As the Mad Man with the ad plans, Jon Hamm's making the '60s sexy again playing Don Draper, the Sterling Cooper Agency's charismatic yet mysterious head of creative, in AMC's Mad Men (Thursdays at 10pm/ET). While Don still has a few secrets from his past to deal with, Jon shared a few of his own with us.
TV Guide: What do you find most compelling about the show?
Jon Hamm: It's unlike anything else out there right now. It's ostensibly about something and yet it's really about something else. The show is set in the world of advertising and the world of the 1960s, but it's really about this guy and happiness and American culture and all of these other things. This is a show that's set in a world and in a time where it looks like everybody has everything. How could you not be happy? You're literally at the top of the world, and yet, these people are sort of profoundly disconnected and profoundly unhappy.
TV Guide: Why is that?
Hamm: All of these people are reaching for something and trying to find connection and happiness in their lives and in their work. And they kind of keep missing. I think that's resonating, at least in our time now. We're an incredibly happy country, and yet there is a kind of profound disconnect, and I think that's what people are queuing into. It [also] doesn't hurt that it's really sexy and really cool to look at.
TV Guide: Why'd you audition for Mad Men?
Hamm: What attracted me to it originally was the pilot script. I looked at it and read it and immediately responded to it. I thought it was fantastic and just this really cool, complicated, layered performance. Of course, I [also] thought, "Well, I'll never get it. They'll give it to some movie star." And they didn't. They gave it to me.
TV Guide: You've had some TV roles before, but never anything this big.
Hamm: It's definitely nerve-racking to be the center of attention. I'm not the kind of an actor that just craves attention 24-7 — but it's part of the deal. You're the leader on the set.
TV Guide: Are you anything like Don?
Hamm: I suppose there's a lot of him in me. The idea of where's my next idea coming from? Am I a fraud? Are my best days behind me? All that anxiety is very much there in my own sensibility. But again, as a person in the world, you work through that or you wither. So while I certainly have a lot of that, it is manageable in my world because I'm mature enough and comfortable enough in my own skin to deal with it.
TV Guide: Are you really a smoker?
Hamm: I was at one point in my life, not so much anymore.
TV Guide: So does it bug you how much smoking there is in the show?
Hamm: It's part of the time, so if you didn't have it, it would literally be like shooting something on the moon without wearing space suits. You can't not have people smoking. People smoked nonstop. It was cool, it was healthy, it was everything that the ads said it was.
TV Guide: Is there a generational gap, then, with the viewers?
Hamm: It's so bizarre. If you take a 20-year-old and you show him this world, he'll look at it like it's Mars, literally like it's some kind of foreign environment that could never have existed. And yet, you take the same show and you put it in front of somebody 20 years older than that person, they get it immediately and realize, yeah, this is exactly how it was. It is an interesting show on many levels to different generations.
TV Guide: Did you have to do much research to get into Don's head?
Hamm: I didn't have to look very far. My father was a big part of my growing up, and he was a businessman in the '60s in St. Louis where I'm from. He was a very Don Draper kind of guy with both the good and the bad. Very charming [but] maybe not so honest. [He] passed away when I was 20 so he unfortunately didn't get a chance to see this, but I think it would really resonate with him to say the least.
TV Guide: Could you ever see yourself as an ad man?
Hamm: Absolutely! While not quite as master-of-the-universe as it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it's still very cool, and you get to be creative. You can live it up a little bit.
TV Guide: So you might have another career then, after this one. Hamm: I think I would've had to start that a little earlier....
TV Guide: Who's the bigger ladies' man: you or Don?
Hamm: Don, definitely. I've been with the same girl for 10 years now, so I'm kind of out of that game and have been for a while. Whereas, obviously, that doesn't necessarily put Don out of any game. [Laughs]
TV Guide: It seems like Don has a lot more to deal with than just women, though.
Hamm: It's a very involved life that he has [with] about 15 different pasts. At the end of the day, [Mad Men's] a story of a guy who takes control of his own life, makes decisions and doesn't look back. And I think that's the American dream in a lot of ways, sad though it may be.
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