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Pete Campbell

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Pete Campbell

Pete Campbell
Mad Men character
Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell.
First appearance "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (1.01)
Created by Matthew Weiner
Portrayed by Vincent Kartheiser
Nickname(s) "Pete"
Occupation Account Executive, Partner: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce
Account Executive
Co-Head of Accounts: Sterling Cooper
Family Andrew Campbell (deceased father)
Dorothy Dyckman-Campbell (deceased mother)
Spouse(s) Trudy Campbell (wife)
Children A son (with Peggy Olson)
Tammy Campbell (with Trudy)
Romances Peggy Olson (ex-lover)
Beth Dawes (lover)

Peter Dyckman "Pete" Campbell (born February 28, 1934) is a fictional character on AMC's television series Mad Men. He is portrayed by Vincent Kartheiser.


In the show's backstory, Pete Campbell was born in New York City to an upper class WASP family. In the show's pilot episode, he has just turned 26. His mother, Dorothy Dyckman Campbell, is a fictional descendant of the Dyckman family , owners of most of upper Manhattan prior to 1929. Pete's grandfather lost most of his property in the stock market crash of 1929, and his father Andrew Campbell eventually squanders the remainder of the family fortune before his death, yet Pete's upbringing is in line with many children of his social status. As a youth he attends The Buckley School and Deerfield Academy and spends summers at his parents' estate on Fishers Island, as well as at exclusive country clubs in the Hamptons and Newport.[1] Pete was in Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity during his college years at Dartmouth College that had a rivalry with Psi Upsilon.

In the show Pete has a strained relationship with his parents, who are emotionally distant and who disapprove of their son's decision to go into advertising. In Season Two, after his father dies in a plane crash over Jamaica Bay, Pete is unable to cry. Upon their father's death, Pete's older brother Bud examines their father's finances in relation to their inheritance from the family trust. Bud discovers that their father depleted the money put into the trust through years of a lavish lifestyle. When Bud tells Pete the news, they both seem unsurprised by their father's actions. Following this, Pete states that he in fact hated his father.

Later in Season Two, Pete reveals that he also hates his mother. Bud also resents his parents, but is treated and regarded by both parents as the favored son. Displaying a mutual resentment of their mother, Bud and Pete reminisce over Alfred Hitchcock's film Rope, loosely based on the story of Leopold and Loeb. When Pete's mother suggests that any possibility of Pete and his wife Trudy adopting a child would be unacceptable and lead to his being disinherited, Pete retaliates by telling her that their life savings have been squandered by his father. This originally was intended as a secret that Pete and Bud meant to keep from her. In Season six, when Pete's mother is forced to live with him in his apartment, he takes pleasure in exploiting her developing Alzheimer's disease to control her.

In the first season, Pete often expresses a desire to be treated seriously in business and displays a genuine knack for it but is unwilling to put in work and seems overly willing to get by on his family name. He can also appear spiteful and cold to people he feels have mistreated him in some way.

At Sterling Cooper

Pete is an account executive at Sterling Cooper until December 1963, when he leaves to join Don Draper's new firm. His position at Sterling Cooper entails not only arranging meetings with clients, but also wining and dining them (and occasionally, arranging meetings for them with prostitutes). Early in the show, he appears to be unsatisfied with his position and would rather work on the creative end. To this end, he attempts to undermine Draper several times by pitching his own copy to clients. One of these occurrences nearly gets him fired, but after it becomes clear that he was hired based solely on his family heritage, he is allowed to remain at his post.

In early seasons, Pete's relationship with Draper is a confused one, as he seems to look upon Don as both a mentor and an obstacle. Don is often the first person he comes to in the office for advice, but he will not hesitate to betray or undermine Don in order to achieve his goals. During Season One, Pete is in Draper's office after Draper has left for the day when a package is delivered. Pete takes the package, which is from Draper's brother, Adam, and reveals that Don Draper is, in fact, not his real name. Pete uses this information to blackmail Draper into giving him the position of Head of Accounts, but this fails when Draper calls his bluff, and, when informed of Draper's real identity, Bertram Cooper coldly replies that he doesn't care. In the following season, Pete appears to have grown much more loyal to Don, giving him prior warning of Duck Phillips' attempt to take over the firm. In season 4, Don forces Pete to drop North American Aviation, a major account, after they begin to investigate the background of members of Sterling Cooper, for fear they will find out about his real identity. Pete bitterly acquiesces. Later in the season, when the new agency is struggling financially, Don puts up Pete's $50,000, which, as a partner, he is obliged to contribute to keep the agency afloat. In season Five, Don grows concerned that Pete is growing unhappy in his marriage and spending time at brothels. He offers him advice, which Pete rejects.

At the beginning of Season Three, Pete is promoted to Head of Accounts by the new British management. He is overjoyed until he discovers that he is actually a "co-head" of the department, sharing the position with Ken Cosgrove. Pete becomes enraged and lashes out at Cosgrove, despite the fact that it is clear that the new management intends to play the two off each other. Around this time, Pete begins to develop advanced views on racial matters. At one point he is sternly rebuked by Roger Sterling and Bert Cooper for suggesting that African Americans be studied as a demographic. On the other hand, Don Draper cites Pete's interest in minority marketing when he presents the younger man with a new opportunity.

Pete later joins the new agency formed by Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Lane Pryce, with the understanding that he is to become a partner, bringing his clients with him to their new company.

Views on race

It is hinted at several times in the show that Pete is supportive of civil rights. In "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword", when Bert asks why Black Americans are still pushing for rights, Pete quips "Because Lassie can stay at the Waldorf and they (blacks) can't." In "My Old Kentucky Home," he is the only person besides Don and Ms. Smith who is uncomfortable with Roger's blackface, and it is apparent that Don's disapproval has more to do with his belief Roger is making a fool of himself than with racial insensitivity. In "The Fog," he doesn't understand the problem with "the negro market," and informs Hollis, the black elevator operator, that he is not a bigot. In the second part of the fifth season premiere, Pete pushes the executives to hire the black applicants. In "The Flood," Pete erupts at Harry for perceived racism and apathy towards the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. However, at this time, Pete was also stressed because of his marital situation.

Marriage and relationships

Pete marries Trudy Vogel (portrayed by actress Alison Brie), a young woman from a nouveau riche family, in March 1960. It is implied that Pete does not know her very well before he marries her; after their honeymoon, he tells his coworkers that she is much funnier than he imagined her to be.[2] The two purchase an apartment on Park Avenue in New York City's Upper East Side. Pete's parents refuse to help the couple pay for the apartment, but Trudy's parents eventually pitch in, much to Pete's discomfort. Trudy's parents also begin to pressure the couple to begin trying to have a baby, something Pete is reluctant to do.

After 18 months of trying to conceive, the two attend a fertility clinic, where it is discovered that Trudy has fertility problems. Trudy and her parents pressure Pete to look into adoption. Pete is at first uncomfortable with the idea, but agrees to think about it, and mentions this to his brother. Bud tells their mother, who disapproves completely, stating that people of Pete's social status should not be picking from "discards."[3] When Pete finds out that Trudy has put their name on a list to meet with a prominent local adoption agency, he shouts at her, throws the dinner she cooked off their balcony, and declares that they are absolutely not going to adopt.[4] This leads to a rift in the marriage. Trudy decides to stay at her parents' house during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Pete refuses to go with her, stating that if he is going to die, he wants to die in Manhattan.

What Pete and his mother did not know is that Pete has already fathered a child with his co-worker Peggy Olson (portrayed by actress Elisabeth Moss). Pete initially met Peggy on her first day as Don Draper's new secretary, in March 1960. A lower middle class Catholic from Brooklyn, Peggy tells Pete that she has just graduated from Miss Deaver's Secretarial School. Pete makes rude comments about her dowdy appearance, for which Draper scolds him. Later that night, however, after his bachelor party, Pete shows up at Peggy's apartment drunk. Despite his offensive remarks earlier that day, the two sleep together. Months later, Peggy and Pete again have a sexual encounter on Pete's office couch, early in the morning before the other employees arrive. Though Peggy begins to arrive early for work regularly, the two have no further sexual liaisons. During the Season One finale, it is revealed that Peggy — who has put on a considerable amount of weight over the course of the season — is in labor with Pete's child. She gives birth to a boy.

Early in Season 2 (episode 6, "Maidenform") Peter meets Susie (portrayed by actress Sarah Wright) after a casting call for Playtex and they talk in the elevator. Much to Pete's surprise, she lives with her mother but that doesn't stop them from sleeping together. Peter then goes home and seems to feel very accomplished. During the Season Two finale, when everyone in the office has left for the day, Pete asks Peggy to come sit down with him. Pete tells Peggy that he thinks she is "perfect," and then confesses that he is in love with her and wishes that he had married her. This declaration prompts Peggy to finally admit that she had his baby and gave it away two years before. After Peggy reveals this, Pete sits in shock. Pete is last seen sitting alone in his dark office, holding a rifle on his lap. It is the same rifle he bought on store credit in Season One, when he returned a ceramic chip-and-dip he and Trudy received as a wedding gift.

At the start of Season 3, which takes place about six months later, Pete and Trudy seem much closer: he immediately calls her when he discovers he is to be promoted, and there is no mention of adoption. They seem like a very happy couple doing the Charleston dance at Roger Sterling's garden party, and Harry Crane's wife is jealous of them. When Trudy goes out of town weeks later, though, Pete feels very lonely and pressures his neighbor's young German au pair into sleeping with him; due to acting choices this was portrayed as rape, though actor Vincent Kartheiser said it was more ambiguous in the script.[5] The man she works for comes over to confront Pete in their apartment. When Trudy kisses Pete after returning home, Pete is noticeably distraught, and he later tells Trudy, "I don't want you to go away anymore without me."

By the end of Season 3, it is apparent that some form of fence-mending has taken place between Pete and his father-in-law (revealed in Season Four to be Trudy's doing) as he is able to bring the Clearasil account to the newly formed firm of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Pryce. This is an account Pete had previously lost for Sterling Cooper due to his refusing to consider adoption, thus upsetting his wife and angering his father-in-law. In Season Four, Clearasil is dropped by the agency because of a conflict with another account, but Pete is able to manipulate his father-in-law into giving him several larger accounts from that company.

In the Season 4 episode "The Rejected," Pete finds out that Trudy is pregnant, much to his delight. Trudy gives birth in the eleventh episode of the season to their daughter Tamsin Vogel Campbell, known as "Tammy" (an obvious gesture to his father-in-law).

In the early years of their marriage, Pete had trouble reconciling his own ambitions with that of his wife's. Pete was a domineering husband, such as when he scolded his wife for signing up for an adoption agency without his permission. Also, he was angry at Trudy for not sleeping with her ex-beau, who, now a publishing executive, could have gotten a story Pete published in a prestigious publication. Pete engaged in at least three extramarital affairs in the first years of their marriage. However, after being caught by a neighbor, Pete confesses his infidelity to Trudy. After a short period of tension their marriage seemed to improve, something that aligned with a corresponding improvement in Pete's work status. However, in seasons four and five, Pete seemed to lose his dominance in the relationship, such as when Trudy "forbids" him to give their money to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

By the start of Season 5, Pete and Trudy have moved with their baby daughter to a new home in Cos Cob, a village in the affluent commuter city of Greenwich, CT, which sits on the New Haven Line. Having never learned to drive, Pete commutes by rail to the city. By July 1966 he has enrolled in a driver education course in order to gain a license. Living in Greenwich has a negative effect on the Manhattan-raised Pete, who begins to feel restless in his marriage, homelife and career. He begins an affair with Beth Dawes (portrayed by actress Alexis Bledel), the unhappy wife of a co-commuter, which ends after she has a round of electroshock therapy to cure her undiagnosed depression and, as a result, forgets who he is.

In the season 6 episode "The Collaborators", Pete indulges in a fling with a neighborhood woman, whose husband finds out resulting in the woman being beaten up at the Campbell's doorway. As a result, Trudy tells Pete she knew all along about his casual philandering and whoring, and therefore let him have a bachelor pad in Manhattan, so he would have his affairs there, and not in their home turf. She throws him out, although she refuses to divorce, deeming such thing as acknowledging failure. However, in a later episode, "For Immediate Release" Pete loses his father-in-law's account after they run into each other at a brothel. In revenge, Pete tells Trudy what he saw and she makes it plain she doesn't believe him and wouldn't care if he was telling the truth, after which she tells him that they're done and to get his things. He does so and in the season 6 finale he comes by to get a few things, as he is driving out west to open up a new branch of the agency in California; he offers a sincere apology to Trudy, who accepts and lets him say goodbye to his daughter. However, when he makes a visit to NYC in Season 7, his child does not recognize him and seems scared by his presence. Pete later hypocritically accuses Trudy of being a bad parent when she stays out late on a date, after which Trudy coldly tells Pete "you're not part of this family anymore." Pete reacts by pushing the bottle of beer he was drinking into a cake Trudy had baked and walks out the house without further comment.


  1. ^ "Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell". 
  2. ^ Nussbaum, Emily (July 24, 2008). "Emily Nussbaum on Pete and his Poignant Crumminess". 
  3. ^ "The Inheritance". Mad Men. Season 2. Episode 10. 2008-10-05. AMC.
  4. ^ "The Mountain King". Mad Men. Season 2. Episode 12. 2008-10-19. AMC.
  5. ^ By: movieline (2010-11-08). "Pete Campbell ‘Not a Rapist,’ Says Pete Campbell". Movieline. Retrieved 2011-12-27. 

External links

  • Pete Campbell at
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