By Yvonne Villarreal
12:36 PM CDT, July 9, 2013
Vincent Kartheiser has a face that's launched a thousand GIFs.
As smarmy Pete Campbell on AMC's "Mad Men," the 34-year-old actor has presented no shortage of brilliant verbalization, fumbles, and foot coordination for those with a hankering for the animated image format.
Now the man with the smug face (that does well with a punch), has opted to hide it for another form of animation: cartoons. Kartheiser lends his voice to "Axe Cop" and "High School U.S.A.," two shows launching Fox's Animation Domination High-Def (ADHD) block July 27, a companion of sorts to its Animation Domination lineup on Sundays. ADHD's multi-platform initiative will fill up the network's late-night block on Saturdays with 15-minute shows, as well as generate GIFs, shorts and other digital content for the Web.
We caught up with the actor on his day off from starring as Mr. Darcy in the Guthrie Theater's production of "Pride and Prejudice," which wrapped previews and has its official opening night Friday in Minnesota.
Read on for his thoughts on whether his portrayal of Mr. Darcy will merit a statue, getting away from Pete Campbell, and missing out on Bob Benson's fish shorts.
Thanks for taking time on your day off. That's an iconic role, that Mr. Darcy.
That’s what everyone keeps telling me. I try not to hear it. I’m just trying to discover it on my own. I don’t want that pressure, you know?
I get it. I mean, did you hear how there’s now a statue of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the middle of London’s Serpentine Lake?
Now you’re just making me feel bad.
Stop! It’s only a matter of time before there’s one of you in Minnesota.
I think it’s a matter of eons! That’s what I think.
Were you one of those guys that shied away from reading “Pride & Prejudice” growing up — I know it often gets pegged as a female reading material.
I love the book. I don’t think it’s very girly. I think it’s just a human story. And I wear tights.
Let’s talk about your involvement with ADHD — how did that sort of come about?
It came about because they had this show called “Axe Cop” and they thought I would have a good voice for a guest-starring character who is Bat Warthog Man, and so I came into their office, which at the time was just a tiny little garage of a house in Los Feliz. It was in this little room where we had to turn the air conditioner off to record because it made too much noise. And there was seven writers, two producers and me all in this tiny room and I did the voice for Bat Warthog Man and we had a lot of fun. And they said, ‘You know, while you’re here, do you want to audition for this other role on ‘High School U.S.A.’ and I said, ‘Sure.’ It kind of just took off from there. I was just going in, and doing table reads, and recording every other week. It’s just a fun experience getting in that room and improv-ing some stuff.
What makes Pete Campbell so memorable are his expressions and mannerisms — particularly when he’s upset. Is it fun to be in that voice booth and be more focused on your voice or is it all the same — I know you've done voice over work before.
Yeah, mannerisms and that other stuff will be added, and so you can still do them. Most of the time, I’m still acting the same as I would on “Mad Men” in terms of how I deliver my part. But the idea that you’re not acting with someone is a different kind of challenge that I’m not used to. When I need it, they’ll jump in and run lines with me, especially [creator and writer] Dino Stamatopoulos. He's good with kind of cuing me to get the right intensity and emotion. But, yeah, I grew up in Minnesota and I used to do a ton of radio commercials here, voice overs. I was actually a radio disc jockey for two years when I was 11 and 12. So I have some experience in the studio working with my voice, but not much in the last 10 years — with the exception of “Rango.”
I just hope they keep making more projects and hiring me.
Are you an animation guy?
Yeah, I love Adult Swim. I love lots of these guys and the shows that they’ve created like "Moral Orel" and "The Boondocks" — those kind of shows, I really love. And, hello, of course “South Park” and “The Simpsons.” “The Simpsons” is kind of the gold standard. But I love the short-form, 12-minute stuff, too. I think it's cool that we're doing that.
There’s never a dull moment playing Pete Campbell. But it must be a nice departure.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Marsh, the character I play on "High School U.S.A.," is so optimistic — even when he’s delivering bad news, he does so in a cheerful way. It is sort of a detox from Pete Campbell, emotionally, especially when I was doing both at the same time, it was a nice break.
And Bat Warthog Man -- I mean, come on. He's a Bat Warthog Man.
Do you think you’ll get your “Mad Men” co-stars to do some guest voice gigs for the shows?
Oh, I think if ADHD asked me to, I would ask them, sure.
Who do you think would show the most skills at this?
I think they would all be great. All those people use their voices so well — people are buying Mercedes because of Jon Hamm's voice! Any one of them can jump in and do a great job. I’d be nervous if they came in and stole my job, though.
We should resurrect Mrs. Blankenship!
Ha! I think several people would like that. Let’s get Mrs. Blankenship doing some ADHD.
Oh, Ms. Blankenship, she had a rough ending.
Hello, they put me through the ringer, as always.
Ah, yes. Pete was on a roller coaster ride this season. And the hair looked more slick and stiff than ever.
I don’t know if I had more hair product. Usually, that part of the day is early in the morning or late at night when I’m in the hair chair, so … generally, I’m focused on what I’m supposed to be doing in the scene. I literally just let them do it, then I look up and say, ‘That looks like Pete Campbell.’
Are you familiar with your GIFs? You must be, at this point.
Yeah, mostly because my friend works at Tumblr and he introduced me to Pete Campbell’s Bitchface — that has a lot of GIFs of me looking attractive. That’s sarcasm. Let your readers know that’s sarcasm, Yvonne.
None got more Web devotion this season than the GIF of Pete falling down the stairs.
Yeah, I like that one. You like that one?
My favorite is when Bob Benson’s knee touches Pete’s knee.
I haven’t see that one. It was fun doing scenes with James Wolk. That guy is a good actor.
Do you have thoughts on the Bob Benson fish shorts?
He wore these shorts with a fish pattern that had the Internet talking.
Oh, really. He didn’t wear them in a scene with me. I would have remembered that.
Yeah, Joan got the pleasure.
I haven’t see that episode yet. I don’t know what to think of them. I’m behind schedule on all that. Once the play gets done, I’m going to hunker down and watch them all.
Do you like all this time traveling you get to do? First the '60s, now the 19th century.
It is fun to go back into that era in the costume and way they talk. I wear tights! … which is fun. That’s a manly thing: looking in the mirror with your shirt tucked into your tights, pulled up to your nipples. That’s a confidence booster. That gets you jazzed, you know what I mean, Yvonne?
And there will be dancing, yes?
Yeah, yeah. There’s no Charleston, but we dance. It’s like English country dancing. It’s fun. Although, they keep editing mine down for some reason — I don’t know why! It has nothing to do with my lack of grace and coordination, I can guarantee it. In the group dances, they stick me in the back.
I don’t blame them! I don’t blame them, Yvonne! I stuck myself back there to begin with. They just kept me there.
I need to fly out there to see this all go down.
You better hurry up!
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