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Back Up at Batt

Bryan Batt discusses his return to Mad Men, working with Adam Sandler in Funny People, and getting back on stage.

Bryan Batt
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Having spent almost his entire career making his living as a stage actor, Bryan Batt is as surprised as anyone that he just can't find the time to return to his first love. But helping to run a home goods store in New Orleans called Hazelnut with his partner Tom, starring as closeted art director Salvatore Romano on the hit AMC series Mad Men -- which begins its third season on Sunday, August 16 -- and taking the occasional side gig such as the just released film Funny People is keeping Batt extremely busy.

It's true that his role in Funny People as the agent to Adam Sandler's character, George Simmons, is basically a blink-and-you-miss it cameo, but that wasn't the original intent. "I had a big scene with Adam earlier in the movie that got cut -- although I hope it will end up on the DVD," he says. "It was so much fun to shoot; Judd Apatow, the writer and director, let Adam and I improv for an hour and a half -- which was so different from Mad Men, where you shoot the script word for word. And Adam is such a great guy and so professional, and I really thought the movie showed the underside of the world of stand-up comedy."

Had Batt ever considered a career in stand-up for himself? "I thought about it for two seconds when I was younger, until I realized it involved drunk people yelling at you to get off the stage," he says. "Once, I went to watch my friend Steven Weber (who co-starred with Batt in the film version of the stage hit Jeffrey) do a set in some club in New york, and when he came off the stage, he said it was the scariest thing he'd ever done."

On the other hand, Mad Men, which received 16 Emmy Award nominations this year and won last year's award for Best Drama, is anything but scary, says Batt. "I can't reiterate enough what a wonderful group of people this is to work with and what wonderful synergy we have," he says. "And every season, the writing just get better and better. I used to speculate on what Sal would do, but they always come up with something more interesting than I can imagine -- so I've stopped."

Bryan Batt and Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men
(© AMC)
Even if his character couldn't be more different than he is, Batt is embracing the role completely. "It's true; I am very animated in real life and Sal isn't; he keeps everything close to his chest," says Batt. "I was lucky that after I got the part, I was able to talk to gentlemen from the 1960s who worked in ad agencies and were closeted and married like Sal. Of course, I did a whole backstory on Sal when I started, but I haven't looked at it for a long time. Now, it's almost subliminal the minute you walk out on the set."

Still, Batt says one of the biggest keys to his portrayal are his costumes. "The way those suits fit just doesn't allow for much movement, so in a way, even Sal's physicality is closeted," he says. "Our costume designer finds all these great vintage suits and we edit them together, and I always have such joy when I go to my trailer to find out what I'm going to wear."

Although Batt is coy about any details of the upcoming season -- including what year the series will take place in -- he does admit it isn't yet the late 1960s in the world of Mad Men. "If the show just keeps continuing, I do wonder what's going to happen with the clothes," he says. "Will we get to the point where some of the characters are going to wear wide ties and bell bottoms and some won't?"

As thrilled as Batt is by his television success -- and the recognition from fans at airports and on the street -- he is itching to get back to the theater. "I miss the stage so much," he says. "I always liked knowing what time you're going to work and what time you're going home. In general, I'm the kind of person who likes things all tied up in a bow -- but show business just isn't like that."


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