Welcome to the final installment of The Mad Men Interviews, in which I interview friends who appeared on my favorite show, Mad Men. Part one was an interview with Molly Hawkey, who played a scientist who told Don Draper, “You can’t smoke in here.” Part two was with Eric Scott Cooper, who played a TV commercial director in the first episode to introduce the Jimmy Barrett storyline. Now I’m speaking with Elisha Yaffe, who guested on one of Mad Men‘s hippiest episode ever (“Christmas Waltz”, season 5, episode 9).
For those who don’t know how the biz works, can you tell us how you wound up being on Mad Men?
I auditioned. Which really means driving for about 45 minutes in traffic, worrying how I’m going to fuck the lines I’ve memorized, calming myself down by saying, “Hey, it’s just a first audition and not a callback. So just go in there and have fun” and then being shocked to see [showrunner/executive producer/writer] Matthew Weiner in the room for my first read.
Were you a fan of the show before you were on it? How about after?
Yes. After? No. I couldn’t respect a show that would decide to cast me.
Classic Groucho Marx. How many times did you have to audition?
Once. I auditioned for a few different parts. Read through each a few times. Matthew gave me a few notes. Very helpful, direct, supportive notes. Mostly pointing out what he liked about what I was doing, which immediately gave me confidence and helped me relax.
Who was your scene with?
Michael Gladis (Paul Kinsey) and Rich Sommer (Harry Crane).
Anything memorable happen you can share?
It was Paul Kinsey’s (Michael Gladis) return after being away for a bit. His character was revealed to have become a Hare Krishna in the episode and the producers really didn’t want anyone to find out. So we all had to hide under parkas and umbrellas when being transported to set. Which made sense for Michael but honestly, I’m pretty sure if I walked down the street undisguised no one would have minded.
You were in one of Mad Men‘s first “hippie scenes.” Did you realize you were in an episode of the show that was changing the tone for the rest of the series?
No, though that was cool after the fact. The only thing I was aware of on set, is that the role I was playing essentially could’ve been based on my real-life hippie father. After the fact, it felt like a dream I would’ve had after talking to my dad about his love for the Grateful Dead and then falling asleep to an episode of Mad Men. If a younger version of my dad had been transported into the Mad Men universe, he would have been my character. So that was quite surreal.
(You can first see Elisha at 26 seconds in, giving a “Hare Krishna” to Michael Gladis’s character, Paul. Note: I didn’t record this video.)
What was the reaction from family and friends when you told them you were going to be on the show?
I wasn’t allowed to tell them until it was about to air. After it did, my dad only had a few notes. His main one was that he felt they should have made a joke about how the hippies mostly came to see Indian gurus not to find their inner self, but for the free indian food that would always be readily available post-meditation session.
Do you have a favorite “Mad Men” character and/or episode?
Yes. Pete. He’s such a twerp. I love-hate him.
Why do you act professionally? Do you ever see yourself stopping?
Ha. I ask myself that every day. I think the same part of me that doubts myself and questions almost every nuance of life at all hours of day is the same part of me that can center itself through the exercise of acting. When I get to take on a character, I’m allowed to put myself in another person’s shoes and satisfy my true hippie nature that somehow thinks I have a chance in hell of understanding every single human being in this universe. In short, in my best stoner voice, [does best stoner voice] “We’re all just people, man”.
Could I ever see myself stopping as an actor? Yes. But only if people asked me politely.
What are you working on now? Where can we see you next?
Right now, I have a short film called TIME TRAVEL LOVER I acted and wrote in. Directed by the incredible music video director Bo Mirosseni, Partizan Films graciously financed and produced it. They were fantastic and supportive throughout the entire process. It was the first indie thing I had financed. We just started submitting it to festivals. Another short I acted in and helped produce called DALAI LAMA, is also waiting to hear back from a couple of festivals. Some TV and film parts coming up too. I do stand up sometimes. But I like the stuff I make with my friends best. Did I mention I was a hippie in real life? 10 times already? Come on, you have to be exaggerating. And even if you are, I’m not judging. Peace and love.
In all seriousness, I’m pretty sure Mr. Weiner assumed I was a non-actor who wandered into the room stoned.
Oh, I’m sure, too. Thanks, Elisha!
Were YOU on Mad Men? Want to talk about your experience for The Mad Men Interviews? Email me!