By Patch Local Editor Jessie Sawyer.
Mad Men and WNPR fans will be happy to learn of Farmington connections to the AMC hit television series and The Colin McEnroe Show.
Farmington has its own “mad man” in native Michael Gladis, 36, who stars as Madison Avenue advertising man Paul Kinsey in the drama series. Chion Wolf, 33, a producer for The Colin McEnroe Show on public radio station WNPR, also has roots in Farmington.
But the two prominent public figures share a bond that transcends stardom and simply growing up in the same town. They are brother and sister.
Wolf said that very few people know that because of the different last names, as Chion takes the last name of her stepfather. But when you look closely, you can see the resemblance in their eyes, she said.
“People are typically surprised,” Wolf said.
Mad Men is filming its seventh season. While Gladis doesn’t know if we’ll see Paul in the final season, it won’t be the last we see of Gladis on television. He currently lives in Los Angeles and is filming for a new show called Reckless that’s expected to premier on CBS in the New Year. It's set and shot in Charleston, South Carolina.
Gladis has also appeared in films like J. Edgar and other television series like How I Met Your Mother, Revolution, The Mentalist, Leverage, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The Good Wife and Hope & Faith. He also does the voice of Dudley Lynch in video game L.A. Noire.
Her brother’s success comes as no surprise to Wolf, who went to see him in many New York plays every time he got a big role.
“We didn’t know what [Mad Men] was about to become. It was a job,” Wolf said. “When it became what it became…it’s really beautiful to know that my big brother is a part of a cast of TV show that’s going to be remembered in history fondly.”
Naturally, Wolf is a Mad Men fan.
“I’ve watched every episode and I would have watched every episode if he wasn’t on the show,” Wolf said.
She has visited the set and went with Gladis to the Emmy Awards in 2010, the third year that Mad Men was nominated and won for Outstanding Drama Series. She met creator Matthew Weiner and a lot of the major cast members, including Christina Hendricks (Joan), who is good friends with Gladis, and Vincent Kartheiser (Pete), who she said “is one of the funniest people I ever met” in contrast to his “sulky” and sometimes “evil” character.
Wolf said it’s “a really weird thing to see someone you grew up with playing a role on TV” and that she can notice subtle details like how Gladis walks differently as Paul. But every time she sees him on screen, she said she gets a ““big grin on my face and butterflies.”
“He’s one of a kind on a one of a kind show,” Wolf said.
If she could be any character in Mad Men, she said it would probably be Peggy, who rises through the ranks from a secretary to the only female employee in the creative advertising department. Peggy also has a complex character arch.
“The interesting thing about Mad Men is you see how the women are treated…What surprised me most was how the women expected to be treated,” she said. “You can see Peggy go from timid, shy and submissive. Now you see her and she’s still a human being. She’s fallible.”
On the flip side, Gladis admires the variety in Wolf’s work as a radio producer. If he could interview anyone on the air, he’d choose Tom Waits or Steve McQueen.
As a producer, Wolf books guests for The Colin McEnroe Show and pre-interviews them, as well as writes for the website. Wolf also writes some music for the show and calls herself an “editing ninja” when it comes to sound editing. The voiceover work she does gives her the most happiness because she can put on different personas, she said.
“Some days I’m scared for my life and sometimes I’m a tyrant, sometimes I’m unreasonable, sometimes I’m over sensitive,” she said.
Growing Up in Farmington
Gladis and Wolf described Farmington as an enjoyable, beautiful and safe place to grow up that also provided a good education. Gladis was born in Texas, but moved to Unionville with his family at age 5 and Wolf grew up there since she was 2.
Gladis graduated from Farmington High School in 1995, involved in art, theater, chorus and the Madrigal singers there. Before acting became more prominent in his life, Gladis was more focused on the visual arts in high school.
Wolf was in the Class of 1998 at Farmington High School, where she played tuba and clarinet in band and did some theater.
Gladis has been interested in art since he was young. He remembers painting a mural at Union School with one of his best friends, Pete Matos. Gladis often played basketball with Matos and his other friend, Marvin Rowe in elementary school.
“We were kind of like the three musketeers,” he said.
Farmington restaurants George’s Pizza and Naples Pizza – where their brother Paul, now 34, worked at one point – are contenders for Gladis’ favorite hometown pizza. His favorite hangout spot with his friends was “The Tressle” on the abandoned railroad tracks by the Farmington River where Rails to Trails is now.
Both Wolf and Gladis played goalkeeper in the Farmington travel soccer program and during indoor soccer sessions at Oakwood. Gladis also fenced.
Their brother, Paul lives in Madrid, Spain and their other brother, Chris, 39, a “writer” and “thinker,” living in Osaka, Japan, Wolf said.
As the holidays approach, Wolf remembers sitting at the top of the stairs on Christmas with her brothers. When her parents yelled that there were no presents, they’d race down the stairs to see for themselves.
Their mother, Pamela Morisson Wolf, who still lives in Farmington, often took her children on walks, which she found to be a good opportunity to talk.
“Our parents were the best. They're both loving, kind people who encouraged their kids to ‘find their bliss’ and supported us in whatever we felt we wanted to explore - whether that was sports, music, theater, painting, or computer science,” Gladis said. “Unfortunately for them, our paths have taken us to the four corners of the globe, so they don't get to see us much!”
Wolf never forgets her mother’s encouraging saying, “Follow your bliss!”
“I tell people that I was raised in fertile soil with encouragement like that,” Wolf said. “Having three big brothers who were really passionate about the arts (each of us has a strong suit in terms of music, visual arts, acting, etc.) made it even easier to indulge and get better.”
All four of them have taken their mom’s advice to follow their bliss, Wolf said.
“I’m really proud to be in this family,” she said.
Wolf's Path to WNPR
Wolf describes her younger self as the “class clown.” She always wanted to play the drums and has since realized that dream, playing the trashcan bass drum in professional Connecticut-based marching band the Hartford Hot Several. She also plays guitar and writes music.
She briefly attended UConn and worked at a cell phone company. After living in Washington D.C. for a bit, she moved back to Connecticut because she missed family.
Then she met John Dankosky, news director for WNPR, and “started asking 100 questions” about the industry.
“I’m an NPR addict,” she said.
After getting an internship at the station in Hartford, she freelanced there for two years, doing things that made her invaluable like website work, photography, filling in on weekends and doing voiceovers.
When Colin McEnroe started his radio show on WNPR, he hired her as a producer in 2009, which she said was due to “a lot of hard work and really great timing.” It’s a challenging job, she said.
Gladis: From Farmington High School's Stage to Mad Men
Gladis first participated in drama productions at Farmington High School and, when there were male roles, Miss Porter's School – an all-girls private high school in Farmington that coincidentally makes a cameo in the Mad Men storyline. In Season 6, Episode 12, Donald Draper’s daughter, Sally interviews at Miss Porter's.
Gladis moved to New York after high school, studying acting and art in conservatories. He did mostly theater work and experienced the starving artist lifestyle while waiting tables before landing the role as Paul Kinsey in Mad Men.
“He’s sort of a poser and he’s desperate for people’s respect,” said Gladis. “He’s someone who’s desperately seeking some sense of self, some sense of fulfillment. His sense of fulfillment…comes from within, not so much from without.”
For him, his most memorable line is “it’s mohair,” describing his character’s fancy sweater in a scene where his two coworkers want to shove it under the office door to conceal that they’re smoking. The directing team had him do about 50 takes to get the best delivery of the two-word line, exemplifying high attention to detail and a rare moment for a show that normally does scenes in a few takes, according to Gladis.
Another memorable line in his acting career was just one word and that was his first line ever – “Birdie!” – when he debuted as an actor on the Farmington High School stage as a freshman in The Little Foxes.
“And then I got the bug,” he said.
At the time, the theater program at the high school was very small, rotating through various directors with little funding.
“It was fun,” Gladis said. “All the passion and vigor of high school students doing plays, that never changes."
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