We've gotten to know
Rich Sommer as the likable (if sometimes forgettable) Harry Crane, a media buyer at
Mad Men's Sterling Cooper advertising agency. But on the season premiere of
The Office (Thursday, Sept. 25 at 9 pm/ET, NBC) Sommer will be punching in with Michael Scott & co. at Dunder Mifflin. We chatted with Sommer about his
Office role, Harry Crane's promotion on
Mad Men and what it is about shooting the AMC hit that brings him to tears each day on the set. -
TVGuide.com: You landed an upcoming role on The Office. What can you tell us about it?
It started on the writers' strike lines. I met [ Office writer/actor/producer] Mindy Kaling, who is a fan of Mad Men. And somehow, it just happened that about a month ago I got an e-mail for a part.
TVGuide.com: Any chance of it becoming a recurring gig?
I can't really say anything about what the role is or how it incorporates into that world, but it's been phenomenal. What it's going to be beyond the premiere, I'm not sure. That's up to Greg Daniels and the guys over there, but I will happily help them out in any way I can. I've done guest spots before, but never on a show that I was invested in. It's been a complete dream come true. It's been heady and surreal and awesome.
TVGuide.com: Did being such a fan affect how you decided to play the character?
The good news for me is that my sense of humor is completely derivative. I've stolen everything I've ever said that I thought was funny from The Office or The Simpsons. My sense of humor has been built on their work, so it wasn't hard for me to hit the ground running with those guys.
TVGuide.com: Did you ever expect Mad Men to catch on the way it has?
When we shot the pilot two years ago, it was this little secret - we knew it was going to be something special. I'm not sure we knew it was going to be quite as spectacular as it ended up being, but we knew it was something good.
TVGuide.com: Last season, Harry had an affair. What happened between him and his wife between seasons?
Well, I guess Harry worked things out with Jennifer, which is good. The off-season was so funny because everything was kept secret to us as well as to the audience. We find out only about a week before we shoot each episode what's going to happen next. So when I got the first script and saw that Jennifer was pregnant, I was relieved, because I didn't know if they'd even be together.
TVGuide.com: Guess it's better to be an expectant father than divorced.
Yeah, it's nice. Fortunately, Harry Crane is well-adjusted, at least relative to the rest of the men of Sterling Cooper. He seems to know how to handle conflict. He's a good husband, and I think Harry and Jennifer make a good team. If not for her, I don't know that he would have gotten that raise after opening the wrong paycheck.
TVGuide.com: Will we get any flashbacks to that 14-month gap, or will viewers have to fill it in for themselves?
Relatively little is left to be imagined. A lot of the questions on people's minds - though it doesn't happen quickly because nothing is handed to the audience on a silver platter - will be answered, whether it's about things from last season, or mysteries already created this season.
TVGuide.com: Are you glad Harry is becoming more than the guy in the bow tie and glasses?
During the hiatus, I did a panel discussion with some of the cast and with [creator] Matt Weiner, and I said something about how I didn't feel Harry was content. And Matt quickly corrected me and said, "No, Harry is ambitious." He does seem to have stepped out of his shell and is doing what he can to live up to this position he essentially created for himself.
TVGuide.com: So, will we see him flex more muscle as the "Head of Television"?
The title definitely means something to Harry. He's not just a media buyer any more, and he's trying to live up to that. Historically, this was a time when TV was exploding, so I think that will eventually be reflected.
TVGuide.com: Why didn't he fight harder for more of a raise?
You can take Harry out of the Crane household, but you can't take the Crane household out of Harry. I don't think he was even prepared to ask for that raise, but Sterling opened a window and Harry jumped through it. He's clearly not a strong negotiator - if I were negotiating I would have shot a little higher than $10 above what I knew someone else was making - so when Sterling comes back at him with a raise at all, I think it's black and white for him. It almost didn't matter what it was. He's just excited and doesn't want to push his luck.
TVGuide.com: How do you think having a child will affect Harry at work?
That's a good question. Clearly, Harry's a career man, doing what he can to move up in the ranks. But the baby is also kind of sealing this guy's fate as a family man. And I hope he won't do with his baby what others in this world seem to do: disregard it as much as they disregard their wives. I think Harry's got a good Midwestern head on his shoulders, and that he's just out to make things good for his family.
TVGuide.com: Having worked at Sterling Cooper and Dunder Mifflin, which office would you rather actually work in?
[ Laughs] I think I've actually worked in both of them in my real life. I was a temp, hopping from office to office for about three years in New York. I've seen people like Don Draper and Roger Sterling, and I've seen people like Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute. I don't know if I could bear to work in either of those offices. I think I might end up washing dishes if it came to that.
TVGuide.com: At least there's more smoking and drinking at Sterling Cooper. What are you guys actually puffing and sipping on?
I made the huge error in the pilot of smoking filterless cigarettes, and when we kept going with the show, it was set that Harry smoked filterless Lucky Strikes. Those are herbal cigarettes and are truly terrible. There is always a pre-shooting smoke that has to be done because if you smoke your first cigarette for the day on camera, you will most likely shed a little tear. At least I always do. I don't choose to, it's just a response to the horror that is entering my mouth. And we're never really sure of what we're drinking. It's either really watered-down cola or watered-down ice tea. It's always kind of a surprise - they never give it to you during rehearsal, so you just drink and hope no one on set is pranking you.