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Jon Hamm: “I’ve been incredibly fortunate”

Actor Jon Hamm poses at the "Mad Men" Black and Red Ball, which celebrates the final seven episodes of the AMC television series.

Jon Hamm on playing Don Draper, strange fan encounters and his plans post Mad Men

Jon Hamm: “I’ve been incredibly fortunate”

All good things must come to an end and that includes the much-loved TV series Mad Men.  The critically acclaimed 60s themed show began airing in 2007 and as the final season is drawing to a close, MiNDFOOD caught up with its impossibly handsome star Jon Hamm, who has played ladies man and advertising executive Don Draper.  During its reign the show amassed 15 Emmys and 4 Golden Globes, including a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama Series for Hamm in 2008.

Hamm, 44, has been in a relationship with actress-screenwriter, Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein, Friends with Kids), 45, since 1997.  They live between homes in Los Angeles and Manhattan.  

This is a new hirsute Jon Hamm.  You’re obviously sporting some pretty impressive facial hair – is that for a role?

No.  It’s just for you.  And you’re welcome (laughs)

How would you sum up Don Draper’s life through the seasons?

You have ups and downs.  Hopefully the ups outnumber the downs.  If you look at Don’s life, it started out pretty great and then around Season 3 and Season 4, his marriage falls apart and he goes down a pretty dark hole. Season 7 is hopefully bottoming out and he’s coming back up.

What’s your hope for him as we are reaching the finale?

That he finds peace in his existence.  He’s built several houses on some very broken foundation that he needs to fix.  That takes a lot of work and it’s a journey I think we’re going to see now in the last few chapters.  The era that Mad Men is set in is an incredibly tumultuous time in world history. I don’t think it’s lost on people that the opening credits are of a man falling to what seems his death – but we don’t know.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper.

It seems that Mad Men opened a lot of doors for you?

Definitely.  I did Bridesmaids, I did The Town, I hosted Saturday Night Live and most recently this crazy show, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Tina Fey’s latest creation – a sitcom on Netflix)  and I got to shoot in India on Million Dollar Arm.  When I look back on what I’ve done, I would have never thought these opportunities would have happened for me in my life.  And they have all been very different characters from Don Draper and they’ve each brought their own challenges and satisfaction in many ways.  I’ve said it many, many times and I’ll continue to say it, I’ve been incredibly fortunate.

I know you’ve dealt with some pretty ardent female fans – how does your significant other deal with it?

Oh, Jen has been supportive throughout this entire journey.  We’ve been together 17 years now and I suppose it’s a challenge sharing anybody with the public or the press.

Jon Hamm in a promotional shot for season 7 of Mad Men.

Jon Hamm in a promotional shot for season 7 of Mad Men.

Any strange fan moments that comes to mind?

Oh yeah (laughs) some remarkably weird moments but I won’t get into specifics – though I’m sure you can certainly imagine.  I’ve had married men come up and say, ‘My wife really wants to meet you and take a picture.’  And I’m like, ‘That’s terrible.  All of what you’re saying is terrible.  That doesn’t make any sense.’  You try and graciously make it less awkward in every way, shape and form as you can.

What’s the upside to the show ending?

I’ll be home a lot more now and Cora, my dog, is very happy about it.  She’s been around for all of it and so now she’ll be getting more and more walks, ear scratches and treats.   It’s been a long journey, a lot of hours and I think the wonderful part of work is that it makes you miss home.

Other than career opportunities, how else have you benefitted from Mad Men?

I’ve been able to give back to my community, to various charities and to raise awareness for people that don’t have the opportunities that I’ve had in my life.  I’ve been able to endow a scholarship at my old high school in St. Louis in my mother’s name that I’m very, very proud of.  The first recipient of that scholarship will graduate this year.

What do you like to indulge in? Are you an art lover?

Yes, I am actually.  A very good friend of mine who was sort of a surrogate mother to me when I was growing up (his mother died of colon cancer when he was 10 years old) is a master printer and was the head of a printmaking department at Washington University.  She runs a gallery in St. Louis and was the first person to open my eyes to contemporary art and the mean of art in one’s life.  I love going to museums, I love seeing exhibits and acquiring things that I find attractive in an inspiring way.  That can be expensive but you don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars – I’m not in that world – but the things that I have mean something to me or to my family.

What will you have time to do now, other than spending more time with Jen and Cora that you haven’t been able to in the last several years?

I am sadly under travelled as a 44 year old man so hopefully now I will get to see other hemispheres rather than the one I’ve seen pretty extensively, so I’m looking forward to that as well.  I have time to live a little.

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