Ben Feldman on 'Superstore,' working with America Ferrera and his 'Mad Men' exit

Why Actor Ben Feldman Thinks Drama And Comedy Are Equally Challenging
Why Actor Ben Feldman Thinks Drama And Comedy Are Equally Challenging

BY: GIBSON JOHNS

Chances are, you've seen Ben Feldman's work; between "Mad Men," "Cloverfield," "The Perfect Man" and, now, "Superstore," he's one of those actors that isn't instantly recognized for one specific role because he can -- and has -- done it all.

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Whether it's comedy or drama, TV or film, Feldman has shown a knack for being a standout character on each and every project he chooses to appear in. The 35-year-old actor says that he's more comfortable being "the sort of funny guy on a drama" than the lead in a comedy, but after watching the first few episodes of his new NBC sitcom "Superstore," it's clear that Feldman can be the frontman.

In an exclusive sit-down interview with AOL, Feldman talked about his new gig, bringing "Mad Men" to an end and why America Ferrera "should" be obnoxious (but totally isn't!).

Check out our full conversation with Ben Feldman below:

What attracted you to "Superstore?"

Nothing. [Laughs] Kind of in a way, nothing, actually: I didn't want to be on a sitcom. And certainly not on NBC -- nothing against them but I had just been down that road months before this [Feldman's previous sitcom, "A to Z," was cancelled by NBC after 13 episodes in 2015.]. I also don't see myself as 'the funny one' -- I'm usually the least funny one in a cast of funny people. I'm better at being the sort of funny guy on a drama. But my agent called and said, "There's a comedy you should do, and you're going to like it." And she was right.

It seems as though the show has garnered some really positive reception. Are you happy with how "Superstore" has been received?

I am! In today's television climate, where you're lucky even if your family watches it -- and watches it live -- it's crazy that people have been digging it and watching it. People have come up to me so much on the street and told me that they've loved "Superstore," which means a lot.

See photos of Ben Feldman through the years:

What has it been like working with such a pro in America Ferrera?

She's great -- she's a great leader, and she's also really humble and one of the cast members. She's not obnoxious -- and she very well should be. She's also a very talented actress -- when you act opposite her, it's like she isn't really doing anything. But when you watch it back, you're like, "Oh she was brilliant!" and she makes others around her great, too.

Do you see any of yourself in your character, Jonah? If so, what?

Tons. When you do a sitcom, the writers really start writing to you as an actor -- really, writing you. It's almost like if all of your funniest friends sat in a room without you and made fun of you and wrote down the best jokes and sent them to you once a week. That's what it's like being on a sitcom, for me. There's a certain level of snobbery in him, but also bumbling idiot, and I think they nailed that balance.

It's funny because even though Michael Ginsberg, your character on "Mad Men," and Jonah inhabit two totally different worlds, they're both sort of these fish out of water -- people that come into these worlds that they don't totally gel with right away.

That's interesting -- I've never heard anyone say that before, but, yeah, I guess my experience on "Mad Men" was a parallel because if "Mad Men" began with Season 5 ... it begins with Michael Ginsberg's view of the company.

That's funny. I'm taking that with me. I guess I like being the new guy because in some ways it's easier work as an actor -- I don't have to create a back story for myself in that place, and I get to experience everything for the first time the way Jonah is -- I've never worked in a store like this before, and neither has Jonah. There's very much a parallel.

Speaking of Jonah's job, have you ever worked a job in retail?

Every job that I've ever had has involved consumables. The first first job I had was at Baskin Robbins, and that was the only job I've ever had that everyone would recognize. And I got fired from that swiftly for giving free ice-cream to my 14-year-old friends.

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Maybe that was as good as it gets? #EndOfAnEra

A post shared by ben feldman (@benmfeldman) on May 18, 2015 at 7:48am PDT

Let's switch gears a bit and talk about your experience on "Mad Men," which was obviously such a universally beloved and lauded series.

It was absolutely surreal. It was, in real-time from the very first episode, my favorite show on television. The beginning of my relationship with my wife is defined by watching "Mad Men" together, so the show was already very important to me. Thus, entering it was a giant mindf**k. To walk into something that you love so much kind of makes you this awkward weirdo -- which is fine, because that's what I was playing -- but that's also how it felt walking in there as myself.

Jon Hamm directed my first episode and to talk to him as Jon Hamm is one thing, but to go into the trailer and get hair and makeup done and watch them put gel in his hair and slick it back ... you're literally watch Don Draper materialize out of nowhere. That was wild.

Not only that, but Michael Ginsberg's relationship with Don Draper was also quite contentious, no?

To walk onto your favorite show is already crazy. To walk on and have everyone look at you and be like, "Who the hell is this guy?" and then have to go up against the iconic star of the show is both exhilarating and the scariest thing I've ever done.

What did you make of Michael's exit from the show?

I was thrilled about it. As a "Mad Men" fan, I was always a fan of those big, water cooler moments. Matt Weiner [the show's creator] brought me into his office a couple of weeks before we read the script for that episode and was like, "A lot of people are going to be leaving ... but you're first." [Laughs] It was almost as though he cared if I was going to be bummed out or excited. And I was excited.

As a fan, what did you think of the finale?

It took a really long time for me to decide that I really loved it. With some distance, I thought it was one of the all-time greatest endings to one of the all-time greatest shows.

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