The Guy Who Played John Sears On “90210” (And Ferg Donnelly On “Mad Men”) Is Just Like John Sears IRL

If you’re a “Mad Men” fan, you’ll recognize the actor above, Paul Johansson, as Ferg Donnelly, one of the McCann Erickson execs from the latter half of the final season. Some people apparently remember Johansson as Dan Scott from “One Tree Hill,” though I never watched that show. But to me, Paul Johansson will always be John Sears, the douchiest shitlord to ever pledge the KEG frat at California University, the fictional college from “Beverly Hills, 90210.” As it turns out, though, long after Sears stopped following Kelly Taylor home and making Steve Sanders’ life hell, Johansson basically made a career out of playing douchey shitlords just like him — his character on “One Tree Hill” is described as “the dad from hell,” while Ferg Donnelly tried to pull the same sexually inappropriate and misogynist crap on Joan Harris as John Sears tried with Kelly on “90210.” But according to a damning account by Buzzfeed Editorial Assistant Susan Cheng, who interviewed him during “Mad Men”‘s PR blitz, nowhere is Johansson more like John Sears than in real life.

Cheng writes that during the course of her interview with Johansson at Buzzfeed’s LA office in late-April, the actor repeatedly made sexually inappropriate remarks to her and to other BF staffers, a couple of which were captured while her tape recorder was rolling. Cheng alleges:

  • During a conversation with a female staffer about how their tennis skills matched up, Johannson told her, “My serve is pretty strong. I’ll serve the ball right down your throat.” Cheng says he then told her co-worker “that he wanted to take her into his cave (apparently a reference to Canada, where he’s from), where he’d put her on her back.”
  • At one point, while mugging for the camera under hot studio lights, Johansson remarked, ““I’m sweating like a rapist.”
  • Cheng says Johansson put his arm around his back twice during their time together, including as they passed a conference room and he remarked, “Do you ever take people in there and make out with them?”

Though she published her interview with Johansson without mentioning how “awkward and inappropriate” his behavior had been, Cheng changed her mind about keeping quiet after speaking with her editor. She writes that she decided not to sweep the issue under the rug, as “his conduct is common in a Hollywood culture that puts young women in positions where they can be easily manipulated or harassed by older men.” She emailed Johansson’s publicist asking for another interview with him, this time to confront him about his behavior towards her, and got a letter from Johansson’s lawyer in response:

In the letter, Johansson’s lawyer, Andrew B. Brettler, defends some of his client’s remarks, and denies others. Brettler does not deny that his client said he would serve tennis balls down my colleague’s throat, but says, “There is nothing sexual or inappropriate about that statement,” adding that categorizing it as such “is absurd.” Brettler also says that Johansson’s cave remark and his “sweating like a rapist” comment — neither of which the actor denies saying in the letter — “were both purposely taken out of context.” Johansson saying he’s “sweating like a rapist” is, however, recorded, despite the fact that Brettler says “there is no recording that substantiates any of [my] defamatory claims.” In the letter, Brettler also says Johansson never touched me “in an inappropriate or sexual manner.”

Kudos to Cheng for bravely speaking out about Johansson’s gross behavior. Here’s hoping casting directors see her piece and realize Johansson’s not so much an actor who plays douchey shitlords, but a douchey shitlord IRL, and blackball him like John Sears was blackballed from KEG house.