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Interview with Kevin Rahm

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To take a bit of the sting out of the series finale of Madam Secretary (the episode was brilliant - review coming soon), I was delighted to be able to interview Kevin Rahm about his time as Mike B on this series that will be sorely missed. The finale was everything that the series was – great writing, great acting, satisfying political commentary. The dedicated fan base – of both the show and Kevin Rahm – is clear in that I was able to conduct this interview relying almost entirely on fan questions! So let’s dive in – as always Kevin’s answers are preceded by KR and questions by Q. And don't forget to check out the link below to Kevin's Golf Tournament in support of St Jude Children's Hospital below...

Q: Do you think that there is a possibility of a potential movie, can we have the Madam President spin off? Do you think there is any possibility that we’ll see more in the future?

KR: You know, it was funny. The first three episodes of these last ten that seemed like there was rumor and talk of that being a possibility, and then that quickly went away. And then I felt like there was weird rumor and talk of maybe a Mike B thing? But it was just that. It was all talk. I would gladly play that character for the next ten years.

Aside: YES PLEASE!!! A Mike B spin off really, really needs to happen!

KR: It’s one of the most well-written and written to me characters that I’ve ever played, and I had a blast doing it. But there’s no official… Barbara (Hall) just sold two pilots that are nothing to do with this, and she’s working on those now. And I know Tea was ready for a break. She was very much ready to take a break. I talked about it with Zeljko (Ivanek) and Erich (Bergen) and the three of us would gladly do a sitcom together. But as far as another spin off of Madam, I don’t know. But I’m for it personally.

Aside: YES PLEASE!!! I want this sitcom to happen too!

Q: I would love to see a Mike B show – that would be amazing!

KR: I was trying to pitch to them, but he’s one of those characters that you don’t need him all the time… To carry a show, I think it might be a bit much unless you put him around a bunch of people that just annoyed him. Because he’s the sounding board I felt on that show.

Q: But that opens up all kinds of possibilities… let me pitch to you. You could have all kinds of miniseries where Mike B swoops in and Mike B goes to do “this” and highlight a particular issue. There’s so many things you could do with that!

KR: I’m with you. Do you have your Writer’s Guild card? Do you want to start writing something?
Aside: I don’t – but I’m happy for someone to “steal” this idea and run with it!

Q: One of the problems of doing something in the future is getting everyone back together again and having people available…

KR: Right.

Q: But there’s so much happening now with all the streaming networks (services) now too. I mean, it doesn’t have to be CBS… Do you have a sense of how many people are going on to different things? Is there anything about that that you can share?

KR: I know for sure that Bergen does not have a job. (laughter) That’s a joke! As we were leaving, of course, that’s the conversation the last couple of weeks. For as long as I’ve been doing it, there’s always that sense of maybe this is the last one. There was a lot of conversation about that the last couple of weeks, and as far as I know, no one had anything set in stone. Everyone on that show is so talented. And that was Bergen’s first big job, but he’s going to work again. Zeljko is going to work again. I feel like I can get another job. Tea, I’m sure, will be fending off offers, same with Tim (Daly). I mean everyone on that show is going to go work, so that’s the dilemma – to get everyone together. That would be a tough thing.

Q: I think the way the industry’s going. Towards the streaming shows, which generally have a shorter run, like ten episodes, I think that opens things up.

KR: Yes. It does a lot. I’ve been very lucky the last three years while I was doing Lethal Weapon that the timing worked out that I could still go and do a couple of Madams a year. And we were doing 15 to 20 episodes a year, but when you’re doing ten like that, there’s a lot of room.

Q: Maryanne Surber asks what is your next project, but I think you’ve already answered that.

KR: Yes. The next project is finding the next job.

Q: With the change in the industry, traditionally, January would be Pilot season, but is that still the case?

KR: It’s still the case for network television. Everything starts up middle of January and goes til March as far as all the network shows. But what has slowly happened over the last five years is that… I had a meeting two weeks ago for an HBO show that they’re shooting early January that has not been decided yet. The season is longer, but there’s still a mini what they call Pilot season, January, February, March. And my plan is that I’ll be in LA most of that time, looking for the next gig.

Q: Let’s head to the fan questions. Susan A Cassidy asked “Was there one favorite thing you took from the set?”

KR: Oh. You know, it’s funny. Bergen and I were going around the set looking, and I got my chair back with Mike B on it which I like, but there was nothing… we were looking around for like a week and a half and we kept joking about who was going to take the resolute desk, but evidently that had already been sold to another show about the President. I didn’t take anything from the show. I was trying to get, if you remember this season when I’m in the first episode when I am her Chief of Staff, there is a very large painting of Gordon? That’s the only thing on the walls. And I have an email out to find out where that is. And then I would have to put that in my apartment in LA because I don’t think there’s any place my wife would let me put that in our house in Sacramento.

Q: We should then go to the dog questions – obviously! Alyssa Whittemore asked “What was working so closely with a dog on set like?”

KR: Allie played Gordon and she was a lovely animal. But any time you work with an animal it’s not fun. You can’t train a dog to do what you’re going to ask them to do daily on a tv show. No dog is trained like that because you’re going to have them do something different every time. Today we want you to run into the room and jump up on the couch and look from me to Tea, from me to Tea. There’s a great outtake somewhere of Tea and I saying cookie to each other, back and forth, trying to get Allie to turn her head like a tennis match? She was lovely. Her trainers were lovely, but it’s always tough working with an animal.

Q: And following up on that Beth Barlett asked do you actually have a close relationship with a dog?

KR: I did actually. One of the things I did, I did it with Allie and I did it with the dog that played the first dog this season, whenever the trainer would come, I always found it easier, because the dog is looking for alpha, they’re looking for the person in charge, and the trainer is always the person in charge. So the more their trainer is there, the less they’re listening to me. So I would always try to take extra time with that dog and try to just be with them for the day as much as I could, obviously. And I found that some dogs work really well with their trainer right there. They’re so focused and they will do whatever the trainer says, but sometimes they’re so focused on their trainer that they won’t do what I need them to do or what we need them to do, and you have to figure out which dog that is and then either have their trainer close or not close at all. The problem with working with dogs is that I just want to lay down and pet them and that doesn’t always work in the scene! (laughter)

Q: It really came through in Mike B’s really close relationship with Gordon and that was the first thing that attracted me to your character.

KR: I think it was a really smart thing for the writers to do to give him that humanity. Because that was the only place that we saw him with any humanity early on. He was just such the Dark Prince of K Street until we saw him with the dog. And I liked that a lot too.

Q: Sharron Michele Crockett asked “What was the best thing about becoming a regular on the show?”

KR: Consistency. I loved working on that show. I loved working with everyone in the cast. I loved what they wrote for me. I felt like it allowed them to use me more. Just the consistency of being around the people and working with them. They made it very easy on me. They accepted me with open arms from day one, season one when I showed up. But just having the consistency of working with those people and the writers working with you more, it’s more intimate and it’s more fun.

Q: From Kristin Davis, “what was the funniest thing that happened on set?”

KR: The funniest thing… Well, first of all, we guffawed every day on that show. There was at least one point and usually multiple times a day when we’d just bust up laughing. I’m trying to think of one in particular. There was one great moment where Allie, who played Gordon, she’s such a good dog and she was being so good, and there was one take… it might have been the first episode in season one when I showed up with her off leash, and Erich’s freaking out that (a) I have a dog off leash and (b) that I’m just walking into her office. And there was one take, there was that big road next to Erich’s desk out front, and she just did two circles and squatted and started peeing! And we just started laughing. It was the funniest thing in the world.

On Erich’s Instagram, if you go back and find it, this season, we were shooting the flashback of the night when Tea had won the Presidency, and Erich figured out he couldn’t say Arnold Palmer. He just couldn’t say it, and we were videoing him trying to say Arnold Palmer and dying laughing. But something like that happened every day. We had a blast working with one another. Eric Stoltz is a crazy person – in the best way possible, and he was funny. And Tea had jokes for days. And what was really fun for me this season, was that Zeljko opened up and started playing along in a fun way. He’s just so not who that character is that it’s amazing when you see him come out of that. It was like that every day.

And... here's the link to Erich's Instagram!

Q: And it really came through in the performances.

KR: They built relationships. Those relationships you saw were based off the time that we spent together because that becomes your family. I spent more time with them from July to November than I did with my own family because we live in California and we were shooting in New York. That becomes your family away from home.

Q: Sandra Zuco Buitrago asks “What will you miss the most about the show?”

KR: Seeing the people every day. Hanging out with them. And part of that hanging out was we had fun doing the work. Part of the joy was that the writers would give us this great script and then we got to go and bring it to life. And every day, every scene that group of people was excited to bring the most the could of themselves to those roles and make it as good as possible. That’s always fun. That’s why we all started doing what we’re doing and to be with a group of people that took that seriously and wanted to work hard and also laugh while they were doing it that’s part that I’ll miss the most.

Q: Becky Raymond asks “Was it easy for you to be that snarky and smart-ass all the time?”

KR: That comes naturally. (laughter) Barbara Hall and I worked together for three years on a show called Judging Amy that she created, and I showed up in season three and did three seasons and then we became friends and we’ve been friends ever since, so she wrote the part for me. So she knows who I am and knows my sense of humor, so that was very much written in her version of my voice. So it was not only easy, it was joyful.

Q: You really did get most of the best lines.

KR: I was just saying that one of my favorites of all time was just in the very last episode when she says I’ve been thinking about the ERA, and my response is have you also been thinking about mood rings and Supertramp? Every episode I had at least one of those, and every time I read it, it would give me a big old grin on my face, and I would have a joyous time trying to make it work.

Q: Michael Evans-Layng asks “At what point do you feel there was a turnaround in Mike B’s cynicism… at least with regard to Elizabeth?

KR: I would argue that he was never cynical toward her personally. That’s one of the things that I liked about their relationship. What I liked about the character and I felt was good for the show was that other than her husband, and even her husband, he was the only one that could say no to her. He was the only one that could call her out because he didn’t work for her for the longest time. He was her confidante and because they’d been friends for so long, they had a previous relationship that he was the only one who could call her out. And I feel like, I never felt like he was cynical towards her, but I feel like once he started working for her in the administration, the relationship changed in a different way because then he’s working for the President. There has to be a pull back. There’s a great in the first episode where he repeatedly calls her different things until he gets to President, Madam President, because there’s something about the office that you have to respect outside of your friendship with the person.

Q: That was a really great distinction between Mike B and Russell and how Russell struggled when he came in to take over.

KR: I felt like the writers leaned into that in a good way. She had a great moment. I feel like one of the things Barbara was doing was teaching us how it would be with a female President. It’s been a man’s job for so long that there would be something that would be different. One of the things is treat me like a President, not like a woman President. That’s one of the things she kept coming back to. And I felt like that struggle with Russell Jackson, that struggle with her relationship with Mike felt like it was an interesting thing to watch these last ten episodes.

Q: I really loved the way the show handled that aspect of the season. Back to the questions, Tonya Lindsey asks “When you auditioned for theatre, did you have a ‘go to’ song that you would sing if a song was required?”

KR: I never once have auditioned for a musical. So, the answer is no. I don’t have a go to song. I do have a couple of karaoke songs though! Karaoke songs would be David Bowie “Let’s Dance.” I have a couple of friends we do a Beastie Boys together. “Road House Blues,” “Sweet Home Alabama.” Those are some of the few. Ironically, “Sweet Home Alabama” because I’m an old Tigers fan. Number one in the country. Beat Alabama this year – just a side note…

Q: And Tonya also asks if you could use one word to describe Mike B and Blake’s relationship, what would it be…

KR: Tenuous.

Q: And if you could use one word to describe Kevin and Erich’s relationship what would that be?

KR: Joyful.

Q: Just a couple more questions. Did anyone find that there was any backlash from the politics on the show? Did you get push back on that at all?

KR: You know, mostly I didn’t. Depending on which side of the aisle you’re on, there were people who felt like it got too left or too right, but I felt like that’s more of a projection. When I would hear that, I felt like for the most part both sides of the aisle appreciated seeing them walk that line. I’d hear a little bit every once in a while, but for the most part, things that people would say to me, it was about how much they enjoyed the way they were handling it. So, I didn’t get a lot of that.

Q: And finally, I know that you are involved with an event for St Jude’s. Could you tell us a little more about that?

KR: I absolutely can. I’m actually at my buddy, Clarke Rheney’s house right now and he runs the tournament, it’s from his mind that we come and from passion for the tournament in Palm Springs. They’re on their 10th year. This will be our second year, and we’re in St Augustine, Florida. It’s May 28, 29, and 30th this year coming up, 2020, and it’s four days of music and fun and golf at the Renaissance Golf Village down there in St Augustine, Florida. And every dollar that comes to us goes straight to St Jude’s. We don’t even take a dollar. It all goes straight to St Jude’s.

Here’s the link to The Rahm Celebrity Golf Tournament.

KR: You can see pictures from last year, you can see the schedules, the celebrities. I think Song Writers’ Night is set for who we have this year. On the first night we have Song Writers’ Night, so you have four song writers from Nashville, who have all written multiple number one hits, and they get up, and they tell the story of writing the song and then do an acoustic version of the song. The next night we have the Pairings Party and the Jam Session. We have the band Sixwire, which is one of the best bands in the country. We have rock ‘n roll hall of famers get up and do two or three songs each. And then the next day we play golf and then that night we have the Soiree, and everyone raises the paddle for St Jude’s Child Hospital and we have amazing live auction items. And then that night, there’s another music event with the same bands and some of the people from the night before, and then they also let yahoos like me get up and do a song or two.

And then we play golf again on Sunday, and then we reveal how much we’ve raised for the Hospital. Last year, was our first year, Clark’s goal was $500,000. My goal was to make sure that none of my friends from California got arrested in Florida. So my goal was reached – no one got arrested (laughter), and we way surpassed our goal. We raised $750,000 last year on year one. And Patrick’s tournament, they’ve raised well over $10 million over 10 years - $12 million – and this will be their 10th year. And they’ve been breaking the $2 million mark for the last three years in a row.

Q: Thank you so much for your time. As a final questions, it there anything that you’d like to say to the Madam Secretary fans?

KR: Just gratitude. These shows don’t last unless someone’s watching them, and someone’s excited about watching them, and people being supportive online. Those things all go a very long way. For the most part, these network shows live off of their advertising and for advertising dollars you have to have people watching the show and have the people online who support it and are showing gratitude for it. Without the fans, you’re screaming into the void, so I’m really, really grateful for the people who watch the show and appreciate the show. And we love what we do, but half of what we do is dependent upon how it’s received. And as much as we love doing it, it’s even more fun when it’s well received and people are enjoying it. So, thank you.

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