There are few things I love more than a new Jon Hamm interview. He’s just so… lovely. So smart, so funny, so nice. It shouldn’t happen this way – a guy this handsome shouldn’t be as sweet as he is. Maybe it’s because he got famous later in life, and maybe it’s because he didn’t have everything handed to him on a silver platter before he was ready for it. All I know is that the man is worthy of a million swoons. Anyway, The Hamm has a new interview in The Daily Mail. He and Elisabeth Moss are promoting the fourth season of Mad Men in England now, because England is only getting the last season now. Most of the interview is stuff The Hamm has already talked about, but there are some good moments. The full piece is here, and here are some of the highlights:
On being one of 11 actors up for the part of Don Draper: ‘I was the complete outsider’, he recalls. ‘They’d said they wanted a sharp, stylish character to just play himself, and I thought I was too much of a nerd — and so did everyone else’.
On being so handsome: ‘I am coming up to my 40th birthday, and I don’t let myself forget that for 15 years after I left school I struggled to make a living. So what’s happening to me now is very nice.’
On his struggles: ‘I’ve been a barman, a waiter, a teacher, and I even helped out on a soft porn movie — as a set dresser, not a performer, I hasten to add — because I’d do everything I could to make enough money to pay the rent. Thank goodness I had some understanding landladies. There are certain dark nights of the soul, when you say: “Good god, I’ve got to get a job”. But there has to be some kind of confidence in every actor that makes them get up in the morning, because it’s an incredibly difficult life to choose, if you don’t have success early. I came out to Hollywood from St Louis when I was 25, which was already late. I found myself immersed in a huge city where thousands of people looked like me. I hoped I would be picked out of this group and I would do what I could to make money. My attitude was that I didn’t want to be this person that just keeps striving for years. It was a scramble, though. At that time, the cool look for guys on TV was to look like a teenager. I have never looked like a teenager. So at 26, I was auditioning to play the father of one!’
On the breakthrough: ‘I decided that if nothing much was happening by the time I was 30, then I’d go and do something else. In the end, I was 28 when the work started coming in regularly. I waited on my last table when I was 29. It still took a long time after that to feel secure, though. I got Mad Men when I was 36, and that was only because the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, who also did The Sopranos, championed me for some reason. I’d read the script, loved the part. Luckily, I’d developed a certain resilience and I’d had so many knock-backs over the years. So it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if I didn’t get it — I’d have simply dried my tears and gone for the next audition.’
On where he is now: ‘Now it’s so nice not to have to worry about how I’m going to pay my bills. And that’s a problem I’ve had for far longer than I haven’t had it. There was a spell when I was struggling, when I was up for some big roles. I was looking at crazy money, and I’d think wow! I wouldn’t have to go everywhere by roller-blade or bus. I’d get so wound up thinking what I could do if I got the part, that I’d forget to learn my lines, so when it came to the audition I’d be an utter failure. Then Mad Men happened and it’s rewarding; it feels like I’ve earned it’.
Basing Don Draper on his father: Hamm’s inspiration for his role, he says, was his father, Dan, who ran the family trucking business. ‘My mother had died of cancer when I was ten. I was 20 and still in college when Dad died. He had diabetes and had been in poor health for some time. That could have unmoored me, taken over my life, but people rallied around me. Dad was smart and fun, but also rather sad. After he died I recall opening his closet and there were 40 suits, every colour. He had two jewellery boxes full of watches and cuff links. He’d been a big shot around town, and was well-connected, but he’d probably been unfulfilled in many ways. And when I was looking through the Mad Men script for clues to Don Draper’s character, I realised that my Dad was that guy. On the exterior, he’s got everything under control. But inside, he’s desperately dancing to keep up’.
Jon Hamm on the sexual politics of Mad Men: ‘Men ruled the roost and women played a subservient role [in the 1960s]. Working wives were a rarity, because their place was in the home, bringing up the kids. The women who did work were treated as second class citizens, because it was a male-dominated society. That was a fact of life then. But it wouldn’t be tolerated today, and that’s quite right in my book. Everyone smoked and drank all day. There were no rules, no health concerns, no political correctness. People look back on those days through a thick veil of nostalgia, but life was hard if you were anything other than a rich, powerful, white male. The show is a curious phenomenon, I suppose, given my character’s moral turpitude. People like to watch other people doing this, relieved that they don’t have to deal with the consequences — there is a vicarious thrill. It is exciting, watching people do bad things, and they kind of root for them to get away with it. All Mad Men is doing is reflecting those times, but for some reason a chord has been struck with the viewers. I’ve never treated any women as badly as Don Draper treats them, with his lies, his affairs, his sexism and chauvinism, and I’d hate anyone to think I was like him’.
On marriage: ‘Marriage doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s more for their families than for the two partners, so I’m not gravitating towards it. I’m very loyal, I’ve never strayed, and never wanted to. I don’t need to be married, because I feel married.’
Elisabeth Moss on Draper/Hamm. ‘Don’s prehistoric, but Jon is a very modern man’, she tells me. ‘He’s polite, chivalrous, opens doors for me, even brings coffee for me off set, and I get very much spoilt by him’.
There is speculation that a major affair between Don and Peggy is being written into future episodes of Mad Men. If this is true, neither is saying directly.
‘It’s a very easy path to take,’ says Elisabeth, ‘but I think their relationship is more interesting because they haven’t fallen into bed.’
Says Hamm, ‘An affair? Huh! Even Don Draper has standards.’ And then he realises what he’s saying. ‘Oh no, he doesn’t — that’s the point of him.’
[From The Daily Mail]
Sigh… he’s never strayed, he abhors chauvinism and he’s so, so pretty. Can Jon Hamm be any more perfect? Oh, I really hope Peggy and Don don’t have an affair. They’re so much better as-is, which is some kind of strange father/daughter, mentor/mentee, BFF, sexual tension-filled, soul mate thing.
By the way, Gawker had an interesting piece yesterday – they excerpted a television critic’s anti-Mad Men piece, and asked “How Can Someone Hate Mad Men?” Seriously, I want to know! How can someone hate Mad Men?!?
Photos courtesy of WENN.