BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — A funny thing happened during season six of “Mad Men.”
Conspiracy theories began popping up online about actor James Wolk’s extremely agreeable character Bob Benson.
Some wondered, was he Don Draper’s long, lost, secret son? Surely he must be hiding something! He was just so helpful and perfect-looking.
(Spoiler alert: Benson turned out to have more moxie than viewers originally thought, as he was a fraud who had finagled his way to a job at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.)
Before “Mad Men,” however, Wolk caught the attention of TV journalists in 2010 as the star of the buzzy Fox drama “Lone Star” about a Texas con man living a double life. It was hyped as one of the best new shows that season but was canceled after two low-rated episodes.
“(It was a) crazy experience when that happened,” said Wolk in an interview at this year’s Television Critics Association summer press tour.
“It was a really tough experience ... but one that I’m really thankful for and that I draw a lot of wisdom from. I think that everything happens for a reason.”
He has since continued working steadily in TV on series like “Mad Men,” “Political Animals” and “Happy Endings.”
Now the 28-year-old Farmington Hills, Mich., native is holding his own with Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar on CBS’ comedy “The Crazy Ones,” airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT.
On “The Crazy Ones,” Williams plays an advertising executive working with his daughter, played by Gellar. Wolk plays Zach, one of the ad execs at the firm who the actor describes as “kind of a lothario” and someone who is an “adrenaline junkie” who “loves to pitch.”
In the premiere episode, Williams and Wolk’s characters try to persuade Kelly Clarkson to sing a jingle for McDonald’s. The scene has Robin Williams amped to his zany self, but what stands out is that Wolk is right there with him.
“First of all, James Wolk is a star,” Gellar says of working with Wolk. “Like I said to Robin, ‘It’s great that you’re Robin Williams and you’re great and you’re funny, but Jimmy Wolk is stealing this entire show from you. Like, watch out.’ ”
Wolk says he couldn’t allow himself to get intimidated with Williams.
“When you’re acting with Robin, you really are present,” he said. “You have to be and so when you’re going through the scenes ... it’s just about enjoying it.”
Wolk said one lesson he already has learned from Williams is that “the more you trust yourself and not edit yourself, I think the more an audience can relate to that.”
“People have a barometer for truth,” he said.
Where Wolk does have to watch himself is whether he’ll return for the seventh season of “Mad Men.”
In typical “Mad Men” fashion, he’s sworn to secrecy but thoroughly enjoyed the intrigue surrounding Bob Benson.
“I was hiking in the middle of Kauai, in the middle of nowhere, and this older couple stopped me and they go, ‘Excuse me. Are you Bob Benson?’ So then I was like, ‘OK, this has definitely caught on.’ ”