Interview: ‘Mad Men’ star Vincent Kartheiser on Pete Campbell’s ill-fated optimism

In the early stages of “Mad Men,” it sometimes seemed like Pete Campbell was on the brink of being the show's villain.

But, at the same time, there was also the prevailing theory that Pete Campbell could turn out to be the show's most forward-looking character, the man of the future to Don Draper's man of the past.

As “Mad Men” begins the seven-episode march to its series finale, we don't really view Pete as Don or Peggy's nemesis anymore. In fact, one of last year's best episodes, “The Strategy,” climaxed with a surprisingly positive dinner meeting with the three characters. 

But we also don't look at Pete as a potential visionary anymore. Pete's efforts to reinvent himself found the character in Los Angeles last half-season and although he initially took to his new surroundings, it became clear that California was not the place Pete Campbell ought to be.

In anticipation of this final “Mad Men” mini season, I sat down with Vincent Kartheiser two weeks ago to discuss The State of Pete Campbell and which parts of the character have evolved and which aspects of his personality remains the same. 

Months after leaving Pete Campbell behind, Kartheiser looks younger and more relaxed than the high-strung Pete, he of the razor-imposed receding hairline. As of now, he says that he hasn't found the right follow-up project.

What's he looking for?

Kartheiser explains, “I read the script and if I like it I try to find something that I can add to the telling of the story, something that makes my perspective and my performance valuable and important and if I can come up with that then I”ll work and if not then I”ll be a janitor.”

Click through for my full Q&A in anticipation of Sunday's (April 5) “Mad Men” return…

HitFix: This is pretty much introspection and looking back for you. Is this your dream, looking back on “Mad Men” or is this your absolute nightmare to have to think back over all of this?