Jared Harris, Vincent Kartheiser and Christina Hendricks in 'Mad Men'
Jordin Althaus/AMC Jared Harris, Vincent Kartheiser and Christina Hendricks in 'Mad Men'

In terms of Lane’s relationship with Joan, I wanted to ask you about the scene in which Lane advises Joan to demand a partnership in exchange for being, as you said, pimped out. Was it surprising to you that he told her that as opposed to telling her not to do it?

I think one of the things he finds out in the scene is that she is thinking of it. It’s $50,000 -- back then $50,000 was an enormous amount of money. I think it’s times seven, isn’t it? So that’s like $350,000 nowadays. So she’s thinking about it. And he finds that out early on in the scene -- he’s obviously covering his own ass, and he realizes that is an enormous amount of money and that it might be enough to tempt her. He goes in there to see where her mind is at.

Quite possibly, if she had expressed outrage, that she would never in a million years think about it -- that scene might’ve turned out differently. I think because there’s some daylight in her mind about it, he decides that, to save his own ass, he’s going to give her this advice: don’t take the money, take the partnership.

"Quite possibly, if she had expressed outrage... that scene might’ve turned out differently."

What he says is not untrue, and that’s the way in which this show is complex. What he says about his own experience is true -- he made a bad deal, and he’s been underwater ever since he made that deal. And he’s been struggling ever since. And the predicament that he’s in at that point in time, which she doesn’t know about, is based on the fact that he’s made a bad deal at the end of season three. But he’s doing it to protect himself because he doesn’t want it to found that he didn’t have that money and he cooked the books.

On that note, in the scene in which Don confronts Lane -- do you think that your character had any kind of hope that Don would somehow help him out or help him cover it up?

He didn’t think that Don was going to ask him to resign, absolutely not. He didn’t think that he was going to get fired. That comes as a shock. When he realizes that’s where it’s headed, he suddenly completely recalibrates everything and expresses penitence; before then, he’s making excuses for himself, he’s saying, "I haven’t really done anything that badly. You guys have just prostituted Joan out. And that’s criminal." He’s aware, even as he forges the check, that he’s at a moral crossroads, but I think he’s hoping he can spin it off in a different way. Once Don says "I’m going to need your resignation," he expresses remorse for what he’s done and hopes that he can prostrate himself before Don and find mercy. 

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There’s a very important moment in that scene where if Roger or Don had found themselves in that position, it wouldn’t have ended the same way, because they would’ve fought their corner. There are ways that Lane could’ve got himself out of that spot, but he doesn’t understand it and he doesn’t do it. There’s plenty of cards he has that he doesn’t realize he has, and he doesn’t play them. I think that he could have easily threatened them with blackmail, stuff like that, you know. But he doesn’t do it.

There’s a moment there where he gives an explanation for what he did; Don asks, “Why didn’t you just ask me for the money?” and Lane’s response is, “Why suffer the indignity for a 13-day loan?” And the answer is so mad, so crazy, that you can see -- the way Jon plays the scene is that Don’s looking for a way out. He doesn’t want to do what he thinks he has to do, and he’s throwing Lane a life raft, hoping that Lane will find a way out of it. But when he says that, you can see the whole thing crash inside of Don’s mind; he realizes that he’s gonna have to do what he has to do, he’s going to have to let Lane go. It’s a really important moment and that was really Jon, and his understanding of the scene and his illustration of that idea that there was still an opportunity there that Lane doesn’t take -- and you can see the idea, the hope, get snuffed out in that moment.

There was a sense throughout the season of Lane never quite understanding the rules of Sterling Cooper -- like his getting angry about the client he brought in being taken out to the brothel.

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He’s not one of the boys. He would like to be, but he was never invited into that executive lounge, if you like. I don’t think that Don or Roger associated or hung out with Lane unless absolutely required to. But what you’re referring to there is -- he’s angry because he sees the Jaguar account as a personal success for him that would give him leverage within the company, that would make him relevant again.

And he knows that when you are no longer necessary to the company, not long after, you’re going to be given your hat and shown the door. He knows that unless he finds a way to make himself relevant, they’re not going to keep him. They’re losing respect for him and they aren’t going to keep him. If someone else can do the job that they don’t have to split the profits with, well then, that’s the way of business. Trim the excess, trim the fat, and he’s gone.