As Pete Campbell on AMC's award-winning "Mad Men," Vincent Kartheiser is adroit and cunning in '60s-set corporate New York. In the upcoming indie comedy "Beach Pillows," the 34-year-old actor taps into his less motivated, dare we say, big Lebowski side, though he's still in New York — modern day New York. In real life, Kartheiser is plain hilarious and dangerously earnest, in L.A.
Yahoo Movies recently chatted with Kartheiser, who called us while he was on a break from filming the final season of "Mad Men." While the topic at hand was "Beach Pillows," the actor let loose about his own resistance to the culture of Hollywood celebrity.
Exclusive: Watch the Trailer Premiere for 'Beach Pillows':
Review 11 reasons why Kartheiser — in his own words — isn't trying to be the next Brad Pitt:
1. He's more "Beach Pillows" than "Mad Men."
"I'm not a very ambitious person. … I actually drive a used Volkswagen Golf. And the jeans I'm wearing I've had for eight years. People's perception is, 'Oh, you’ve had this successful TV show, you can parlay that and you'll be Brad Pitt in a month.' The thing is is that there are 150 channels, and 100 of them do programming, and each channel has 20 shows. So, you're looking at 20,000 shows, and each show has an actor, a lead actor [plus other actors]. So [that's] 200,000 — 200,000 actors! A lot of them are a lot more ambitious than me. A lot of them are a lot younger than me. A lot of them are handsome and smart and good actors. So, I don't have a lot of those traits."
2. He can't afford the $20,000 fur coat at Barneys.
"I've been Christmas shopping … and the lady came up and recognized me. All of a sudden, they’re pulling out $2,000 chains and scarves. The perception is, 'Oh, you must have a million dollars.' It's hilarious how you don't actually have a million dollars."
3. And he doesn't want to.
"I guess if I wanted to, I could be out there, selling my name and dressing nice. I just don't give a s--t. I'd rather be broke and happy."
4. He's still a struggling actor, but doesn't seem to mind.
"I'm going to go sit in a room with 30 other guys and wait my turn to go in and pre-read for casting directors, and hope that the director will bring me back in, and hope the producers will. My life, Pete Campbell, it doesn’t really matter. It just doesn’t matter. That's a wild thing for people to hear, but I have to go earn my jobs just like I always had to. I'm fine with it. I'm totally cool with it. I'm not trying to whine about it. It is what it is."
5. He avoids magazine covers, late night TV, but not public transpo.
"I learned that, actually, from an actor who I worked with on this movie, a very big actor who I respect a lot. I was telling him how I took the bus [to the set]. He goes, 'You're on a TV show, isn’t that tough for you?' I go, 'No one's going to look for me on the bus.' He goes, 'Yeah, I noticed if you don't do covers of magazines and you don't do late-night TV — Dave Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien — you don't get recognized.' This is a big actor, very successful, but he never gets recognized. So, I’ve taken that to heart. I don't do late-night talk shows and I don't do covers of magazines — not that anyone's asking me. No one's asking, but I don't do it.'
6. Ergo, he doesn't get recognized that often.
"I rarely go out, and when I do go out, I tend to just keep my head down. I don’t look at other people, so I don’t know if they're looking at me. … Most people in the world, they only recognize you because you were next to the Starburst [in a checkout isle] that morning with a thing that said, 'Marriage in trouble' or something. I'm not saying that these celebrities want that. It's part of that culture."
7. He's practical.
Kartheiser co-stars with his friend Geoffrey Arend ("500 Days of Summer"), who turned him onto "Beach Pillows." "We went off to New York, and lived together. We kind of lived the characters. … That worked because it was easier for him to see his wife ["Mad Men's" Christina Hendricks] and to audition and to stay busy in our lives. … It was great, because we did all this work and [we'd go home and] just work on the next day's scene. We're always running things past each other. … To do that [film] with a small budget was a difficult thing. It was good to have someone like Geoffrey there who is a friend of mine, to keep it light and fun."
8. Like the young folk, he thinks he can be happy with less.
"I think ['Beach Pillows'] does relate to a lot of people right now. There's a whole group of 30-year-olds in this world that got out of college right when the economic bubble burst, and not that that’s the excuse for a lot of them. Lots of them are like Nick [Kartheiser's character], just thinking in the moment, not thinking ahead. It does speak to a generation of people who don't quite know if they want success, why it matters to them. I think I can relate to that on a certain level."
9. He might be a nihilist.
"Maybe that's a better America than this crazy rat-race we've all been in. I'm used to the rat race, and because I've had minor successes in this rat-race, maybe I want it to remain important to people, that my minor, tiny little successes actually mean something to the world. But I think on a bigger scale, it really doesn’t mean anything to the world. We probably are all better just living off the dole, sitting around, and waiting to die."
10. He doesn't go into salesman mode.
"This is a story of two guys … who haven’t quite decided to grow up, or how they’re going to grow up. One guy is totally fine with that. … The other guy is definitely at a point in his life where he’s like, 'There’s got to be more than this.' … They need to meet somewhere in the middle, and I think they both have something to teach each other. But I don’t think that’s as profound a statement about life as some of those writers you had mentioned [Michael Chabon and Rex Pickett]."
11. He has a love-hate relationship with one Hollywood restaurant (that we won't name).
"I can't tell if I love that place or I hate that place. Sometimes I go in there and I'm like, 'This is the most awesome food ever,' and then I go home and throw up."
"Beach Pillows," also starring Annette O'Toole and Richard Schiffnters, is available on all VOD platforms and iTunes on Jan. 15.
Follow me on Twitter (@meriahonfiah)