BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — James Wolk apparently can’t escape the world of advertising. The Michigan bred-actor last seen stirring things up in the ’60s as the mysterious Bob Benson on “Mad Men” has moved over to stirring things up in the present as ladies man Zach Cropper on the CBS comedy “The Crazy Ones,” airing Thursdays at 9 p.m.
Wolk goes toe to toe with costar Robin Williams in the new series and, in the pilot — which drew the best ratings of any new show thus far this season — he even got to sing with Kelly Clarkson.
After the well-reviewed but ill-fated “Lone Star” — in which Wolk played a con man with two wives — he moved to his role on “Mad Men,” which had fans puzzling over theories on Twitter and message boards about what his ultimate endgame might be at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
We got a chance to ask Wolk a few questions at the recent Television Critics Association summer press tour.
Q. Robin Williams is quite a force. Were you intimidated at all?
A. It wasn’t intimidating at all. He came in and he started to break down a joke about how the girl at the front desk didn’t know who he was and the IT guy had to explain it to her and before I knew it he was doing three characters, including himself, and we were both laughing, so it was very easy.
Q. Will Bob Benson be returning to “Mad Men”?
A. If they want me we can certainly try and make something happen; it’s in their hands, but I loved working on that show and I’d love to be back there.
Q. What was it like having Kelly Clarkson all up on you?
A. I’ll tell you, it’s good, but what makes it even better is that her fiancé and my girlfriend were sitting in the room watching.
Q. In the pilot, Kelly seemed really up for anything.
A. She was incredible. She was nervous and she was very open about that because she was acting opposite Robin Williams and me, of course, but she was amazing and incredible to work with. . . She’s got great comedic timing and you can’t teach that.
Q. You also got a chance to sing with her and proved that you can carry a tune. Did you ever do musicals?
A. I did musicals in high school. “Sweet Charity,” “Footloose,” “The Princess and the Pea.”
Q. Were you Ren [the main character] in Footloose?
A. No I was Willard Hewitt; my dad’s favorite role to date of anything I’ve ever done is a 17-year-old Willard Hewitt, which gives you an idea of how crazy my father is.
Q. Were you aware of all the Bob Benson theories flying around on Twitter?
A. I try to stay away from the online stuff because anything you believe that’s good you have to believe the bad stuff too, so I just kind of block it all out. That said, I am a human being operating in the world and all my family members and friends would relay that to me, and it was exciting to see that response.
Q. At what point did you know who Bob Benson would be?
A. I knew it in stages so it was unfolded to me as we went along, and by the end I obviously was privy to everything going on, but when it first started out I didn’t really know who this guy was.
Q. How often do people come up to you and says “Not great, Bob!”?
A. That’s actually my favorite line of the entire season and that line, every time I hear that, it makes me crack up.
Q. Are you relieved that, unlike “Lone Star” and “Mad Men,” in “The Crazy Ones” you’re not leading a shady double life?
A. Well who knows? It’s only the pilot episode, who knows where this thing is going to go?
Q. Your character is something of a player on the show. Is he based in part on anyone in your real life?
A. I just think he’s in love with being in love, Zach. As we’ll see I think he loves himself a little bit and he certainly loves women and I think in life you’re never really applauded to be that kind of a guy so it’s kind of funny to find the heart in that guy in the show, which we’ll do.