‘Mad’ for the Emmys
From his seat in the “Saturday Night Live” audience, actor
Rich Sommer ’00 could hardly take it all in. The cast was acting
out a “Mad Men” skit, complete with his character, Harry Crane.
He had poured his life into two seasons of the AMC drama and taken the stage with fellow cast members when it won an Emmy in September. He was enjoying tremendous success and satisfaction as an actor, but nothing quite as breathtaking as seeing his character make SNL. A fan of the show since age 7, Sommer was now a part of the experience, surrounded by friends in the audience and on stage.
“Next to my wedding, it was the best day of my life,” says Sommer, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Virginia, and 1-year-old daughter, Beatrice. “It was the culmination of a million dreams at once and the single best thing that’s come out of all of this.”
“It was the culmination of a million dreams at once and the single best thing that’s come out of all of this.”
The past two years have moved at lightning speed for Sommer, who landed his role on “Mad Men” after what he estimates were 35 auditions for pilots. “Mad Men” was his last audition for the season, as well as his first call back.
The drama series, which wrapped up its second season in October, centers around the lives of power-hungry men and women in the New York advertising scene in the 1960s. From an executive producer and writer of “The Sopranos,” the show has garnered praise since its premiere in July 2007. Sommer’s recurring character, Harry, is an up-and-coming media buyer at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency.
In the past two years, Sommer’s been immersed in the taping of 25 episodes, enjoyed two guest appearances on the ever-popular series “The Office” and really watched his career come alive.
“I hoped to have one job that would be a legacy job,” he says. “I never thought I would have it this quickly.”
And this legacy included an appearance at the Emmys, where “Mad Men” beat out network shows including “House,” “Lost” and “Boston Legal” for Outstanding Drama Series.
“The Emmys were amazing,” he says. “It was the most surreal experience getting up on stage.”
Sommer, who sang in The Concordia Choir and played the lead role in the Concordia theatre production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” went on to study acting at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Just one year after moving to New York to act, he landed his first film role as Doug in “The Devil Wears Prada,” released in summer 2006. His résumé also includes an appearance on “Law and Order,” several national commercials and numerous theatrical roles.
“It seems like in the business, when you’re meeting with success it just sort of steamrolls and more doors open,” says Dr. David Wintersteen, CSTA associate professor and Sommer’s mentor. “That’s how it’s really been with Rich since he landed in New York. He had guest spots, commercials and then the big break was ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’”
Careful guidance and inspiration along the way from professors Wintersteen, Dr. René Clausen and the late Rusty Casselton didn’t hurt either.
“When David and I would have our conferences he would tell me over and over that I should consider grad school. I would say over and over that I didn’t want to go,” Sommer remembers. “Luckily, he remained my counsel after graduation. When I finally realized I had to get a more focused approach, he was there to guide me.”
And just look where he is now.