Slight spoilers below for the first two episodes of HBO’s Run.
- Ruby’s (Merritt Wever) husband Laurence has only appeared on Run thus far through phone calls, answering machine messages, and on laptop and phone screens.
- In just those quick glimpses he probably looks and sounds familiar.
- The actor who plays him, Rich Sommer, was a regular throughout the run of Mad Men, and has had a number of memorable TV and movie roles.
HBO’s Run has a very clear premise: two former lovers get in contact after a long time to drop everything and get on a cross-country train ride together. What any TV fan could probably tell is that things wouldn’t be that simple. While it seemed like things might just focus on Ruby (Merritt Wever) and Billy (Domhnall Gleeson), it was always going to get a little messy. Case in point? Well, first thing’s first: Ruby has a husband, and he’s figuring out that something is up. And while that husband has only appeared thus far through phone calls, answering machine messages, and photos on phone and laptop screens, he probably looks familiar. That’s because he’s played by TV veteran Rich Sommer, best known for his role on Mad Men as the obnoxious Harry Crane.
Sommer is the kind of actor who you probably don’t know by name, but almost certainly recognize. You’ve seen him in at least a few things. Most prominent of those things, of course, is his role in Mad Men, where he was a series regular for all seven seasons as the universally unlikeable Harry Crane. While Harry starts the series as something of a timid underling, as he rises the advertising industry ranks he becomes a pompous, power-hungry, and sexist jerk.
That character trait has been a familiar one for Sommer in a number of his roles; his recurring role in Netflix’s GLOW opens with him cheating on his wife (Betty Gilpin) with her best friend (Alison Brie), and in his small role on The Office, he encourages art school classmate Pam (Jenna Fischer) to remain in New York rather than return to the gang in Scranton. Sommer found similar roles in movies like The Devil Wears Prada (where he played an obnoxious friend of Anne Hathaway’s) and the two Wet Hot American Summer Netflix series (where he played a country club jerk).
In Run, his character, Laurence, seems to be something of the opposite of the rest of those characters. In fact, he seems like one of those over-the-top nice guys, so much so that it makes Billy—who clearly is having some trouble in his own life—uncomfortable. When Billy finds Ruby’s phone in the first episode, that’s his first hint that she’s got more going on—she sees Laurence and a couple kids in Ruby’s phone background. His curiosity gets the best of him, and by episode two he’s looking Laurence up online.
When Billy finds him online—he works in Tech—that leads to Facebook stalking. Laurence seems like a great guy: working at a soup kitchen, taking photos with Ruby and their kids, playing as part of a ukelele orchestra (!). He seems like a great guy, and Billy can’t bear to look.
But by the end of the episode, Laurence has clearly realized that something is up, and does something brash. When Ruby calls her home, he’s changed their answering machine. “If you’re looking for Ruby, she ran out on her family yesterday,” he says. “We don’t know where she is, why she left, or when she’s coming back! Have a great day.” In a way, it makes sense. She did just run out on them. But putting Ruby on blast after just a day seems… a little brash, doesn’t it?
We’ll see what happens as Run continues its first season on HBO. But if Fleabag and the first season of Killing Eve are any indication (the last series that Run executive producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge worked on), there could be quite a few more twists and turns for all of our characters, and that doesn’t only include Ruby and Billy, but Laurence too—even if he never appears on screen.