Rich Sommer goes from Harry Crane to ‘Harvey’

Rich Sommer plays an orderly in “Harvey,” running through Aug. 5 at Studio 54
(254 West 54th St.). For tickets, visit www.roundabouttheatre.org.

Minnesota-born Rich Sommer, known to TV fans as the bumbling Harry Crane on “Mad Men,” is putting aside his trademark glasses for his Broadway debut, opposite another TV regular, Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory,” in the Broadway revival of “Harvey.” Sommer plays an orderly tasked with restraining Parsons’ character, Elwood, who’s there because his best friend just happens to be a giant invisible rabbit.

So you’re not taking any sort of summer vacation off from “Mad Men,” I guess?

This is it, yeah, although it’s not a bad way to spend a summer. It’s been nice getting time to hang out now that rehearsals have backed off a little bit. I’m getting pretty exhausted. But it’s all right — I really don’t have much to complain about.

You did some improv in New York before “Mad Men.” What’s it like to come back to the New York stage?

Coming back to New York has been a dream. We’re in Chelsea right now for the summer, which is very different from almost the Ditmars stop in Astoria. I have not done a play since grad school, so this is my first time onstage in eight years. I’ve learned I’ve become incredibly lazy. [In TV] you can learn that day’s scenes in the morning and then you can forget them for the rest of your life. And that is not how this works. It’s taken a lot of reminding myself to be focused and dedicated to working on it.

Did you know Jim Parsons before you started working together?

I did not. We maybe had lunch, maybe shook hands somewhere, but I don’t even know that that happened. I saw him win his Emmys, but I don’t think we ever met face to face.

He’s extremely well-mannered in “Harvey.”  What’s he like in real life?

You know, he said this the other day: He feels Elwood has infected him, and he said it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the run is over. But I can say he is just as lovely and charming as Elwood is.

As a kid, did you have an imaginary friend, like Elwood does with Harvey?

I kind of wish I had — it sounds very fun. But no, I didn’t really. We moved from Minnesota when I was 8, and I almost immediately met the guy who would go on to be my best friend over time. We lived on the same street growing up, and lived together all four years of college, and he was here just last week to see the show.

Let’s talk about “Mad Men.” What can we expect in the aftermath of Lane’s death?

You can see in this moment that Don’s been through this before. It happened to his brother, essentially. Not the same way, but he’s got two men that he was the last person to give him the advice to go away, basically. And this is how they dealt with it. So, I mean, that’s gonna affect someone.

Does it ever get annoying to constantly be referred to as the series’ comic relief?

No, I don’t know how that could be annoying. I am delighted to be able to get the lines they give me. And also for all the comic relief Harry is, I think if you weigh his comedic moments against his dramatic moments, comedy definitely wins, but they also do give Harry these great little interactions. So yes, I don’t mind at all being the comic relief, especially when they pay that off with genuine, honest moments.

His beef with Metro

“When I was temping in Times Square, I always read Metro, so I was excited when I got this call. The one decision Metro made that I have a problem with — now, it’s been many years — there was a comic strip by a guy named Tony Murphy, and man, I loved that comic strip. I read it every day. And then one day,  there was a little thing saying this would be the last. And I was like, ‘S–!’ My ride in the morning to my soul-sucking temp job was a little less fun.”


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