‘Mad Men’ actor Rich Sommer a hit in his Minnesota hometown

Rich Sommer as Harry Crane in “Mad Men.” Jordin Althaus / AMC

STILLWATER, Minn. – Rich Sommer is from Stillwater, graduated from Concordia in Moorhead and has a daughter named Beatrice Grace.
Harry Crane, the character he plays on the hit TV series “Mad Men,” is from Wisconsin, graduated from a Midwestern university (Wisconsin) and has a daughter named Beatrice Grace.
Sommer said the show’s creator, Matt Weiner, took inspiration from the show’s actors in rounding out his characters. “Mad Men” will soon go dark after eight years on the air.
Before it ends, Sommer is coming back to Stillwater to talk about the show and answer questions from fans. He will appear at two fundraisers for the Stillwater Public Library on May 9 at the Lowell Inn; the day has been declared “Rich Sommer Day” in Stillwater.
Sommer, 37, has appeared in numerous TV shows, films and plays since 1998, when he voiced a show for the Minneapolis Planetarium called “Astronomically Correct,” one of his first paid acting gigs.
His breakout role was in 2006 as Anne Hathaway’s friend Doug in “The Devil Wears Prada.” His TV credits include “The Office,” “Elementary,” “Law & Order,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “CSI.” He has appeared in commercials for such companies as Bud Light, Nextel and Sprint.
His latest movie is Sally Field’s new film, “Hello, My Name is Doris,” and he’s currently shooting “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” which debuts on Netflix on July 17.
But Sommer, 37, says Harry Crane of “Mad Men” always will be a signature role.

Last-minute casting

Sommer didn’t originally audition for the part. He first read for the part of Paul Kinsey, which went to actor Michael Gladis.
“I got cast as Harry sort of at the last minute,” Sommer said during a recent phone interview from his house in Los Angeles. “They had offered the role to someone else, and he was in a play and ended up not doing it, so I got his leavings, thank goodness.”
Who was it?
“He’s a New York actor who wasn’t on ‘Mad Men,’ ” Sommer said.
His favorite episode to shoot was “Christmas Waltz,” the 10th episode of the fifth season. “It was when Paul Kinsey came back and had joined the Hare Krishnas, and my character got to help him out,” he said. “It was great.”
“The Suitcase,” the seventh episode of the fourth season, remains his favorite episode to watch, he said. “It is arguably one of the best episodes of the show,” he said. “It’s all about Don and Peggy, and it’s just one of the most beautiful episodes.”
Wrapping up the show last July was difficult, Sommer said. “We’re all a pretty tight-knit group,” he said. “Half of us had moved to Los Angeles together, and we already had been through marriages and divorces and kids together. That’s a lot of life. It’s very hard to say goodbye to that.

‘Theater geek’

Sommer was born in Ohio but moved with his family to Stillwater when he was 8 years old. He grew up in the Croixwood development, went to Stonebridge Elementary and Oak-Land Junior High and graduated from Stillwater High School in 1996.
He was a self-proclaimed “theater geek” in high school, taking all of the school’s theater classes and appearing in all the plays. He also participated in ComedySportz, an improv group, for two years.
Sommer met his wife, Virginia Donohoe Sommer, while both were pursuing master’s degrees in fine arts from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland; she is a Mankato, Minn., native. They have two children, Beatrice, 7, and Patrick, 4.
Sommer and family come back to Minnesota five or six times a year, he said. They visit his wife’s parents in Mankato, but he says he always makes a trip to Lake Elmo to catch up with friends from high school.
A friend from childhood, Matt Thueson, contacted Sommer earlier this year to see if he would be willing to do a fundraiser for a Stillwater area nonprofit organization to coincide with the end of “Mad Men.” Sommer picked the Stillwater Public Library.
“I spent a lot of time at the library,” he said. “It was one of my clubhouses when I was growing up. I was on the youth board back one million years ago where we planned screenings of ‘Laurel and Hardy’ and book clubs and library events for kids.”
When Sommer’s parents divorced in 1992, his father, Richard Sommer Sr., got an apartment next door to the library.
“I would walk across the parking lot to get there,” he said. “It literally couldn’t have been any closer. If it was the summer, I was at the library almost every other day.
“Listen, downtown Stillwater is an amazing place, but if you’re not a grown-up and you aren’t yet into antiques or bars, you’re pretty much going to the library.”

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