Jon Hamm: Suave, Successful, Mad Man

It's been a long road for Jon Hamm.

With the surprise television hit "Mad Men" entering its second season later this month, a Golden Globe under his belt and a starring role in the upcoming remake of the 1951 classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still," Hamm has arrived.

Hamm shed the suit-clad, cigarette-hazed world of "Mad Men" to catch up with "Popcorn With Peter Travers" on ABC News Now.

The story behind "Mad Men" has already become the stuff of Hollywood legend. Matt Weiner, one of the chief writers behind "The Sopranos," penned the pilot more than eight years ago. After knocking around the offices of various studios and networks, the show was finally picked up last summer by AMS and went on to become a critical success.


Hamm plays leading man Don Draper, a suave, successful Madison Avenue advertising executive in 1960. Though leading a seemingly normal life, Harmm's mysterious past slowly reveals itself.

"He has many facets that he is very successful at compartmentalizing," Hamm said, "and as we move through the season we meet more and more of those compartments and they're not all nice."

Draper's conflicted character was one of the principal reasons the show was continually turned down.

"A lot of networks told me 'Don is too unlikable,'" Weiner told The New York Times. "And I'm like, 'I write on 'The Sopranos,' and I'm watching the most on-paper unlikable person in the world.' Well, guess what? Jim Gandolfini played that person, and it made a huge difference. So I wrote it."

Hamm recalled his first experience with the "Mad Men" script.

"I read the pilot some years ago, and it's stuck with me. It remains with me," he revealed. "It's a great honor to be able to work on something that's written this well and with the people who I get to work with who are all incredibly talented."

The show functions as both a drama and a period piece.

"This was a very fertile time, not only in the culture at large but in the advertising culture as well, because you're starting to see a big shift in the way advertising treats people and their subjects that they're advertising to," said Hamm.

Hamm drew on his own experiences of growing up during the 1960s for inspiration.

"My father wasn't an advertising man," he said. "He was a businessman in the 1960s. I remember going into his closet and just looking at the rows of suits he had in every color of the rainbow. You just thought, 'That's what it is to be a man. You get to wear suits every day, look sharp and be in control of your own world.' The older you get, the more you realize that maybe these people aren't really in control of the world all that much."

As much as Hamm fits Draper's debonair persona, it was a long and uncertain casting process to the very end.

"They eventually flew me out to New York," Hamm recalled. "I got to meet all the AMC people and finally I had two more auditions with them. And finally they said, 'Meet us at the Gansevoort Hotel. We're going to make a decision but come to the rooftop of the Gansevoort.' I said, 'They're not going push me off. That would be the end of it.'"

Instead, it was just the beginning. Hamm got the job, but he was still nervous the first day of shooting.

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