JON HAMM SHOWS DRAMATIC GENIUS ON “MAD MEN” BUT HAS ALSO MORE THAN PROVEN HIS COMEDIC CHOPS. IN OTHER WORDS, HE’S NOT JUST THAT GUY IN A SUIT
BY FLORENCE KANE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY NIGEL PARRY
When Jon Hamm sits down for our interview in the lobby of Chateau Marmont, I tell him I’ve seen him walking his dog on my street in Los Feliz. “Oh, really?” he asks. “Do you have a dog?” Yes. “Have our dogs met?” They haven’t (my terrier likes humans but not other canines).
Turns out he and his longtime girlfriend, actress and director Jennifer Westfeldt, live just a couple of blocks away from me, and, for a minute, our neighborly chit-chat makes it seem like I’m just talking to Jon-from-around-the-corner…a regular guy who wears white track pants and baseball hats and responsibly picks up after his rescue mutt, Cora. (Google it.)
Except Jon is Jon Hamm the actor: the clueless Dr. Drew Baird on “30 Rock,” “crazy, sexy sax guy” Sergio on “Saturday Night Live,” the voice you hear in Mercedes-Benz television and radio spots—and, of course, Don Draper of “Mad Men.” In fact, his fifth season as the complicated 1960s ad man (he won a Golden Globe for the role in 2008) began airing last month. The series has taken Hamm, 41, from relative obscurity (Remember him on “Gilmore Girls”? Didn’t think so) and made him a huge star.
But this didn’t happen without some brilliant maneuvering on his part. “When I got ‘Mad Men,’ I was immediately sent a million other scripts just like it,” Hamm says. “It’s kind of what Hollywood wants to do: ‘Oh, you can do that well, so let’s keep you doing it.’” He didn’t play their game; instead, he sought out characters who couldn’t be further from Draper (lately, that includes a recurring role on David Cross’ IFC show “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret”). “The last thing I want to do when the show is over is do the exact same thing. You’re that guy who wears a suit on that show. And you’re also wearing a suit in this thing.”
Really, there are two Jon Hamms: the supremely talented dramatic actor and the charming goof who isn’t afraid of looking ridiculous for the sake of great comedy (see Sergio’s long hair, suspendered bare chest and skintight jeans). Try and think of another modern-day actor who can move between two personae so seamlessly with audiences loving him for both.
In 1995, Hamm left his hometown of St. Louis, where he’d been teaching eighth-grade drama, for L.A., first living with his aunt in Westwood, then as the tenant of an old soap-opera actress in Silverlake. He waited tables at the now-closed 72 Market Street in Venice while auditioning. He appeared on NBC’s “Providence” and David Mamet-created show “The Unit,” and in Westfeldt’s 2001 film Kissing Jessica Stein before landing AMC’s “Mad Men” …
[Read more in the latest C for Men, on newsstands now!]