Aaron Staton was never supposed to play Ken Cosgrove on Mad Men, for various reasons. For starters, he read for the role of Pete Campbell, originally written as a small, possibly recurring part. More importantly, Staton bombed his audition (or so he claims).

But in February 2007, while driving from New York City to Los Angeles with wife Connie, Staton got “the call.” They didn’t bother to stop the car.

“It was a relief,” says Staton, 29, on learning that his part in Mad Men was a go. He had planned on finding work at a restaurant upon arriving in Hollywood, a job he knew from a three-week waiter stint at T.G.I. Fridays while in high school. “I hated it,” he says. But Staton, like his Mad Men character, is ever the optimist. “I thought that maybe I’d like it better this time.”

Luckily he didn’t have to find out. The role of Campbell went to friend Vincent Kartheiser. And it, like Staton’s Cosgrove, became vital components to the Sterling Cooper corporate structure with far more screen time than anyone could have imagined.

“We hung out after the pilot, playing pool and talking about the possibility of doing a couple episodes,” Staton says of costars Michael Gladys and Rich Sommers. “And we were like, wouldn’t it be great if we could do four [episodes]?”

He’s since appeared in 39 of them.

But luck seems to be on Staton’s side. A tall, baby-faced blond with Paul Newmanesque blue eyes, he has really never known the feeling of being an out-of-work actor. While studying his craft at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Staton appeared in a Screen Actors Guild-sanctioned PSA about the dangers of drunken driving. And because commercial paychecks continue to come long after the camera stops rolling, he was able to eat more than Ramen Noodle Soup for the duration of his undergrad days. Once out of school, while most budding thespians go the barista route until an agent comes calling, Staton was discovered at his college showcase and quickly found work in New York performing with the likes of the Manhattan Theatre Club.

The perceived good fortune mimics that of Cosgrove, the slightly homophobic, short story writer that Staton brings to life on Mad Men. Cosgrove seems to strut through scenes without forcing his hand; the dealt cards always just happen to be good. His coworkers are jealous of his published writing career. He makes more money than others in Cooper’s stables. And by the end of the last season, Cosgrove won a coveted promotion over office rival Campbell, all while flirting with secretaries and participating in office hijinks.

The same effortless brand of fate that carries Stanton’s character and his real-life career has helped with matters of his heart, too. In his pre–television star days, he found himself sharing Manhattan with soap opera actress Connie Fletcher, whom he had met while growing up in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Her agent, a mutual friend, suggested the pair reconnect. But their first date (he took her bowling) had to be postponed a few hours as Staton was hit with a last-minute job — a table reading for a new pilot called Mad Men.

Work also got in the way of their December 2006 wedding.

“We did it on a Monday because I was in a play,” Staton says of the 11-person affair, which included family and only one friend each. “We just wanted it intimate. It was more about the marriage than the wedding for us.”

With their first baby — a boy — due in July, it’s apparent that Cosgrove’s skirt chasing, frat boy ways don’t match Staton’s family man mentality.

The young couple — Fletcher is 27 — most enjoy hanging out on the couch of their cozy, Spanish-style home in Studio City, just outside L.A. Their preferred entertainment choice? Tivo, of course.

“We got the expander, so things can stay on there forever now,” he says. Favorite recordings include 30 Rock, Dexter, and Arrested Development, while American Idol, a onetime must-see, has been relegated to the low-priority pile. And once Fletcher hits the hay, Staton stays up until three a.m. playing Call of Duty on his beloved Xbox, much of the time with co-star Sommers, who lives down the street.

Staton could be considered something of a gamer. He’s spent the last six months developing a top-secret video game, the details of which can’t yet be divulged. “We had six weeks of motion capture, and now we’re rolling into the facial capture and voice capture part of it,” he says. “The game is cinematic in a lot of aspects. It will cross the two genres in a way.”

 

Coincidentally, the blogosphere was abuzz last April with news that Lionsgate Entertainment had trademarked the Mad Men moniker for video game use. It’s a safe bet that Staton’s current extracurricular is related.

Staton is also somewhat of an electronics geek who spends his time browsing bestbuy.com and various blogs for details on the latest and greatest cellphones. Despite the fact that his Samsung Alias doesn’t receive e-mails. “But it flips open both ways,” he laughs. “I can’t use my finger to slide things around. But I’m waiting for the phone that just seems perfect.”

Clothes, on the other hand, are not something that Staton cares for. “I’m most comfortable in a T-shirt and jeans,” he says, offering the standard answer of men who don’t like to shop. Levi’s are his dungarees of choice, and sneakers a wardrobe staple, especially since he still nurses a childhood dream for a too-expensive pair of mesh Air Jordan’s. But his basic fashion sense was cause for alarm from Janie Bryant, Mad Men’s superstar stylist who has single-handedly brought back the art of dapper dressing. According to Bryant, a red carpet is no place for jeans, a tie and a collared shirt.

“She said, ‘Aaron, you need to get some suits. Wear a suit and get some dress shoes. This is a classy show.’ ”

Even charmed ones can’t be perfect all the time.

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of ANTENNA.)