The Mad Man Cometh

As the final season of AMC’s groundbreaking television series "Mad Men" gets underway this spring, co-star Kevin Rahm is just getting started in his new home of Sacramento.

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"In the MARRS strip in midtown, there’s a cool place with a pig on the logo," Rahm says of LowBrau, where this photograph was taken. "Oh my God. That’s [a] great brunch place." (Photo by Max Whittaker)

And at the end of last season, Ted’s own fate seemed a little uncertain. But you’re shooting the final season, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign.

Yeah, the last thing we knew was that Ted [and fellow agency partner Pete Campbell] were moving to California to open up SC&P [Sterling Cooper & Partners] West. Ted was going to try to make it work with his wife and [ensure] nothing was going to happen again with Peggy. That’s where we left off. At the end of last [season], people were like, “Are you coming back?” And at first, I wouldn’t answer that question just because of the secrecy issues. But Matt did finally say in the press that I was coming back. So I’m safe. I can say that.

You know, it’s funny. I was doing a red-carpet thing last year, and I made a joke. Someone asked if I had anything planned after [Mad Men], and completely off the top of my head, I was like, “So Pete and I are in California. You give it 10 years and we’re the Odd Couple. We both get divorced and move in together. We’ll be Oscar and Felix. We’re going to do The Odd Couple sitcom.”

And then I was asked to do a panel discussion at AFI [American Film Institute]. It’s me and this bigwig producer guy. And they’re like, “Kevin, so tell us about the sitcom you’re going to do, the spin-off of Mad Men.” Someone picked it up in the press and it became this real thing. I was like, “OK, so that was a joke. First of all, Matt Weiner would never give me permission to do a sitcom spin-off”—although I would argue that I think it would work. Two guys together in a house could make for some funny stuff. It would be The Odder Couple.

That’s great news about Ted, because a few years ago, I had interviewed another Mad Men actor, Colin Hanks, who, by the way, was born and raised in Sacramento.

Oh, I didn’t know that. Do you know where in Sacramento he was raised?

Yeah, in East Sacramento.

That’s my favorite part!

It’s a great neighborhood. So, Colin was on Mad Men during season two, and he wanted to continue on it, but his character didn’t come back.

I have never met anyone who has come to that set and not wanted to stay. It’s one of the few jobs that I’ve ever had where people come early and stay late. We have an amazing base camp. They built this full-on wooden deck with chairs and in the winter, it’s covered in heat lamps. We play games. I learned how to play cribbage on that set. We play dominoes. Right now, Catch Phrase is a big game on the set. It’s so much fun. We just hang out and it becomes a place with a very familial vibe.

I read that you guys also play Words With Friends?

We do, religiously. I’m not the best. I do OK. Jon [Hamm] is really good. He’s tough. We play a lot of dominoes online, too. We are playing dominoes or cribbage on the table and we’ll also all be playing each other on our phones. My wife [Amy] always gives me a hard time. She’s like, “I have to go to work and you get to go play.” She works at UC Davis [Medical Center].

She’s a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, right?

That’s exactly right. Or for people in the acting business, I just call it “baby heart doctor.” Unless they’re on a medical show, you’ve got to simple it down. I definitely married up. Don’t tell her that. I’m still trying to keep it on the down-low. But I think she knows. She’s figured it out. I learned early on that I can never win the “I had a bad day” argument. My perception of [show] business changed dramatically when I started dating my wife. When I mess up a scene, everyone still gets to go home, and that kind of puts everything into perspective. I take the work seriously, but I don’t take myself very seriously. You have to have that balance of, “That didn’t work, but it’s OK. Let’s try it again because no one dies.”

Speaking of your wife, her job was what brought the two of you to Sacramento. When did you move here?

Rahm and his wife Amy, a surgeon at UC Davis Medical Center, arrive at the Critics' Choice Television Awards in Beverly Hills last June. (Photo by Lisa O'Connor/Zuma Press/Newscom)In August. She started at the hospital in September. We found a house really close to the hospital in Elmhurst. I love that neighborhood. I love the quaintness of it. We have dogs—Gracie is all 80 pounds of tail-wagging yellow lab and Gabby is a mutt that Amy found on the street in Memphis—and it’s very walkable. I go back and forth a lot [between L.A. and Sacramento], but I’m up here as much as I can be. Like I work tomorrow and then I’m going [back] up this weekend. If I have more than three days off, I’ll drive and if not, I’ll fly up.

What are some of your first impressions of Sacramento?

It’s a very accessible town, which is one of the things I love about it. In L.A., everything is a drive. [Your job] is 15 miles away and you can have an hour commute. And even though Sacramento is big, it has a small-town feel to it. We’re from Louisiana, so we’re used to friendly people and people who know your name. It’s like that thing in Cheers. As we go places, people recognize us because we’ve been there before, not because I’m on a TV show. I like that.

So you don’t get recognized here as a star on Mad Men?

Yeah, it’s funny. When I was on Desperate Housewives, the further away I got from L.A., the more people recognized me, but [for Mad Men], it’s more in L.A. that they do. I get a lot of looks like, “I know that guy.” I’ve been told that I look younger in person, and that has a lot to do with Ted’s hair and clothes. With those suits and the flipped-back hair, everyone looks older. So people [here] kind of look at me like, “Did you go to school here? Did I meet you at Chico State?”

I’m in and around the hospital a lot, so with people who work with my wife, it’s gotten out what I do. She kept it secret for a long time. She didn’t want that to become a distraction. I’ll tell you a funny story. When she and I first started dating, she was coming to L.A. to interview at UCLA and USC for her cardiothoracic training program. And that weekend, [Desperate Housewives costar] Eva Longoria was opening her restaurant Beso and we were invited. I was playing a gay character [Lee McDermott] on the show, and Tuc Watkins [who is gay and played Lee’s partner] had not come out yet in the press. So when we first started doing the show, he was like, “Look, I’m just not going to tell anyone either way when they ask if I’m gay.” I was like, “OK, I’ll do that with you.” I had just started seeing Amy when I got the job, but she lived in Louisiana, so it was no big deal.

So we go to this restaurant and I don’t expect this to happen, but all of a sudden there’s a red carpet at the opening of this restaurant. And I go, “Oh no.” So I turn to Amy and I’m like, “Look, this is really awkward, but is it OK if you don’t walk down the red carpet with me?” And she goes, “Are you kidding me? I don’t want to walk down the red carpet with you.” Then I get offended. I’m like, “Why not?” She goes, “I’m about to interview at USC. I don’t want them to know I’m dating an actor!”

That’s a great story. Have you guys made any discoveries while out and about in Sacramento?

We found a great place called The Porch. [We’re from] Louisiana, so it’s perfect for us. They switch out the menu so often, but I have not had a bad meal there. We had great grits one time. Oh, and there was a pork belly thing. I can’t remember what they did with it, but it was unbelievable. When her parents were in town, we took them there. And there’s a little Korean barbecue place near Alhambra, Tako. They do Korean barbecue burritos. I just love that place. We also found a French bakery right by Trader Joe’s on Folsom [Boulevard], Les Baux. Love that place. That is a staple go-to brunch [spot] for us.

In the MARRS strip in midtown, there’s a cool place with a pig on the logo, LowBrau. Oh my God. That’s another great brunch place. They have an egg special that’s so good, and the French toast is amazing, too. And Evan’s Kitchen. They had a really cool guy playing old jazz standards on the clarinet. I had some sort of omelet and it was really good, and Amy’s biscuits and gravy were amazing. When I’m not working, I’m playing golf, and a friend of mine is a member at Del Paso [Country Club] so I’ve played there a couple of times. The course is immaculate. It’s a beautiful track. Just gorgeous.

Hopefully when Mad Men is done, you’ll get to play some more rounds there. On that topic, can you talk about some of the other projects you’re working on? Apart from The Odder Couple, of course.

Exactly. There’s a sitcom, Surviving Jack, on Fox that premiered in March. It takes place in the ’90s. Chris Meloni is the dad and the main kid in it is a freshman in high school. I’m the voice of the kid as an adult. I’m kind of the narrator. Think Wonder Years. It’s pretty much the excuse to add jokes. Chris Meloni is hilarious. Rachael Harris [who plays the mom] is hilarious. It’s from the guys who created $#*! My Dad Says. Have you ever seen that show? This is the kind of show they were trying to do.

You’ve also got a movie coming out called Nightcrawler, right?

Yeah, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Bill Paxton. And Rene Russo—[the film was] directed by [her husband Dan] Gilroy. She is lovely, by the way. I love that woman. Those two are fun. They would be fun to have a dinner party with. It was a fun set. Jake plays a guy who is a little odd, I think is one way to say it. And he starts videoing crime scenes around L.A. and selling it to the local 10 o’clock news. Rene Russo plays the main news editor and I’m just under her. I’m kind of the moral compass and I’m questioning his motives and his access. Everyone’s happy because he gets such great stuff, and I’m like, “Wait a minute. How did he get that shot? This seems sketchy.” That’s kind of the basic idea. I think that’s supposed to come out this year.

And what about further down the road?

I don’t know. There are hopefully kids in the future. It’s exciting, the idea of raising kids here. I think this is a great place to raise a family. It seems to me that neighbors tend to know each other and people tend to look out for each other. It’s like a much, much less demented Wisteria Lane. In our neighborhood, there are tons of kids. You always see people with their kids riding bikes and with the dogs attached and running. That’s going to be us. I’m looking forward to it. S