Mad Men's Mad World

8.20.2009

By Justin Ocean

If you could have the ultimate fantasy storyline for Sal, what would it be?
It's funny -- I've stopped even daydreaming about what could happen because whatever I think of pales in comparison to what the writers actually come up with [Laughs]. How Matthew and the writers weave the story together is just so'smart! I never dreamed that this episode would happen, and there's another one down the pipeline that is just fantastic.

As the show keeps skipping forward into '60s how do you think Sal is going to react to the Stonewall riots?
Well, it could go either way. It could go that he really embraces the tumultuous changes that are coming -- when you think about the '60s, it could have just been the '50s, a repressed and constricted society until going into the '70s when everyone is all free love. It kind of does a 180. Some people went with it, some people not completely, and some people fought it. My dream is that they'd put me somewhere near Stonewall in '69, but that'd be just so obvious that they'd never do that [Laughs]. They'd have to come up with something better, some interesting plot twist for Sal. But I'd love to see him down the line at some club at some point -- happy, or at least leaning towards his natural inclinations a little more, towards love. But it is Mad Men, so people are going to be tortured.

I see him more in the bathhouse scene than the dating scene.
Yeah, there are limits. I've met some men who worked in the industry at that time and had wives and children and came out gay later, and they're saying that this is exactly, exactly how it was. He lives in this period of time, and even into the '80s and '90s before people could really come out at work. Even now there's very little, if any, legislation that protects gay people against prejudice who are out in the office. It's kind of crazy when you think about it. We're the last group in America that still has clear-cut prejudice that's allowed. Until everyone has equal rights in this country -- and I mean everyone across the board -- this experiment of America is failing.

Will the other gay character, Kurt, be making more noise this season?
He comes back once in a while, but I don't know yet what happens with this season. There was an interesting episode last year where he came out in front of everyone and when he left the room the guys said these horrible, disparaging remarks and it just broke Sal's heart in a way.

Switching to style -- it's huge on the show. Has being immersed in all the amazing set pieces given inspiration for your own shop Hazelnut in New Orleans?
It's such a wonderful era of design. There's a little bit, touches like starburst mirrors and furniture that's iconic of that era that we have, but I always have an open eye to all different eras and all different periods of design.

Are you digging the '60s fashion? Have any favorites so far?
Gosh, there's so many! Janie Bryant, our costume designer, is a genius, and I totally love that period of fashion for men. In the first episode I had this really great double-breasted blue blazer and you can't really even see but the weave of the suit is this bluish grey -- I don't know how to even describe it -- a plaid, but not really a plaid. I never thought I'd wear a tie bar again, but here I am wearing a tie bar and I love it. There's so many outfits, wonderful fabrics with sharkskin tone to them. They really have to go through my bag when I leave set. I can't wait to go further into the '60s -- bring on the bell bottoms!

You've been with your partner Tom Cianfichi for what, 20 years now? Any plans to tie the knot?
Well, we were going to do it, but then look what happened in California. We hope it's going to be repealed, and when it becomes legal we're going to do it.

What do you think about all this grassroots 'Brad Pitt for Mayor' hoopla down in New Orleans now?
Are they serious? I'm sure it's a joke although I wouldn't put it past anyone these days. You know a lot of people do very good work and everything but I wouldn't want to be mayor. Who knows -- he did such great work in the Ninth Ward building those homes, maybe he'll be able to get something done, but his other career is going pretty damn well.

Finally, fanboys want to know: is Jon Hamm really so dreamy in person? Or is that raw sexual energy all Don Draper drag?
No, he's the real deal. He's just cool! [Laughs] He's not conceited. He's warm, and open and has a wicked sense of humor, very funny and self-effacing. He's very sexy naturally, a real guy's guy.

Mad Men airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC. Visit BryanBatt.com or AMCTV.com/original/madmen for more info.

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