“Mad Men’s” James Wolk is staying in advertising on CBS’ new comedy “The Crazy Ones” this fall, and the premiere episode finds him getting close – very close – with Kelly Clarkson.
In the pilot for the brand new show, the ad agency run by Robin Williams’ character, Simon Roberts, recruits Kelly to sing a song for a fictional McDonald’s ad, and she agrees to do it – if the song is sexy. And, in the recording booth, Kelly really gets into it, grinding on James, who plays office hunk Zach.
“I’ll tell you, it’s good, but what makes it even better is her fiance and my girlfriend were sitting in the room watching,” James told reporters after the presentation of his show at the CBS portion of the Television Critics Association Summer Tour in Beverly Hills, of having Kelly grind on him.
“She was incredible,” James continued of Kelly’s appearance on the show (she has scenes throughout the premiere episode). “She was saying, ‘I’m nervous.’ She’s very open about that because she’s acting opposite Robin Williams, and me of course (laughs), but she was amazing, and was incredible to work with.”
James said Kelly got over her nerves with laughter.
“We just were laughing as [fans will see] in that scene. Laughter is the best medicine. Everyone’s cracking up together and having a good time. So it was really fun,” he said.
And Kelly lands her jokes.
“She has great comedic timing and you can’t teach that,” she said.
As Bob Benson on “Mad Men,” James ended Season 6 with his character being shipped off to Detroit to work on a car account, but fans of that show shouldn’t rule out a return of the character for the final season of the AMC series.
“If they want me, we can certainly try and make something happen,” James said when a reporter asked if he’d be opening to coming back to Sterling Cooper. “It’s in their hands, but I loved working on that show and I’d love to be back there.”
“The Crazy Ones” premieres Thursday September 26 at 9/8c on CBS.
Notable TV roles: Bob Benson, Mad Men (AMC); Doug Hammond, Political Animals (USA); Robert Allen, Lone Star (FOX); Grant, Happy Endings (ABC)
He’s been on every Mad Men fan’s radar since the season six premiere, when the mystery of The Talented Bob Benson began this past spring, and it’s about time. James Wolk is a beast, but he’s been struggling since FOX yanked his much ballyhooed series after just two episodes. If there’s one reason to look forward to CBS’ upcoming sitcom The Crazy Ones, it’s for the possibility that Wolk’s star will continue its rise—though we hope that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of Bob at Sterling Cooper & Partners.
I added 2 The Crazy Ones Promotional Images. Thank you to my friend Ann for sending it the single promo shot!
USA’s limited series Political Animals only had a six-episode run last summer, but it left quite an impact thanks to stellar writing and acting, including co-star James Wolk. The actor, most recently seen this season on Mad Men as Bob Benson, played Douglas Hammond, the chief of staff to his mother, Elaine Barrish, who decided to run for president. While Douglas seemed like the perfect son, he actually was attempting to sabotage his own mother’s campaign by feeding secret information to local journalist Susan Berg (Carla Gugino). EW talked to Wolk about playing opposite Weaver and his inspiration for this son of a political dynasty.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How was the experience of Political Animals for you?
JAMES WOLK: It’s wild how quickly things go. I guess we were filming now a year ago. That was a really great experience. It was six episodes, and I feel like there was so much packed into those six episodes. We were all down in Philadelphia, secluded from where we were all from. So it felt like we were just really down there to work.
We asked you to pick your favorite scene. You chose the scene between Douglas and mother Elaine where he reveals he leaked her intentions to run for president to the press. Why did you pick that scene?
I felt out of all the scenes the one that kinda popped outta my head was that scene. It was amazing to be inside Douglas’ skin and be able to say something to his mom that he always wanted to say. We see him in this pressure cooker throughout the whole series with huge expectations put upon him by his own mother, and he obviously goes through great lengths to try and prevent her from running again, and it all comes to a head in this scene. He’s able to be honest and straightforward. It was a great scene to play.
What was it like facing off against Sigourney Weaver?
That was great. She’s immense. She’s just such a powerful actress. To just kind of be opposite of her and be able to open up, acting with her felt very seamless. There was no wrong turn you could make. We were just ping-ponging it back and forth, and to do that with her was really a joy.
The cast of this show, from Ellen Burstyn to Ciaran Hinds to Vanessa Redgrave, was so phenomenal. It must have been great to come to work every day.
Yeah, it really was. Our guest stars were incredible. Our cast was incredible. Everyone was so well-versed from theater to film to television. We had such a stable of actors on the show, I just felt honored to be among them.
The show sort of mirrors the Clintons. Did you model Douglas on anyone? He’s very JFK Jr.
Yeah he was kind of modeled after Bobby Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy was definitely the bulldog brother. From what I read, he was very moody and very dark and felt a lot of pressure on his shoulders, and I felt like that’s how Douglas was as well. From a visual standpoint, Bobby Kennedy was kind of this all-American, affable guy but really was this cerebral and weighted figure, and I kind of wanted Douglas to echo that.
You also had one of the hottest sex scenes I’ve seen on TV recently on the floor of a plane with Carla Gugino. What was that like to film?
Carla is such a professional. She’s just such a great actress and a professional that it felt very comfortable in the way that you want it to, in that there’s enough respect there. Because those things can go the opposite way.
Political Animals only lasted six episodes. Do you know what would have happened in season two? Would Elaine have run for president?
You know, it was all percolating. We were kind of understanding of the fact that it could just be a miniseries, so we kind of allowed that to be. There’s so many ways it could have went. That final scene with Ciaran and Sigourney sitting up on the hill outside of Douglas and Anne’s wedding, what a great way to go out of the miniseries. I think we could have gone in so many directions, which is a testament to those writers.
What would you have liked to have seen for Douglas in season two? Would he still be married? Still working for his mom?
When we last left Douglas, he obviously had a lot of inner-turmoil, professionally and personally. It was all kind of coming undone for him. What I would have loved to see for him was some kind of resolution in his life. I would have loved for him to feel stable and secure, and I don’t know how that would have manifested, but certainly when we last saw him he was not stable and secure. He was kind of becoming this tragic figure. So I think it would have been fun to have him find his peace.
GQ: Things got pretty dark with Bob Benson during the finale.
James Wolk: Yeah, they really did!
GQ: I’m starting to wonder whether Bob was actually ever hired. Pete doesn’t remember hiring him; Roger says he’s never had a performance review; and he spent an awful lot of time sitting on couches at the beginning of the season. Do you have speculation on that?
James Wolk: All I can say about that is what, obviously, was in the scene that was revealed to the audience: Bob was meeting with Ken Cosgrove, and Pete walked in, complimented his tie, and that had some effect on Ken. It’s not quite as cut and dry as the normal hiring that goes on at the agency.
GQ: When we learned that Pete’s mother had disappeared at sea with Manolo—who also has an alias!—I remembered that there was a reference to Bob taking his employer on a cruise, when he was a manservant. Is that a meaningful connection, do you think?
James Wolk: I mean, that’s interesting. I think that everyone’s wondering, what is Bob’s affiliation with Manolo? How much does he know about what happened on the ship? Unfortunately, I can’t comment on that. But I’m glad it’s percolating interest.
GQ: Is Bob as a sociopath?
James Wolk: No, I would not characterize him as a sociopath. I think that he is a very sensitive being, who is striving to always be his best, and always do his best, and won’t let any roadblocks get in his way. But he certainly doesn’t see himself as a sociopath, I can say that.
GQ: I wonder if sociopaths think of themselves as sociopaths.
James Wolk: Right. They probably don’t.
GQ: I don’t trust you, anymore, James, is the problem.
James Wolk: Right, you think I’m actually Bob Benson, and I’m just lying my way through this. [Laughs] I wish I could reveal more to you. But no, I don’t think he is [a sociopath]. I think when he takes Joan to the hospital, he really cares for her. And I think he really feels things for people in a really strong way.
GQ: Tell me how you see Bob’s connection to Joan.
James Wolk: Bob has a huge affinity for Joan. He sees someone that needs taking care of; he sees someone that he believes needs a man in her life, someone whose son needs a man in his life. We have not seen exactly what is in Bob’s past and what his relationship was with his parents, but certainly, I think, he comes from a place where he knows the importance of what a family would mean for Joan. So I think that he really cares for her, and these offerings to her come from the heart. That’s not to say that there definitely isn’t any other motivation there, but he cares for Joan. And when we see him at her house at Thanksgiving, he’s genuinely happy to be there.