(Spoiler alert: If you haven't watched Sunday's episode of Mad Men, read no further.)
Sunday night's episode of AMC's Mad Men packed a heavy load of sadness and regret, with the graphic suicide of Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), the British financial officer for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
For Harris, whose character decides to hang himself in his ad-agency office, the moment was a bittersweet one. But he says he's happy his character gets to leave the show "with a bang instead of a whimper."
The suicide takes place after Pryce fails to asphyxiate himself with the exhaust from a Jaguar, which refuses to start (a running gag the past few episodes), and after Don Draper (Jon Hamm) fires Pryce upon discovering he's embezzling from the agency.
"He (Pryce) was vindictive. He was angry. It was a passive aggressive act," says Harris. "His choice of doing it there was an f-you to the office, the people who work there, particularly to Don." The passive side of that, he says, was in the suicide letter - a boiler-plate note that explained nothing.
"He was trying to dig a hole for the people there, particularly Don, and make them feel bad about what he'd done. It was a cowardly thing to do. He did it to try and hurt them the way that he feels they've hurt him."
Harris says it took two hours in the makeup chair to give his face the ghastly gray color of death, and then he was sneaked onto the sound stage with an umbrella hiding his face so none of the actors could see him. He was then strapped into a safety harness and hanged from the ceiling.
When the other actors were brought in to discover his body and cut him down, it was the first time they had seen him "dead" - so their shocked and chaotic onscreen reaction, Harris says, was in part based on this initial look.
And, says Harris, there was no time for gallows humor on set.
"There's so little time to shoot," Harris says. "I just wanted to break into that Monty Python song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, while hanging there and start dancing, but it would have put them off because they were trying to act their reaction in a genuine way. I didn't want to be disrespectful to how they felt. My job was a lot easier than their job - I just had to hang limply from the door and stick my tongue out."
Harris says he loved playing Pryce, and cited two of his favorite moments: One was the fist fight Pryce had with Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) earlier this season, and the other was the failed suicide in the Jaguar. "I laughed when they told me the Jaguar was not going to start. I fell off my chair."