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The British veteran, who counts The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Sherlock Holmes and Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Lincoln among his many film credits, acknowledges that there were tears shed when creator Matthew Weiner broke the news that Harris’ character would be taking his own life. The action came after Jon Hamm’s Don Draper finds out that Lane has forged a company check in Don’s name. In a heart-wrenching scene between the two actors, Don insists Lane must resign.
Harris spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the dreaded conversation with Weiner, the flurry of emotions that accompanied the news and the hardest part of being killed off the critical darling.
So when did Matt Weiner tell you you’d be killed off the show?
Matt told me after read-through for episode 10. He always asks people to stick around after the read-through to answer questions you may have. He said, ‘Hang on, I wanted to speak to you.’ He talked to everyone else, and then got to me and said, ‘Come on up to my office.’ Now, that’s a bad sign when someone says, ‘Come on up to my office.’ There was some inane chit and chat on the way up the lift, but as we got to the door, he said, ‘So, I’ve got something I want to tell you.’ I went, ‘Uh-oh.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m sorry.’ And then he offered me some very good brandy.
How surprising was it to you?
I wasn’t totally surprised. I had gotten an e-mail beforehand that [asked about] my handwriting “because we see Lane forging a signature on a check.” I knew that could only spell trouble for Lane. The only reason why you’d start a ticking bomb like that is to have it go off. I didn’t know if it would go off this season or next season, but I knew at that point the countdown had started.
What were the emotions running through your head as you and Matt were having this conversation?
I was sad. I’ve grown very fond of Lane, and I love working there. It’s the best show on television, and my ride was over. I shed a little tear in the car on the way home.
Did you try to talk Matt out of it?
There was no way to talk him out of it. The season had been structured for this. They had been building this since the beginning. I tried to persuade him that Lane had a brother, Blaine Pryce.
Take me back to the scene you film in Don’s office, where he tells you you’ll need to resign.
Gosh, it’s a while ago. There was so many different reactions that he had. He didn’t play his hand very well, I do remember thinking that. There were several opportunities for him to get out of it, but in the end it’s pride. In the beginning, he doesn’t know that’s the reason he’s being called into the office. Once it comes up, he thinks he can bluff his way out of it. And then he goes through all of these emotions, from anger to denial to depression to acceptance. It was all written in there. The [script] was very specific about the different turns he would take.
And what about the scene in the Jaguar, when he’s attempting to kill himself?
Oh yeah, great! When Matt told me that idea, I laughed my ass off. When he said the car doesn’t start, I just laughed for about five minutes. Nothing goes right for this guy.
And your final scene?
The last scene that I filmed was the bedroom scene with Rebecca. It was sad. I remember Matt making a joke because there are these fire department signs around the place. And one of them said, ‘Keep clear, fire lane.’ And Matt went over to one and said, ‘Jared, you want to know where I got the idea to fire Lane?’ And he pointed to the sign.
Really, more than anything else, the sadness that I feel is that it’s been such an amazing experience. The one thing that you never ever had to worry about were the scripts. The only thing that you needed to worry about was your performance. The hardest part was now I have to wait like everybody else to find out what happens next.
I imagine you could probably twist Matt’s arm for a hint?
Oh no, no, no. He won’t tell me. Absolutely not. And I know because I’ve already asked him. [Laughs]
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose