Mad Men, in the spirit of importing as many strains of nostalgia as possible, loves to borrow actors from bygone teen soaps. Harry Hamlin (Jim Cutler) murdered Veronica Mars’ best friend. Dan Scott (Ferguson Donnelly, the McCann exec who fires Cosgrove in last night’s episode) was the most loathsome villain on One Tree Hill. But Sunday’s half-season premiere featured one particular cameo that instantly lit up the Internet: Devon Gummersall, aka lovelorn, frizzy Brian Krakow from My So-Called Life. A small sampling of online reactions included “It’s really Brian Krakow, guys” and “BRIAN KRAKOW!!!!!!!!!!” We spoke to Gummersall about the breathless response to his cameo, his new heartthrob status, and how Stevie is like a grown-up Krakow.
Are you getting flooded with fan mail right now?
It’s been pretty great, I have to say. People are kind of freaking out. It’s been intense.
What are some of the most intense reactions you’ve seen?
They’ve all been super positive and sweet, so that is good. It’s just funny to me because it feels like I’ve been toiling in obscurity for awhile as an actor. I’m like guys, you realize I’ve been doing a lot of work for the past 20 years, right?
Are there any similarities between Stevie and Krakow in your mind?
In my career, I’ve really always tried hard to play characters that are different from Brian Krakow. I’ve tried to push the envelope, to change expectations of myself. I think in some way that Stevie is such a sweet natural transition from Krakow. It’s kind of what you wish Krakow would have become. It’s like wish fulfillment for people. They are like: That’s what Brian Krakow became! He’s well-dressed, he’s a lawyer, he goes on a date and it goes really well, he’s charming. It’s like seeing him all grown up. But I mean, I cut my hair like two decades ago.
Do you still get called out on the street as Brian Krakow?
Most people who are fans of my work know I have an actual name and am not actually Brian Krakow. They know me as Devon. But sometimes people still do recognize me from the show.
There are times when I’m like, “I have been doing other work for 20 years, what is going on?” But the truth is that when you are involved in such a game-changing show that means so much to people, it’s always going to be part of your life. I’m still really close with Claire [Danes] and she says that My So-Called Life is still the thing most people want to talk to her about, even with all she has accomplished.
I imagine the atmosphere on the Mad Men set is pretty different from My So-Called Life.
It actually is similar in the sense that everyone has so much passion for the project, and everyone is so emotionally involved in the making of the show. When you have this huge group of people and everyone knows they are a part of something bigger than them, that it’s something that is gonna last, that is gonna change the world—I’m not saying its atomic fusion here, but there’s a sense on the set of Mad Men that everyone in the crew, the cast, every department head, is doing their best work.
What did it take to get into character to play Stevie?
I’m not the most cerebral actor. It’s funny cause I play characters who are overthinkers. I can be an overthinker in my own life but when it comes to acting I try to stay out of it and be present.
How was it romancing Elisabeth Moss?
It was so great. And she kind of let me know that she was a fan of my work from previous things—
I did read that her reaction to learning you’d be playing her love interest was: “I fucking flipped out.”
Yes, it was very sweet of her to say that. From the first minute we met I felt so comfortable.
So are you and Peggy going to Paris?
Hah! That is one thing I cannot talk about.
More importantly, did you get to keep that plaid blazer?
That plaid jacket was amazing. I’ve never worn one that snazzy that’s for sure. There were a few different options that I tried on and I was like, this jacket is so great. It feels right.
Did you see that BuzzFeed wrote something called “Brian Krakow from My So-Called Life is Hot Now”? That was the whole headline.
I’ve officially made it now. All I can say is that it’s a dream come true.
For you and Brian Krakow.
That’s right. Exactly. It took awhile. He’s a late bloomer, and I guess I was too.