One of Mad Men’s inevitable 1968 events happened on Sunday, when the assassination of Martin Luther King shook an unstable nation to its core. While other characters retreated to their own private corners of New York City to absorb the shock, Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) marched straight through the middle of history. Betty’s politico husband joined Mayor Lindsay on his famous riot-calming visit to Harlem and left galvanized, ready to fight for justice in the New York State Senate. It’s a new identity for him, and possibly for Betty, who barely seems to recognize herself in the mirror anymore. If Henry becomes a public figure, it could bring both he and Betty into the spotlight—and close the gap between Don Draper’s world and their own. While Henry Francis is moving up in the world, actor Christopher Stanley isn’t doing so badly himself; you may have seen him in a couple of little movies called Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. GQ spoke to Stanley about Henry’s ambitions, his sex life with Betty, that bizarre rape joke—and how sometimes, playing Henry Francis feels like being on a whole different show.
GQ: There’s a video of you giving advice to young girls, but what’s the most important piece of wisdom you’d share with a son?
Jon Hamm: I don’t know, honestly. Boys are obviously very different than girls. I used to be a teacher, and herding eighth grade children around a classroom is tricky enough, but boys are particularly tricky. So mostly my advice is just to stop talking and be nicer, because they can be both loud and super, super annoying. I don’t know…I’m from the Midwest—being polite goes a long way with me.
GQ: Right, that’s some advice that could also apply to grown-ups.
Jon Hamm: Well, “stop talking” could apply to everybody.
A quick excerpt from GQ contributor Gwynne Watkins’s interview this week with Hendricks. The full article is here.
Christina Hendricks: It was a crazy episode the other day.
GQ: Yes it was! So tell me your reaction to first learning about that storyline. I’d imagine it’s the kind of thing that could make a person nervous.
Christina Hendricks: [Laughs] Honestly, Matt [Weiner] had told me about that storyline, I think it was either last season or the season before. He’d had it in his mind, and was planning on using it before, but the development of the characters just didn’t get to that point. So I’d had some knowledge of it for quite some time. Yeah, it makes you nervous! ‘Cause you think, well, how are people going to respond to Joan doing this? But I think Matt’s writing and the way it was done shows what people will do out of necessity and for survival. I thought it was beautifully written.
GQ: Yes. Although the episode was extremely hard to watch, I didn’t feel like the show itself was exploiting Joan; she was an active player in the events.
Christina Hendricks: You know, there’s a moment where Pete is pitching this idea, and he says, “Haven’t we all done something, made a mistake one night for free?” All the men in this office have done sort of off-color things, and acted in ways that we’ve all hissed at throughout the entire series. She acted like one of the guys, to a certain extent. And she’s a single mother. When Lane comes in [with the $50,000 offer] and she says, “It’s four times as much as I make in the entire year”—are you kidding me? How moral are we all? How much can it help my family, and how much can it help my son? And once it’s done, it’s done; it never has to be spoken about again. But it’s a terrible price to pay.