My Mother and Other Strangers actor Aaron Staton on Mad Men, eye patches and his new home on BBC drama

The actor who played Ken Cosgrove in the hit US series talks to Ben Dowell about his new guise as a romantic World War II airman

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American actor Aaron Staton, currently appearing in BBC1 drama My Mother and Other Strangers as the US airman love interest, is best known for playing Mad Men’s Ken Cosgrove.

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Ah yes, lovely Ken Cosgrove, the likable and literary-minded client liaison exec who wrote stories in secret and lost an eye during a hunting accident with some particularly rowdy Chevrolet clients…

The eye loss was a grimly comic moment for the character, and poor Ken (probably the nicest character in the series) departed not long after. But it has a happy ending. “I have that eye patch; they gave it me as a souvenir,” the 36-year-old Staton laughs.

He is more than happy to talk a lot about Mad Men, the show that propelled him to fame when he was just 26 years old; he also still remembers the titles of Ken’s stories – “who can forget ‘Tapping a Maple on a Cold Vermont Morning’!” as well as his writing aliases (“Ben Hargrove, and Dave Algonquin”). No wonder. The show was good to him.

“Mad Men was a script I read for a pilot on a network that had no established reputation for scripted television. And for something to go from an audition on a show and have almost a decade of employment on something so high calibre is so rewarding and fulfilling. There are no guarantees in television, there are so many things along the way that have to go perfectly for you to have a success. Even getting on television is difficult.

“I always wanted to be an actor from an early age and to be in something so good so early took the pressure off. The thing I have dreamed of since being a kid now I have done it. I just wanted to work.”

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Since then Staton has been a recurring character in hit US crime drama series Ray Donovan as Mr Donellen, a strict yet kind high school teacher. And he speaks highly of his current project, My Mother and Other Strangers, where his character Captain Ronald Dreyfuss is another literary-minded type who appears poised to start an affair with the Mother of the title, Rose Coyne (played by Hattie Morahan).

“I love My Mother and Other Strangers,” he says. “There’s something patient about it and suspenseful.”

It’s good – but Mad Men good? Is he worried about never making anything as good as Mad Men again? 

“I would say yes, but I have been in Ray Donovan and I am following up with My Mother and Other Strangers. I don’t want to make decisions going forward by holding Mad Men or this drama up and say it has to be as good as this job. Because if I did there’s a chance I would never work again.

“When we were working on Mad Men there were people who passed through the show who did tell me, you know this isn’t how things go. A lot of the actors had been working longer – John Slattery [Mad Men’s silver-haired lothario Roger Sterling] for example – and they knew it’s not meant to be like that.”

On Mad Men he was one of the thrusting young males of the office – so who from the old gang does he still see?

“There are a few I still see on a weekly basis,” says the actor who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Connie Fletcher and their three sons.

“I talk to Vinny, Vincent Kartheiser [who played Pete Campbell] quite a bit. But he’s in New York now and I’m living in LA. Everyone’s moved around a bit now. I see Rich Sommer who played Harry Crane, he lives in my neghbourhood and I see Michael Gladis, who played Paul Kinsey. I see them the most. Jon Hamm is quite busy but we all keep in touch.”

He loved the controversial ending of Mad Men (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet); but, suffice to say, it concluded happily (for the most part) for most of the characters.

“Ken Cosgrove was treated badly but got his revenge. Pete and Trudy flew off to Kansas and there is no way that would have actually worked out. But it was nice to see them happy for a moment. Everyone was happy, not that life was going to be happy forever, but we saw everyone having a happy moment.”

So could there be more Mad Men, unpicking all the jollity from the final episode in the form of future series, a spin-off or a film?

“I wouldn’t want that,” he says firmly. “The story’s been told. I am trying to think of an example where it works, but I wouldn’t want it. There was talk before James Gandolfini died of bringing back The Sopranos and I wouldn’t have wanted that either. I am happy doing what I am doing.”

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My Mother and Other Strangers is on BBC1 on Sunday nights at 9pm