Photographer Jonathan Sadowski
Interviewer Jonathan Sadowski
It was 2003. I had moved to Los Angeles less than a year ago, and my twenty-three year old self was still tingling from the electricity and excitement of moving to a new city. I was a social butterfly. Up early. Out late. Making myriad new friends every chance I could, while pursuing my dream in the City of Angels.
Amidst the partying and self exploration, I started seeing a girl named Colleen. She had invited me to her birthday party at her new apartment. I went solo. I found myself surrounded by her friends, none of which I knew, and for the first time in a while, I felt like the odd man out.
I was sitting by myself and looked up at this cheeky kid wearing a beanie.
“I’m Ben!” He extended his hand and I obliged.
“I’m Jonathan…nice to meet you.”
“You by yourself?” He asked. Not out of concern, but out of a
genuine attempt to be welcoming to a stranger. “Yeah, I know Colleen.”
“Oh! Nice! Me, too. How do you know her?” “I’m dating her…you?”
“I’m dating her, too!” BAM.
WE CLINKED BEERS. INSTANT BROS.
A lot has changed since then. Friends have come and gone. But through all the highs and lows (mainly highs) (LOTS of highs, actually) Ben and I have remained the closest of friends. I even had the honor of being a groomsmen in his wedding. He is a talented actor. A loving husband. A generous friend. And a food fanatic who’s love of foie gras is rivaled only by his enthusiasm for a good wine pairing. And so without further ado, I want you to imagine yourself sitting alone at a party……
……and meet Ben.
Jonathan Sadowski (JS): Right out of college, you played Ben Braddick in the Broadway production of THE GRADUATE. Without getting into too much detail, have you ever been seduced by an older woman? I kid. I kid. What was that experience like? Going from theater program at Ithaca College to a Broadway play overnight.
Ben Feldman (BF): It wasn’t exactly overnight: I auditioned for that play (to take over for jason biggs who was taking a break to shoot a film) while i was still a senior at ithaca and i actually lost the part to josh radnor (who went on to tell his kids a 9 year story about meeting their mother). then I moved to nyc, got a job serving bbq to rich people and when the ben braddick understudy left, they brought me in to take over for him and play a bunch of small parts like guy playing pool at bar. so, I guess in a way, it was like going from senior back to freshman again- but the play was now the school and alicia silverstone and kathleen turner were the seniors.
JS: Upon moving to Los Angeles, you booked a pilot called “THE MAYOR” about a high school kid who actually becomes mayor. Unfortunately, the pilot never got picked up. What is that process like? Walk us through booking a pilot.
BF: Not to begin every answer correcting you but the pilot DID get picked up. It just got canceled after we shot the second episode and also it never made it to air, so I guess reading that back, i suppose i can see how one might think it didnt get picked up. anyway, it was bananas: literally the morning after the graduate closed in New York, I tested for the pilot in LA. for those who dont know what a “test” is, picture an audition like the first episodes of the voice but instead of adam levine and pharrel, its like your high school principal and a parking enforcement officer and they never turn their chairs around and you have 3 minutes to convince them through make-believe that you should be rich. so, somehow, i did that. and then adam sandler was my real life boss and lizzy caplan was my tv girlfriend and anna kendrick was my tv sister and then the show sucked and the wb (cw’s dad for you kids out there) pulled us before we further embarrassed ourselves.
JS: In the show DROP DEAD DIVA, you played FRED, a guardian angel sent down from heaven to look after a girl who is reincarnated as someone else. In your own life, who would you say is YOUR guardian angel?
BF: My dog lolita. because she is constantly reminding me what’s most important in life: beef flavored chewables and peeing outside.
JS: You acted alongside Hilary Duff in THE PERFECT MAN. Tell us how you yourself strive to be the perfect man, and what traits are necessary in this endeavor.
BF: I think the most important thing is knowing that if there is such a thing as a perfect man, i’ll never be it. the older i get, the more i realize how much more important getting it wrong is than getting it right. as an actor, you have to risk embarrassment to play something truthful. in comedy, you have to be willing to bomb. musicians need to play shit notes if they want to find the right ones. it’s how life needs to be lived. and if you marry right, as i did, you’ll spend the rest of your life screwing up and hearing about it. committing to getting it wrong: to me, that’s perfect.
JS: I’ve been to many a dinner with you. WE have been called “snobs” by many of our friends…(we can’t help that we have a cultured palate!) You are on death row. Tomorrow you will be executed. Describe your last meal.
BF: Ok so if it’s a night execution, a huge bbq with various smoked meats and whiskey. if it’s an afternoon execution, a long multi-course omakase meal by the nastiest sushi chef on earth. and if it’s morning, the jewiest breakfast imaginable.
JS: You played best friends with the incredibly talented, and impossibly handsome JONATHAN SADOWSKI in FRIDAY THE 13th. That movie is the second largest franchise in film history and has convinced people that when the 13th falls on a Friday, the day is cursed. Do you have any weird superstitions you can tell us about?
BF: I dont believe in any of that bullshit, which makes life infinitely easy and horror movies devastatingly boring.
JS: As you know, I recently popped the question. Help a brother out… What is the secret to a happy marriage?
BF: 100% of the time, start by asking yourself “wait a minute- is it possible im being an idiot right now?” and 50% of the time, be willing to at least pretend you believe the answer is “yes”. also, buy flowers randomly.
JS: In 2013, you were nominated for an Emmy for your portrayal of Michael Ginsberg in the critically acclaimed series MAD MEN. What went through your mind when you got that call? How do you describe what that kind of recognition means to a kid from Maryland who moved to LA to pursue his dream of being an actor?
BF: Our house phone rang at like 5:30 in the morning. michelle didnt know that nominations were that morning because i never imagined it was worth warning her, so when she answered the phone and it was my publicist, she was the same level of mad i’d be if one of the guys from her office woke me up at the crack of dawn demanding to speak to her. i was shocked. fortunately our families live on the east coast so we werent ruining their mornings by calling them. and once we got all the calls done, it was still like 7am and we didnt know what to do with ourselves so we went to beverly hills and ordered a fancy, overpriced breakfast because thats what we thought emmy nominated actors do. it was surreal. and to be nominated for my work on what was/is one of the greatest shows in history was and is still something i cant fully get my head around. you do a lot of looking back on your life when good things happen to you. its the best part of good things.
JS: You were recently on a series called FROM A to Z which (annoyingly) was cancelled (the show was great). In the past, you have played a mayor, a stoner, a lawyer, a student, a brain surgeon…basically every role from A to Z. Are there any roles that you wouldn’t play? Are there any roles that you look forward to playing?
BF: If a character is written well, I cant imagine not wanting to play the part. the only thing i hate doing is playing bad writing and only because im not good at it. ive seen other actors take bad writing and turn it into amazing performances. the thing i learned from mad men and even kinda silicon valley is that im a lot more comfortable playing weirder characters than i am with the main guy or love interest or whatever. if there isnt something a little off or wrong with the character, its a bit more of a struggle for me. i still havent figured out if thats because im normal and want to hide behind strange or if im strange and just dont understand normal.
JS: You are currently shooting the new NBC series SUPERSTORE alongside Emmy Award winner America Ferrara. In the series, you play the manager of, well…a SUPERSTORE. You just recieved a $100 gift card to a superstore. What would Ben Feldman get?
BF: Lotto cards. my wife is obsessed with them. I think that might be what I am to her: a walking gamble.