Tuesday 21 November 2017

Don Jon

Now mad men has entered its final season, its star has time to reflect on the show that made him an icon to both men and women in his forties. What's next for Jon Hamm?

Jon Hamm in character as Mad Men's Don Draper
Jon Hamm in character as Mad Men's Don Draper

Stephen Milton

The suave Old Hollywood charm. The brooding good looks. The end is nigh. Don Draper will soon be no more. And while Jon Hamm mourns this sorrowful imminence, he's clinging to a silver lining – a welcome farewell to his shameful status as a sex symbol. Least, that's what he believes.

"The idea is so silly to me," the ridiculously handsome actor clarifies of the Draper effect, scornfully chuckling from his base at his Manhattan townhouse.

"Because if you could see me right now in my sweat pants and my dog staring at me and wondering when she's going to be fed and walked. It's so silly.

"I don't know anyone who approaches that title or status with anything but a bemused kind of curiosity because it's something that only other people can bestow on you and something that I don't relate to really at all. I find it so confusing."

Cultivating a new breed of the debonair, urbane gent, Don is an icon for contemporary pop culture with a fashionable, social ideal orbiting round his almost condescending masculinity.

This worries Hamm. The facts remain; men want to be him, women want to be with him, and it's often hard for fans to separate the actor from his character.

After seven seasons portraying the archetype of self-invented swagger, his ability to succeed beyond the pristine, tailored shadow is currently in doubt.

"I don't necessarily have anything lined-up," he chuckles nervously, clearing his throat repeatedly, "and I'm certainly very aware that I'm going to be gainfully unemployed very soon. I don't know what the future holds, honestly.

"People may not accept me in other roles. They might only want to see me sort of as Don, brooding and drinking and whoring around. I hope they like other versions of me too."

The final series of Mad Men is presently airing on both sides of the Atlantic but fans have another year to anticipate the loss of Sterling Cooper's finest, as AMC showrunners split the last run. The second half of the season won't hit screens until next spring.

The end will come considerably sooner for the St Louis native and his co-stars John Slattery, Elizabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks and January Jones, who will shoot their last scenes this summer. He predicts emotional outbursts.

"I think that I'm going to be a mess honestly," he admits. "There will be tears, there will probably be fistfights and hair-pulling and every expression of emotion that you can imagine. It will be Biblical in its emotion.

"This show has taken up essentially a decade for me and it's been a great decade.

"I've met a lot of people who I think will be friends for the rest of my life. I've had a lot of amazing experiences and I've gotten to go to award shows and just experience these things that when you start down the road of being an actor, you think that's never going to happen. Yet it did to me. So it's been an emotional roller coaster ride. When it's time to get off the ride, I'm going to be like, 'I don't want to get off, man!'"

Delivering credible supporting fare in movies Bridesmaids, Sucker Punch and The Town – and a well-received portrayal as Daniel Radcliffe's older self in Sky's A Young Doctor's Notebook – Hamm plans to employ the same method used by Tina Fey and co-stars when they shot the last episode of 30 Rock.

"Tina told me no-one wanted it to end so it turned into this like long overtime epic day because everyone was kind of dragging their feet thinking like, 'Well, if we just like go really slowly then maybe it won't end'."

I attempt to quiz Jon about the details of the show finale before he politely interjects for a rather cute encounter.

" ... sorry, can you hold on there one minute, sorry! I just want to say goodbye to my girlfriend [actress partner of 17 years, Jennifer Westfeldt] before she goes to work."

Some muffled words of departure, including an inclusion of 'honey' and an audible kiss is heard before he returns to the phone. "Sorry about that, what we were speaking about?"

Naturally the plotlines are under lock and key, but what golden nuggets from the new series can the swoonsome star reveal for desperate fans?

During last year's season finale, Draper's world had crumbled with his marriage to Megan in tatters and his career on the rocks after getting the temporary boot from new agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

"Ooh, well we know that there is an existence on both coasts and if you've seen the teaser for the new season, you know that he's getting off an airplane.

"So, I mean, without saying anything I'll let you infer what that means. As for the downward spiral, we know that he's been let go from his professional responsibilities... Let's just say, we rarely like to watch Draper being happy."

Any glimpses, glimmers of light if you will, can he shed on the concluding outcome?

Can devotees – 'Maddists' to the uninformed – expect a satisfying climax or a disappointing denouement?

"I don't know. I mean, I do know because I've shot the first half of the season but I'm not going to tell you," he laughs, a little too loudly at his own joke.

"I think that the one pattern we've established with Mr Draper is that he tends to rise to challenges and I think that that's a fairly real, established pattern in Don's life. When he is challenged or at least pushed far enough, he will push back or rise to said challenge so I think that that's basically a bit of a hint as to what we can expect in the final episodes."

While garlanded with a positively sycophantic stream of plaudits, gongs and positive critique, Mad Men has never quite matched critical success with sky high ratings.

And the numbers have consistently fallen.

Stateside, season five premiered with 3.5 million but had since dropped to 2.7 million for last season's finale.

Comparatively weak compared to the 6.6 million attracted by the premiere of the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and monstrously pale residing beside the 11.9 who turned on for last of The Sopranos.

Is it simply a case that Mad Men is ending because it has no choice? Jump before being pushed?

"Other shows just sort of fade away or peter out but the good shows end," he shrewdly deflects.

"And you know, I think that there's a truism to that. I don't want to be on a show that overstays its welcome and I'm not interested in being on a show that just runs forever either, at least not now. Maybe when I'm 60 and, you know, you bet that steady kind of repetitive job would be fun but not so much right now. So I think that our show is ending at the right time."

Previously lamenting his imminent place on the dole queue, Hamm (43) has a number of impending releases including his first lead in Disney biopic, Million Dollar Arm, before starring in coming-of-age period drama, The Sound and The Fury alongside James Franco.

But does the star wonder, or perhaps concern himself with pressure to surpass and outgrow Draper with his future characters?

"Well, I hope it's not necessarily pressure to surpass it. I certainly don't feel that. I don't feel like acting is a competition in that way where it's like, what are you going to do next and will it be better or greater?

"And you know, I'm not as prolific as maybe some of my other cast mates. You look at John Slattery or Elisabeth Moss or people that have been working for decades. I'm just a lucky fool and I hope to continue that good fortune."

So in this lucky fool's opinion, what will be Don Draper's legacy on the world?

"I really do hope people take away that this is a story of a person who in all of his faults and all of his troubles and all of his missteps, was trying to do the right thing.

"We've all been there. Don just does it more often than not but that's the fun part of TV, right? That we can watch these people make terrible decisions and not have to make them ourselves. "So I don't know," he sighs for an extended pause. "I just hope people have enjoyed the ride because I certainly have."

The new season of Mad Men airs on Sky Atlantic.

Irish Independent

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