I added 201 captures of James in “Mad Men” Episode 1×10.
I also added 1 HQ Still from the last episode.
TheWrap: I don’t know if you’re following the online debate about Bob Benson…
Weiner: No! I stay away from that. But tell me what it is.
I’m basically convinced from my Internet reading that he’s a government spy.
He’s always in everyone’s business, he’s always on the wrong floor, he never seems to be really jockeying for a better job, and he seems to have completely lied, about his father, for example.
Yeah. He’s definitely a liar. I hope that you caught that. And I hope that you caught that he — you don’t think he seems like an ambitious person jockeying for a job?
I thought he was at first, but then he made so little progress. But then he did in the last episode.
Uh, yeah! With Chevy? I think he’s making a ton of progress. [Laughs.] I don’t know, you know? We’ll see. I’m not going to comment on whether or not he’s a government spy, but James is a great actor, and he is definitely mysterious. And that’s deliberate.
He has very good manners, and that seems to be working for him.
I don’t mean to blow anyone’s cover, but the publicist who just connected us on the phone introduced you — jokingly — as Bob Benson. Have you embraced the fact that you and the character have become one and the same?
[laughs] I don’t mind that association at all. It’s amazing to see everyone really respond to Bob Benson. Just the other night I was out for dinner with some friends, and someone comes up to me and they go, “Hey, is it you?” And I didn’t know what to say. “My name’s James Wolk.” And I waited for him to finish the sentence. And of course he said, “Bob? Bob Benson?” And I said, “Yes. Yes, it is me.”
How were you chosen for the part?
In my short career so far, “Mad Men” was something that in the back of my mind, I always thought, God, it would be wonderful to be a part of that group. So when the opportunity presented itself to read for Matt Weiner [the creator and show runner of "Mad Men"] and the people who make those decisions, I leapt at it. I didn’t fully know, exactly – as none of us really do – where the character was going. But you trust Matt and the pedigree of “Mad Men” and go with it.
What do you think you did right in the audition?
One anecdote I can share: when I went to leave the audition, the door wouldn’t open. I don’t know why it wouldn’t. I’m finishing what I felt was a pretty good read and I have the handle in my hand, and I decide I have to say something, so I turn around to the group and I go, “I promise, don’t worry, I know how to open a door.” I think I said it in a kind of Bob Benson way. I’d like to think I’m very different from Bob Benson in a lot of ways. But perhaps the inner Bob came out in that moment.
What are the qualities you hope you don’t share with him?
I think he fancies himself a fixer, as we’ve seen so far. He’s attempted to solve some problems for people, whether it be taking Joan to the hospital or helping Pete with a nurse. That part of him, wanting to help, is something that I’d like to associate myself with. I think he can go a little far with it. Always walking around with two coffees? I’d like to think I have a little more eloquence.
You work in an industry where people will do just about anything to get their foot in the door.
That is where we do differ. I always feel like hard work leads the way, and from there, I leave it up to the powers that be. I try to stay away from the more schmaltzy side of things. That can backfire quickly.
Have you ever actually worked in an office?
My work experience is really unique. My father owned – and still owns – a women’s shoe store, and has for almost 40 years. So I grew up selling women’s shoes, from age 9 to when I graduated high school. At 9 I was doing stock work and putting shoes away. As I got older I would sell shoes to full-grown women, which is always an interesting thing for a 13-year-old boy to be telling them they look really nice in this high heel.
Do you think that had some lasting effect on your psyche?
It absolutely did. I feel like if you took a sampling of really successful people, people who fancy themselves hard-working individuals, there’s some sort of shoe salesman in their past. It’s just you and the shoe and the customer. It was an interesting way to grow up – you have to have confidence as a 13-year-old to do that.
But when people tell you they’ve worked in offices with guys exactly like Bob Benson, you don’t necessarily know what that means.
That’s very true, and I’ve heard that from numerous people. For a little while I worked as a paralegal, right after college. But in talking with friends who are in the office place, and talking with Matt, hearing his stories, I think this is definitely based on those individuals that everyone can associate with. Perhaps it benefitted me that I never really did work closely with one of those individuals, because it allowed me to play Bob with no judgment, so I really want to get behind him and believe in my actions as the character.
I added a HQ still of James in “Mad Men” Episode 6×09. I’ll catch up soon on the screencaps from the last episodes!
One of the most intriguing storylines to emerge from this turbulent sixth season of Mad Men has been that of the inscrutable Bob Benson, the brown-nosing prepster always clutching at least one Anthora “We Are Happy To Serve You” coffee cup. What’s that guy up to, exactly? No telling just yet, but we know this for sure: The talented fellow who plays him, James Wolk, has made Benson a presence that’s impossible to ignore. Birchbox Man was lucky enough to chat with Wolk, who is also co-starring alongside Robin Williams in CBS’s new comedy The Crazy Ones, about growing up the son of a shoe salesman and how his personal style overlaps with that of his Mad Men alter ego.
BB Man: How would you describe your personal style? Any overlap with Bob Benson’s office prep look?
Wolk: My style is classic. You probably won’t find me wearing anything that doesn’t look like it could have been worn in the ‘60s. So in that respect, it is not dissimilar from Bob Benson’s. Jeans, T-shirts, sport coats, Sperry’s…
BB Man: Which Mad Men character’s style do you like most?
Wolk: I most admire Sterling’s style. It’s classic, but it’s also got some funk to it.
BB Man: What’s an article of clothing that every man should own in your opinion?
Wolk: Every man should own a good pair of boots.
BB Man: What’s an article of clothing a man should never wear?
Wolk: To each his own, but I usually don’t wear T-shirts with lots of noise on them. I like to keep it simple.
BB Man: Any tips for being a grown-up in the workplace? Always buy two coffees because you never know when the boss might want one?
Wolk: Bob Benson would most certainly tell you to bring two coffees. But I disagree. You don’t want to kiss too much ass, because people get turned off by that. I say hold your own, be respectful, and work hard.
BB Man: Do you remember a moment in your life when you first felt like a true adult?
Wolk: The period of time in my life when my nephew was born. Just knowing there was a generation younger than me out there in the same bloodline—that made me feel like a real adult.
BB Man: Who was your style icon hero when you were a kid?
Wolk: Elvis. I thought he was as cool as it gets. Probably my father’s doing as he made me listen to all of his records. And Danny Zuko. I even tried to slick my hair back and do the curl thing. Then I matured and it was Norman Rockwell in middle school.
BB Man: What’s one skill every grown man should have?
Wolk: Every man should know how to parallel park.
BB Man: Growing up, your family owned and operated a shoe store. How did that affect the way you buy, wear, and think about footwear?
Wolk: I learned that shoes make an outfit. As soon as I was old enough not to ruin shoes right away, my father never let me out of the house wearing a crummy pair of shoes. He always said that people notice shoes, and they are very telling of someone. I think this is absolutely true. I am a huge shoe nut now. My closet is full of them—most which are still sent to me by my dad from his shop Sundance Shoes, in Michigan.
James Wolk is a new face on TV’s “Mad Men,” playing a young advertising executive trying to get ahead. He finds himself cast as an ad man again in the new comedy series “The Crazy Ones,” opposite Robin Williams. Gloria Martin caught up with him at Toronto’s Soho Hotel to talk about his double life and working with Robin Williams in “The Crazy Ones” which is coming to City this fall.
Click on the photo above to listen to the interview!