Jon Hamm is best known for revolutionizing how society envisions masculinity, in all of its raw sensuality, insatiable competitive hunger, arrogance, and corrosive loneliness, in his deft portrayal of Don Draper, but he is equally deft at comedy. Happy to laugh at himself, a necessity when you look like (and were) a star high school football player, Hamm is clearly a team player which makes him enjoyable to work with, as evidenced in how often TV creators like Tina Fey and Robert Carlock find excuses to cast him.
Of course, Hamm is ultimately cast because he delivers. In Mad Men, Bridesmaids, 30 Rock, and SNL, he seems to only hit home runs. Still, Hamm, like any actor, needed directors and show creators to go to bat for him when he hadn’t yet had the opportunities to prove himself. Hamm says he struggled for years in his early twenties. (I thought that was the definition of being in your twenties). He scored his first big break, a recurring role on Lifetime’s The Division, as the only non-female cop. Being a series regular garnered him economic stability. But it didn’t challenge him artistically. Luckily, he read the pilot script for Mad Men, which Matt Weiner, then best known as a writer for HBO’s hit series The Soprano’s, had created. Hamm auditioned for the star role of Don Draper eight times. Weiner saw Hamm as a modern day Cary Grant, and took a chance on relatively unknown actor. But AMC, which was re-branding itself, took a shot on the series, its development execs balked at Weiner’s choice for the lead. Weiner overruled, and the rest is television history.
Today, Hamm is a Hollywood star, a role he has accepted with necessary humor. In our interview, which was recorded live at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, we spoke about what it’s like for him to be sexually harassed and pigeonholed, perks of being a spokesperson for Mercedes Benz, and how an agent taught him to sell himself. We showed a few clips from Children’s Hospital, The Division, and, of course, Hamm’s stint as a fabulous bachelor on an unwittingly amusing dating show. It was so fun to induct Jon Hamm into the Employee of the Month Hall of Fame, and hope this latest award isn’t a liability. Hamm is a mensch, as you will hear in our interview.