Michael Gladis, Leverage
Leverage's Nate Ford has out-conned some very ruthless opponents, but for his next job, he'll have to outsmart himself. Well, sort of.
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In Sunday's episode (9/8c, TNT) Nate (Timothy Hutton) and his team target a public relations whiz named Reed Rockwell (Mad Men's Michael Gladis). Rockwell's particular brand of PR involves protecting his clients by sniping at their enemies and sometimes launching full-scale character assassinations. The challenge in taking Rockwell down is that he's a bit of a wizard behind the curtain.
"He works from the shadows and behind the scenes, sort of like Nate," Gladis tells TVGuide.com. "Nate pretty much has to figure out how he would take himself down. So they decide to use fame as a weapon, and tempt him into the spotlight."
The plan of attack? Force Rockwell to be a hero and catch it all on tape for YouTube and the local news. But Rockwell's so guarded that even that is a challenge. Expect several hilarious failed attempts, one of which includes Sophie (Gina Bellman) and a runaway stroller that Rockwell ignores.
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After Rockwell reluctantly saves the day during a coffee shop robbery, Nate makes Rockwell's 15 minutes as big and bold as possible, which finally cracks Rockwell open. "It was really fascinating to examine the double-edged sword of fame and that people need to be recognized," Gladis says. "Once they get the smallest taste of fame, you see what it does to them."
It was in that basic need for attention that Gladis found some redeeming qualities in his character. "It's always fun to play a villain, but whenever I [do], I try to find something very, very human in him," Gladis says, mentioning a pivotal scene where Rockwell feels validated after giving a speech about heroism. "After he gives the speech that he was so nervous to give... he comes off stage with that big childlike grin on his face. That was the moment where I found a very human, almost boyish element to Reed that I enjoyed."
Gladis says he can also relate to his character after having experienced his own level of sudden fame when Mad Men became a critical hit and cultural phenomenon. "I'm not super-famous. I get recognized by, like, one or two people when I leave the house, but I'm not Harrison Ford," he says. "But even the small amount of fame or celebrity that I've experienced... I really miss my anonymity. I'm a very private person."
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Although Gladis' Mad Men character, copywriter Paul Kinsey, hasn't been seen on the show since Season 3, the actor remains unsure, but hopeful, that Paul will make a return appearance. For now, he's enjoying his role on Adult Swim's Eagleheart, as well as guest spots on such shows as House and The Good Wife.
And could there be more Leverage for him down the line? "I was begging them to bring me back. I haven't heard anything yet, but I would love it," Gladis says. "[The Leverage team] admired Reed's work, that's for sure. ... And the fact that my character does hold a mirror up to Nate makes it much more enticing."
Leverage airs Sundays at 9/8c on TNT.