If Sunday’s Mad Men premiere was the last time we see Ken Cosgrove, he went out in a blaze of glory: The longtime accounts man got unceremoniously fired, and then instead of retreating to write sci-fi novels, he switched sides and took a job as head of advertising at Dow… so now SC&P works for him. (Good luck making that client happy, Pete Campbell.)
Aaron Staton, who’s played Ken since the Mad Men pilot (and will join the cast of Showtime’s Ray Donovan next season), tells Yahoo TV how great it felt to turn the tables on Roger and Pete — and how tough it was to say goodbye to the show after seven seasons. Plus, he reflects on Ken and Cynthia’s healthy marriage (a rarity on this show!) and why a mustache wouldn’t really work on Ken. You know, with the eye patch and all.
We were actually cheering for Ken after he got fired: He always seemed like a creative soul stuck in a job he didn’t love.
I think you’re right. You know, he had always sort of found a happiness, but I feel like once he lost that eye, happiness was a little harder to come by. [Laughs.] He had become a little unhinged leading up to that, but… with his creative side, I think he had a way of balancing it until he was forced to choose two seasons ago [by Roger in “Signal 30”]. And he chose to put the suit back on — and in doing that, he lost the eye.
But then at the end of the episode, he’s taken this job as head of advertising at Dow. Why would he go back to that world? He didn’t need the money. Was it just for revenge?
That’s my take, yeah. I think it was purely revenge. I really think it was a decision he made just so he could walk though that door and refuse the severance and, you know, take the power back. And I think he seemed pretty happy about that. I don’t know that he’ll be happier in the long run, but I bet that felt pretty good.
Yeah, Ken and Pete have been trying to one-up each other for a decade now, so it must have been nice for Ken to get that final victory.
I think you’re right. I think that was in there. Not too far buried.
But do you think Ken will still pursue his writing? It’s the one thing that seemed to make him happy. We’re kind of on his wife’s side here.
Yeah, I am, too. I hope he makes his way back, because it seems like he’s good at it, and it’s something that, at least at one time, he was passionate about. So I like to think there’s a world where, down the line, he makes his way back into it in some way. But I don’t think that’s on his mind at the moment. I think he put all of his creative efforts into how to take some revenge there, and crafted the best way to articulate it. I mean, what actor doesn’t… to get to say, “Until we meet again”… what a treat! Oh, man! Arnold Schwarzenegger, eat your heart out.
Half the guys in the SC&P office have mustaches now. Why no mustache for Ken?
I don’t know, the eye patch and the mustache and the sideburns… I’m just not sure where his face would end. It’d just be so much face. No, he’s got the eye patch going on. He’s in full pirate mode. I don’t know how many pirates have mustaches. [Ed. note: Actually, many pirates have mustaches. Captain Jack Sparrow, for one.] A mustache… that seems like a lot of work for a pirate.
Also, cheers to Ken for being faithful to his wife Cynthia, as far as we can tell. That’s exceedingly rare on this show.
Yeah, I think they have a very good marriage. We saw them fight, but you know, everybody fights. They’re a good thing for the show — to see that can happen in this world. You’ve got so many people making bad decisions in that area.
You’ve been with the show since the beginning. What were the emotions like on set as you shot these final episodes? Were you there on the final day of shooting?
I was, yes. It kept happening again and again, because every time someone would have their last scene, we’d all pour in and stand around the monitors and watch the last take. And we’d have Champagne, and Matt would come out and say a few words. It was like funeral after funeral after funeral. [Laughs.] Until the last one, and then everybody was there: production, and post, and everybody. And that one was obviously the most emotional.
It was just so bizarre and surreal: When you graduate college or high school, all these sorts of milestones… looking back, you realize, “Oh, that was the last time I saw so-and-so,” “That was the last time I did this.” But it’s always reflective. You don’t know it at the time. But this is a time where we all knew it. We were like, “Oh, this is ending. This is very important.” And we keep saying goodbye in different ways, whether it’s the last premiere or the finale. Fortunately, there are always reasons to get back together, which is nice. But we’ve said goodbye to the experience of making it, and that’s final.
Every cast member has their one souvenir that they kept from the set. You had to have kept Ken’s eye patch, right?
You are exactly right. [Laughs.] I put two of them on to go to sleep at night.
Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.