Off set, Mad Men star Ben Feldman swaps martinis for boutique winemaking.
At first blush, the real-life Ben Feldman doesn’t seem much like his Mad Men character Michael Ginsberg—the series’ smart-if-peculiar copywriter. At least he hopes so. “I remember [cast mate] Aaron Staton telling me what’s great about the show is that [MadMen creator] Matthew Weiner and the producers are so good at not just finding actors, but finding people who really are these characters,” he recalls. “I laughed it off… [but] as time goes by, people find out more and more that I am kind of like Ginsberg, which is a little embarrassing.”
Thankfully, Feldman hasn’t taken on Ginsberg’s weirder traits. The Potomac native is charming, witty, and successful—as both an actor and a winemaker. He and his longtime friend Eduardo Porto Carreiro founded Angelica Cellars in 2005, sourcing grapes from White Hawk Vineyard, in the Los Alamos Valley, in Santa Barbara. Their current offering is a 2008 Syrah, which has notes of blackberries and violet petals, and is produced in small batches. “He’s the expert; I’m just the guy who likes wine a lot,” Feldman says cheekily. “I think there comes a point when you’re like, ‘Do we admit to alcoholism, or do we turn it into an art?’” In fact, there is original art on the label: a wild poppy flower drawn by Feldman himself, which he traces back to the blooms near his mother’s house in Provence.
Wine aside, it is easy to see that his first true passion is acting, a career that had its start in summer camp performances when Feldman was just 7. “The head of the theater there [insisted], ‘You’re loud and obnoxious—you should be in the play this year!’” Feldman says. He left Maryland after high school and graduated from Ithaca College with a bachelor of fine arts in acting, then moved to New York to ply his trade. Soon afterward Feldman found himself on Broadway, understudying for Jason Biggs in The Graduate. “In a dream world, I would be on a [television] show, and then during the hiatus I would go and do a play,” he muses. But just being on Mad Men, he says, is indeed a dream realized: He tuned into the show, like a million others, from the very beginning. While the actor is currently focused on shooting season six, Feldman says he still sets aside time for forecasting his future in the business. “I look at careers like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s,” he says. “He does the kind of movies that I would love to be doing.” But until the big screen calls, you’ll find Feldman on TV. We’ll raise a glass (of Angelica Cellars) to that.