Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Mad Men’s Kevin Rahm on death, milk, and disappointment

Rahm, right, with Vincent Kartheiser
Rahm, right, with Vincent Kartheiser

In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.


A veteran of stage and screen, Kevin Rahm plays Mad Men’s Ted Chaough, one of the simultaneously most levelheaded and most conflicted partners at Sterling Cooper & Partners. Rahm has also popped up recently in Nightcrawler and on both Madam Secretary and Bates Motel, and was a regular on Desperate Housewives for five years.

1. What’s the worst job you ever had?

Kevin Rahm: Easily, hands-down, bar none, I did one night at a fast-food place—I believe it was a Dairy Queen—in Atlanta, Texas, and I had to clean out the kitchen. That meant picking up those rubber mats and hosing them down. You wouldn’t believe the smell that emanates when you lift the mats up. I’m not blaming all Dairy Queens, but this one in particular was not good. I almost threw up at least a dozen times. I turned in my papers at the end of that night and said, “I can’t do this anymore.”

The A.V. Club: Is it a rotten dairy smell or is it a grease smell?

KR: It’s just death. It’s just death… and milk. And disappointment. Death, milk, and disappointment.

2. When did you first feel successful?

KR: I still go through waves. The closest thing I’ve felt to being successful was when I did a golf trip to Ireland about four-and-a-half, five years ago. Desperate Housewives was the number one show at the time in the country. You would have thought I was Bono. I was a rock star for a week. And it was fun for a week. And then I was happy to come home.


AVC: Ireland sounds like a fun country to be in for that, at least.

KR: Oh, yeah. I think we were in Killarney and, you know, the bride came out and invited me to the wedding to dance with her. And the staff had to Kennedy me out through the kitchen because, after about an hour or so of taking pictures and everything else, it got tight in there and they pulled me out through the kitchen. I mean, it was amazing. It was fun for a week. I think we got a lot of free drinks, but after that I was ready to go home.


AVC: Did your golf benefit? Did you get better tee times or anything?

KR: I think we did, actually. I know the next year we got on St. Andrews [Golf & Country Club], which is not always easy. I’m sure that helped in Scotland.

3. If you were a supervillain, what would your master plan be?

KR: I would make it impossible for people to lie. That would just screw everything up. People would have to be like, “How do I look in this?” “Not good, not good.” Marriages would breakdown, relationships would breakdown, your broker would have to tell you, “This is a crap deal, don’t buy this house.” Banks would have to be like, “Yeah, we’re totally screwing you.” I think it would change the world, and not necessarily in a good way. It would stir up everything, it would stir up politics. Can you imagine politicians? “Oh, yeah, just a totally bad deal for you, but please—let me do it anyway.”


AVC: Or they’d just have to say, “No, I don’t intend on doing it.”

KR: “I totally had sex with that woman.” “I deliberately put my foot out in that bathroom stall.”


4. What were you like as a kid?

KR: I was precocious. I was definitely the class clown growing up. I was bored a lot. I remember I used to stand outside my driveway—I had huge fantasies about playing basketball. I would practice basketball in my front yard. I had this fantasy that someone would drive by and go, “Oh, my God, he’s an amazing basketball player! We have to get him into this special program where we teach him how to be a pro.” Things like that all the time—just fantasy. I lived in a fantasy world.


But I was very precocious. My brother still tells me stories about stuff I don’t remember doing to him. Lots of jokes, lots of pranking.

5. Who was your celebrity crush when you were younger?

KR: I liked—what was her name from The Facts Of Life? Not Blair, but who was the tough chick—Sam?


AVC: Jo?

KR: Jo. I liked Jo from The Facts Of Life. I liked tough girls.

AVC: Nancy McKeon?

KR: Oh, yeah, Nancy McKeon. That was one. And of course there was the Farrah Fawcett poster. I think it was first grade? I wanted to wear a Farrah Fawcett shirt with her big bouffant hair, her big feathered hair—it was a red T-shirt with her face on it. And I desperately wanted to wear it to my school photo, but for some reason I thought in my mind that my mom wouldn’t approve. So I remember stressing for a day and a half before asking her if I could do it, and she was like, “Okay.” So I wore it, and that was when it took like a month to get your pictures back, and I just couldn’t wait to see me in my school photo with her. Of course they cropped it so you could just see the bangs. It’s just me and then hair on my chest, which is never great.

6. If you had entrance music, what would it be?

KR: Either the theme from Rocky or the beginning of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

AVC: Just the stomp-stomp-clap part? Why?

KR: Just because it’s badass. There’s probably a better country song that I’m not thinking of right now, but that’s the first one that comes to mind.


AVC: Do you like country music?

KR: I love country music. Love, love country music.

AVC: Current country or old country?

KR: Both. I love Don Williams and Randy Travis, but I like Blake Shelton and a lot of the new stuff, too. I hated it as a kid, just hated it because everyone listened to it. It wasn’t until I moved away from Louisiana that I would hear it and it would remind me of home and I would start to listen to certain things that would remind me of home and I just got hooked on it. Now I listen to it all the time.


AVC: What’s the best country show you’ve ever seen?

KR: You know, I’ve never been to a country show. I think I saw the Dixie Chicks once in L.A. because I was friends with two of the husbands at the time. But I don’t think I’ve ever been to a country show. It just hasn’t worked out.


AVC: Have you been to Nashville?

KR: I’ve never been to Nashville either. Just a fan from afar.

7. What have you done so far today?

KR: Today I walked about six miles. I’m in New York and I’m working on Madame Secretary. So I got up this morning, I had a coffee, and then walked around SoHo while listening to my dialogue for tomorrow, memorizing.


AVC: How are you listening to it?

KR: I have this app called Rehearsal. You download the script, and then highlight it in the app, and then you can record it in the app, and then play it back over and over and over again. And so I put my earbuds in and press play and just walk around. So I look like a crazy person since I’m talking to myself, ultimately, walking down the street.

8. Have you ever been mistaken for another celebrity? If so, who?

KR: Yes. There is still, to this day, a picture of me at Antonio’s Pizzeria on Ventura Boulevard—my head shot—signed “James Spader.” It was a joke because, when I first moved to L.A., many times I got confused with James Spader. One of them was from an ex-girlfriend from college—granted, we dated for a brief period of time. But after Stargate came out, she called me and congratulated me on my movie. She wasn’t very bright. And then when I first moved to L.A. I ended up getting tickets to a premiere, and right before you got to the red carpet, there was a place where a bunch of people were standing and waiting for celebrities. I was in a suit and it was the middle of the day so I had sunglasses on, and this woman yells, “James! James!” And I kept looking for James and finally she pointed at me and goes, “James!” And I kept looking and she goes, “You!” And I go, “Me?” And she goes, “James Spader, will you sign this?” And I go, “I’m not James Spader,” and she goes, “Aw, come on.” And so I signed “James Spader” on her notepad.


AVC: Did you sign your head shot “James Spader” or did James Spader sign your head shot?

KR: I think it’s my head shot, and I think one of the cooks thought I looked like James Spader, and I knew the owner at the time—he knew I wasn’t, obviously—and he asked me if I would bring a head shot and sign it “James Spader.” So I did. And it’s been there for a long time.


9. If you had to find another line of work, what skills would you put on your resume?

KR: I would put on my resume that I have been gainfully employed with no marketable skills and that is my skill.


AVC: Maybe you could just say you’re a hustler in that way?

KR: Maybe, I don’t know.

Maybe that’s the song that should play when I walk in. [Sings.] “I’m a hustler, baby!”


10. Do you collect anything? If so, what and why?

KR: I used to collect Harley shirts from all over the country and world, but I haven’t done that in awhile.


AVC: Do you collect golf stuff?

KR: Not really. Well, I collect scorecards and hats—I collect hats, ultimately. I didn’t think about that. Every time I go to a new golf course, I either buy a hat or a shirt. Those wear out eventually, but I like wearing the hats from places I’ve played.


AVC: What’s your handicap?

KR: Right now, I’m at about a 12 index. I was down to seven about a year ago, but I have since had a child and moved to Sacramento, so my index is slowly rising right now.


AVC: There’s not a lot of golf in New York either. I guess you could go to the driving range.

KR: No, it’s too cold for that. The only time I play in the cold is if I’ve traveled across the pond because, at that point, I’m playing no matter what.

11. What would your last meal be?

KR: I would have my sister-in-law make me chicken and sausage gumbo and I would have her make me her crawfish fettuccine. And shrimp bisque. And I would eat all of it. Any of those alone is too much food, but I would eat all of them.


AVC: Anything for dessert? Anything to drink?

KR: I would have marinated crab claws from [Ernest’s] Orleans restaurant in Shreveport and their bananas Foster. And then during dinner I would have some really good red wine. And I would finish the evening with Jack Daniels and Diet Coke.


AVC: That’s a very Louisiana meal.

KR: Oh, yeah, it’s very Louisiana-centric.

Bonus 12th question from Jay R. Ferguson

AVC: Do you want to guess what Jay wanted to know?

KR: I think his question is, “How great was it working with Jay Ferguson on Mad Men?”


AVC: Nope. He went with “How many times have you moved your ball to give yourself a better lie?”

KR: Oh, that son of a bitch.

I used to do it a lot. When I first started playing, before I wanted a handicap and took golf seriously, we did it all the time. Too many to count. Because it was more about having fun than having a score. Since then, if I’m in a match or in a game for money, I don’t do it. If we’re just messing around, I still do it once in a while. More than I can count, ultimately.


AVC: And what do you want to ask the Chris Stanley?

KR: How awful was it working with Jay Ferguson on Mad Men? No. What do I ask Chris Stanley? If he could have played anyone else on Mad Men, who would it have been?