or darker than anyone on the show,” says Oswalt.
In either case, the demand for this comedian as an actor will likely only increase, whether or not Disney picks up his “Star Wars” pitch.
— Karen Idelson
Melissa Leo is known for gritty, tough roles in such films as “The Fighter” and “Frozen River.” So when a guest role on FX’s dark comedy “Louis” came her way, she was thrilled — and a little nervous.
Louis C.K.’s sometimes autobiographical series enjoys a devoted following and oodles of critical acclaim. So, the Oscar-winning actress ran lines with a male actor friend and watched the show closely to study the humor and pacing of the show before coming to set.
“I wanted to get insights into Louis’ mind because this work really comes from his perspective,” Leo says. “You want to know what you’re doing builds on everything else that’s happening in the show.”
Her turn as a vain, bawdy actress who goes on a blind date with C.K. and then demands sex from him as the evening progresses earned her the kind of solid reviews she’s received for her dramatic work.
She also got something else she loved.
“I’ve had the good fortune to work with some great people on some incredible projects but I’ve never had a reaction like this, where people yell out: ‘Hey, I loved you in Louis,’ while I’m walking down the street,” she says.
The actress says she’s willing to use social media to get herself more comedic work.
Leo reached out to the comedian via her @MelissaLeo handle April 25. Her tweet featured a photo of her holding the comedian’s Rolling Stone cover and a “…what the #$*&!…” over not having received a recent phone call.
“I think Twitter is a good way to get (Louis C.K.’s) attention,” laughs Leo.
— Karen Idelson
Gary Cole became the nemesis to paycheck-cashing desk jockeys everywhere as the narcissistic boss in the cult film “Office Space.” In this season of HBO’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy “Veep,” his character Kent Davidson is equally good at quashing others’ good times — although this go-around it’s seemingly more for the greater good.
As a wet blanket, Karl Rove-like political adviser to the president, Kent is the buzzkill that keeps Louis-Dreyfus’ VP Selina Meyer (and her staff’s) political power and ego in check. Even his personal life is fairly uneventful. He prefers to do his Pilates classes alone, detests brown-nosers, and can’t appreciate some good-natured ribbing at a political roast.
“He has limited people skills,” Cole tells Variety. “I think he comes off that way to a lot of people because he’s not comfortably social; he deals in very concrete, mathematical precision and ideas.”
Is that representative of most people in Washington?
“I’m sure there are a lot of people whose job it is to measure things, to measure people, measure opinion who are probably not the life of the party.”
— Whitney Friedlander
“The Walking Dead”
Lennie James has appeared in just two episodes of AMC zombie-apocalypse drama “The Walking Dead,” but his impact on the tone of the series and its main character is undeniable.
James, who plays Morgan Jones, first appeared in the series’ pilot, as a friendly survivor and Good Samaritan who helps Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) find shelter and his bearings.
This year — about three seasons after making his initial appearance — James gets to play an even more intriguing role in the series. In the episode “Clear,” Rick encounters Morgan again, except this time his lost friend has lost some of his mental faculties as well as his son. The episode marked something of a departure for the series, which normally keeps most of the cast together rather than focusing on one or two characters at a time.
James’ performance helps bring new dimension to “Walking Dead” regulars while showing viewers the effects the disaster at the center of the story has on a character who has been a touchstone, albeit a missing one.
— Brian Steinberg