When the final episode of “Mad Men” airs tonight on AMC, former cast member Bryan Batt, martini in hand, will be watching from his New Orleans home. For three seasons, Batt starred as Salvatore Romano, art director of the Sterling Cooper ad agency, a role that brought a new level of fame to the actor.
“For some reason, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” he says of getting the part on the critically acclaimed hit TV show.
“That first season was just magical,” Batt continues. “To have it so brilliantly written, directed, edited and acted, and to have it received by the audience like it was, it changed the course of TV. And to be a part of that … it was the first dramatic series on basic cable the caliber of something on HBO or Showtime … it was just magical.”
That magic lasted for three years, until his character, Sal, was let go by the lead character, Jon Hamm’s Don Draper. Aware of Sal’s closeted homosexual life, Draper agreed to keep the secret, but he couldn’t manage to save Sal’s job when the agency regrouped into a new entity.
“My exit was so poignant and heartbreaking,” the 52-year-old Batt says of his character, who was last seen cruising a public park at the end of third season. “How can that be topped?”
“Everywhere I go now, people tell me how much they miss me on the show. If they can’t place me on ‘Mad Men,’ they’ll just say they know me and I just say we dated,” he adds with a laugh.
So what does he think happened to Sal after the credits rolled?
“Well, me, I’m a positive person,” begins Batt. “I believe down the road he leaves his wife, Kitty, once his kids are grown and married themselves. Then he falls in love with a man and it’s OK. If it comes from a place of love, you can get over a lot of stuff.”
While Sal is gone from the lives of the cast of “Mad Men,” Batt isn’t. This past fall he attended a gala kicking off the eighth and final season.
“It was a great group,” he says. “That core group of regulars are a great group of people.”
Now he’s making new friends on the set of “Scream,” the MTV series filming in Baton Rouge. He plays the mayor. He’s also waiting for the film “The Runner” to be released.
“I play a real jerk, a real egotistical jerk,” says Batt, who’s also writing a book.
And, like millions of fans and critics, he’s also waiting to see how “Mad Men” will end.
Batt has no inside information, but he’s sure it’ll be memorable and sad when we have to say goodbye to some of the most iconic characters on TV.
“It was never like a job to me. I rarely get that,” he says. “It was always a complete joy.”