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Emmy Nominee Randee Heller Talks 'Mad Men,' Her Awards Competition & More

by Maggie Furlong, posted Aug 23rd 2011 3:00PM
The offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce got a little shake-up last season on 'Mad Men' with the help of a sassy secretary who -- shocker! -- Don and the guys had zero interest in sleeping with.

Ida Blankenship, Bert Cooper's veteran desk jockey who was talked about but never seen, was given the reassignment of a lifetime: front and center working Don Draper's desk. Then (spoiler alert for those who haven't seen Season 4!) her lifetime ended right there in the office.

Not that Blankenship wasn't ever a looker or worthy of an office tryst -- Roger Sterling even referred to her as the Queen of Perversions when reminiscing about his long-past fling with her -- but in her final months on the job, she was much more valued for the comic relief she offered.

That delivery was courtesy of Randee Heller, veteran stage and screen actress who, before Blankenship, was probably best known as Billy Crystal's lesbian roommate on 'Soap' and Danielson's mom in the first two 'Karate Kid' movies.

Now on the heels of her first Emmy nomination, planning for her first ever awards show, Heller looks back on her time as Blankenship fondly ... even if she didn't get to keep any of her wardrobe.

Randee Heller as Mad Men's Miss BlankenshipI just loved Miss Blankenship. Did you think when you took this role that it'd be Emmy bait for you?
No, not at all -- never in my wildest dreams. The truth of the matter is when I got the script and went to the first read-through, with all the other actors, there was a lot of reaction from the rest of the cast. I walked away going, "Aahhhh! This is really fun!" [Laughs]

And it was something so totally different for you ...
I know. And for them! It was kind of comic relief.

Oh, yes it was. [Laughs] Is it kind of bittersweet knowing that she can't come back? Well, unless there are flashbacks ...
[Laughs] No, my tears have been shed already. You know what? Actually I think it was the perfect arc. I think they would've been pushing it if it went on longer. Even though my fans wanted me to be there, unless she reincarnates in another fashion ... [laughs] I think they made a beautiful arc for the character.

Well Don Draper definitely drinks enough to start hallucinating -- you could be his little guardian angel!
[Laughs] Right? Put that in the article! I could be sitting on top of the couch while he's passed out. Although maybe he'll be a good boy this year now that he's got a new secretary to keep him in line ... we'll see.

Oh please -- she's the reason he'll go off the deep end again. How did you not get to be the secretary he proposed to? [Laughs]
I don't know! I don't understand why I'm never the bride, always the bridesmaid.

Obviously you got to spend most of your time with Jon Hamm, and some with Elisabeth Moss as well -- do you think it keeps things interesting for them to have new characters and actors coming in all the time?
Oh, absolutely. I think they have to respond to a new soul, a new energy, and yeah, [I would too] if I was in a show for four seasons and new blood came in ... especially if it was a different kind of blood, which I think Blankenship was. I think everybody was kind of surprised how she evolved. So being in scenes with them ... Elisabeth said to me one day, "You're a scene-stealer!" [Laughs]

Speaking of stealing, did you get to take anything from the set or wardrobe with you when you left?
Oh no I didn't take anything ... I kind of left it all there. But now that you say that, I may have to go back there.

Do you know what you're wearing to the Emmys yet?
No! You know, this is my first awards show, so it's like taking a little baby through all the steps. I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm 64. It's like I can't wear one of those strapless things with everything hanging out. [Laughs] I've gotta be covered ... maybe I should wear a burka or something.

What do you think of your competition?
Well, I think Ms. Cusack is unbelievable. I have to say, if it was up to me, I'd give her the award. I thought she was brilliant on that show. I'm not sure she should be in the Guest, she should've probably been up for Supporting sine she was in so many episodes, but she was terrific. Everybody's wonderful in that category. It's gonna be interesting I think.

You look nothing like Blankenship in real life, but have eagle-eyed people recognized you from the role at all?
No. They did a two-hour make-up job, so if somebody does recognize me, I get depressed. [Laughs]

What would you like to do next?
I did a 'Grey's Anatomy' right after ['Mad Men'] and I did three episodes of 'In Plain Sight,' but I would love to do a thing on 'Glee' because I sing. That would be a dream job. Or 'Nurse Jackie' ... I think I could play [Edie Falco's] mother or sister, because everyone always tells me I look like her, and I love that show ... let's put that out there. And I am a comedienne, so any of those ... who is that girl Whitney? Whitney Cummings? I should play her mother. [Laughs] She seems to be so incredibly talented and fun and out-there.

Since you're not on set for the new season, I'm guessing you know nothing ... and even if you did you couldn't tell us.
You know, nobody knows what's going on. Ever. I didn't know I was gonna die until like three days before I died. It's great, because if everybody knew what was going on, it would spoil it. Even as a character on it, it's fun, because if you start dwelling on it, I don't think it's as fresh.

See a list of all of the 2011 Emmy nominees here

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I really thought this person was the Judge from "My Two Dads" until I realized that lady is dead.

August 24 2011 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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