What now for Don Draper?

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IOL Hamm Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men

Like George Clooney, Jon Hamm went from struggling actor to one of the hottest sex symbols on TV thanks to his breakthrough role in the Emmy award-winning series, Mad Men. Debashine Thangevelo bagged an exclusive interview with this Hollywood icon to chat about the show and what’s next now that it has reached its seventh and final season.

DESPITE various magazines, tabloids and bloggers shamelessly perving over Jon Hamm, he seems to be either oblivious to the rapidly mushrooming global drool fest, or prefers to remain humbled by the attention.

During our interview, the verdict was leaning towards the latter, although I’m pretty sure he was secretly flattered. After all, those awards and nominations have ensured he registered on the radar of Hollywood’s influential pecking order and that is a feat for a struggling actor.

But Hamm deflected the praise to the creative team and talent working on Mad Men.

On being a part of a pioneering show like Mad Men, he says: “The era of television we are in right now is incredible. When you see shows like ours, or True Detective, or as the stories begin and end, you expect, as a viewer, they come to a satisfying conclusion.

“As for the creative input I have, that is negligible. That’s been clear in all the press surrounding the intelligence of the show. That’s as it should be. I don’t have any intelligence or input into that world. I, honestly, am kind of happy. It has been seven seasons and I’m glad I just have to memorise lines.”

While his character is devilishly attractive, especially with his depraved shenanigans in the business world at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency, his confidence masks his vulnerability.

And this seventh and final instalment magnifies his fallibility, personally and professionally.

On slipping into the skin of Draper, a character he beat about 80 other hopefuls to, Hamm shares: “He isn’t a very lovable guy. I think the emotions I feel towards that character are similar. A very wise man once told me: ‘If you ever judge the character you play, you are going to do it a disservice’. I just try to humanise him as much as I can. That is the biggest challenge: portraying this guy who is very odious in his behaviour patterns.

“And to understand. We can all be hateful in our own ways when we feel bad, misunderstood or confused. I think he is going through a rough patch in his personal and professional life. People who have gone through divorces have kind of become shitty people. That is our man, Don. It was a big deal for Don to be essentially fired. It was a bit of a wake-up call. Will it have the desired effect? I don’t know.

“The one pattern we have established is that he tends to rise to the challenge. I think that is a fairly real established pattern in Don’s life. He will push back, or rise to the challenge. I think that is basically a bit of a hint on what to expect in the final episodes.”

Hamm points out that the magnetism of the series is its ability to tell stories that stem from “good observation” and the “concurrent rise of other people in the stories, like that of Peggy (Olson – she went from secretary to copywriter), Betty (Francis – Don’s ex-wife)”.

Shedding light on his character’s status quo at the start of this season, he notes: “We have started the show with Don Draper at the top of his game in his world. He certainly isn’t in that place anymore. That’s a pretty good narrative place to begin the final season. And we had a wonderful time making it.”

It can’t be easy to bid farewell to the show that was instrumental in making him one of the hottest TV acts around, but Hamm, bouncing back to his unassuming nature, chose to be positive about it.

“I think all good things come to an end. Shows peter out and the good shows end. I think there is a truism to that. I don’t want to be on a show that overstays its welcome.”

Although he admits: “I will miss all the friends I have made on the show. Hopefully, we will still be friends after the show. But that’s really going to be the biggest emotional challenge. I have talked to the people on 30 Rock and Breaking Bad to find out how they dealt with it ending. You go: ‘What happens now?’ I guess, you’ve got to go home, move on and do something else. And that’s the way it goes.

“I don’t necessarily have anything lined up. I’m very aware I’m going to be unemployed really soon. That’s the best way I can put that.”

When asked if the popularity of his character will put more pressure on the role that will succeed Don Draper, he notes: “I hope it is not necessarily pressure to surpass it. I don’t feel like acting is a competition in that way. Hopefully, I will be working with writers and creators who are as creative and talented as Matthew Weiner. I owe 100 percent of my career to that guy. I’m not as prolific as some of my other acting mates. I’m just a lucky fool and I hope to continue with that fortune.”

I’m sure this “lucky fool” will continue to leave deeper footprints in Hollywood now that he has a “sought after” tag attached to his award-winning portfolio.

Mad Men airs on M-Net Series Showcase (DStv channel 113) on Sunday at 9pm.


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