Eye On Emmy: Is Mad Men's Jon Hamm The One To Beat? (Hint: Yes!)

In another time, another place, the term matinee idol would have been coined for Jon Hamm. But in today’s diverse entertainment world he’s turned out to be so much more than that. Beyond his star-making dramatic turn as Mad Men’s fabulously flawed ladies man Don Draper, and supporting roles in films like The Town, he has already shown us his comedy chops too, whether fearlessly playing the fool on 30 Rock, a misogynistic cad in Bridesmaids, or hosting Saturday Night Live. So where does he see his versatility taking him? And, after three Emmy nominations, is this the year his Golden Globe gets a TV companion in his trophy case?

TVLINE | Much of the Emmy discussion about you has focused on “The Suitcase” episode from Mad Men’s fourth season. When you saw the script was almost entirely Don and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), what was your reaction?
I had a couple of reactions. It was already a hard season for me emotionally with all the stuff my character had gone through to that point, so it was a little bit like, “Jesus, when is this going to end?” But it was also mixed with a kind of delight that this was where this spiral was ending, because I’ve loved the way that my character has interacted with Peggy basically since the pilot. I’ve loved that kind of unknowable kinship and friendship that we’ve established and grown, and in many ways, it felt a little bit like a companion piece to the pilot, only the roles were reversed. [Now Peggy] was the person saying, “What are you doing? What do you think you’re doing to yourself?” She’s kind of the only person in Don’s life who can call him on that without fear of reprisal, and it just comes from such an honest place. I think Elisabeth’s work is so phenomenal. She’s a truly gifted actress, and it was wonderful to get an opportunity to really work one-on-one with her on some really interesting, deep, dark multi-layered scenes.

TVLINE | The episode required a lot of you as an actor. Were you at all intimidated?
Yeah. Honestly, it’s all intimidating. There’s a lot riding on whether or not the audience buys this guy as a real person and the fact that he’s going through these kinds of extraordinary things in his life. If it comes off as not believable in any way, then a huge portion of the impact of what we’re trying to do is lost.

TVLINE | The strength of that episode alone has perhaps made you a frontrunner for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy. Does that make you nervous?
I long ago stopped being nervous about that kind of stuff… It’s such a crapshoot and it’s so not up to me and anything that I can really control. If [another nomination] was to happen, that would be phenomenal. I’m incredibly lucky to even be mentioned [with] the Hugh Lauries and the Bryan Cranstons and the Michael Halls, people whose work I’ve looked up to my whole career in some cases, especially in the case of Hugh, whom I’ve been watching since Black Adder. If I’m [even] mentioned in the same breath as those cats, that’s great. That’s what I take out of that.

TVLINE | Not a single performer on Mad Men has won an Emmy despite all the accolades that have been heaped on the series. Some theorize that’s because the work being done on the show is very restrained and quiet. There’s not much scenery-chewing.
I think that might be part of it. We’re not out there killing people and blowing s–t up. There aren’t many moments that you can point to and be like, “That’s the one that’s going to win you an award” or something. But if you look at it as a whole, it’s a pretty substantial thing to point to as an actor. I think there are plenty of examples of that in the history of television. You can look at the actors on The Wire and be like, “Are you kidding me? Not a single person was nominated for any of these performances? This is crazy. It’s some of the best work on television!” But that’s the way it goes. I think that in the brave, new world of television we find ourselves in, there are almost too many good performances now, and that’s a pretty great place to be if you’re a fan of television, which I am.

TVLINE | You seem to cram a lot of work in between your Mad Men seasons, most of it comedy. Is that because you just want to have a good time before you have to turn back into Don Draper?
[Laughs] I think there’s a portion of truth to that. But also, that’s kind of my world. When I first came to L.A., most of the people I hung out with were in the comedy world. And part of it was just being broke. It was a cheap way to go out and have fun. You could go to Largo or M Bar or Comedy Death-Ray or whatever, and see hilarious stuff and spend five bucks. One of my oldest friends in L.A. is Paul Rudd. We were comedy nerds together when he was living in a crappy apartment in North Hollywood. We would go see Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman and Paul Tompkins and Zach Galifianakis and these guys that were doing the alternative comedy circuit. So to get the opportunity to work with those guys on my off hours, it’s nice. Honestly, it’s not like you look at Don Draper and go, “Oh, I bet that guy’s really funny. Let’s get him in our goofy ‘Funny or Die’ thing.” That somehow I’ve been able to resonate in that world is certainly nice.

TVLINE | It’s kind of miraculous that you didn’t get typecast as Don Draper. So much of that happens in this business. Was that ever a concern?
Oh, certainly. Once the first season of Mad Men was out there and people were appreciating it and enjoying it, I got a lot of scripts that were Don Draper 2.0 or a dude in a suit in the ’50s and ’60s or a guy in a hat or whatever. I tried to make a conscious decision of, “Well, I do that eight months out of the year. Let’s try to find something that might be a little bit different or might enable me to exercise a little bit of a different muscle or show a different side.” [To get] something like The Town… I was thrilled because it was contemporary. It was a little bit different [for me] and had a little of an edge and was an exciting opportunity to get a chance to work with somebody like Ben [Affleck] or Jeremy [Renner] or Rebecca Hall, the amazing group that we got to assemble for that thing. And the same thing with Bridesmaids. I shot that for two days during Season 4 of Mad Men, so it was a nice break. You don’t want to keep banging on the same piano key because after a while that just gets to be boring.

TVLINE | Do you foresee what your career might look like beyond Mad Men? Could you see yourself becoming a comedy movie star?
Well, I hope I get a chance to do both sides. I think that Paul’s career has been really fun for me to watch because he’s been able to do stuff on Broadway and he’s been able to do big movies and big comedies and produce stuff, and really kind of be the architect of his own future, and it’s been really successful for him. So, yeah, one of my acting heroes, which is such a lame term, but one of the people whose careers I look at as an inspiration is a guy like Jeff Bridges, who has been around since he was 18 years old, has done work in drama and crazy Big Lebowski comedy and now is finally getting recognized as a genius. He’s been an amazing actor for 40 years… Hopefully, life is long and a career is long, and you get an opportunity to do many things. And as you change not only as a human being, but as an actor, different roles come to you. You know, I’m not going to play the young guy really anymore — that ship has sailed. But I do get to work with cool younger people and play different roles, and that’s the exciting thing about having an opportunity like Mad Men. It opens so many other doors.

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  1. Sam says:

    Since Cranston is out this year, it could be his turn. I can’t think of another actor who deserves it more.

  2. jennab says:

    Absolutely love this man! His work on MM is breathtaking…I mean, literally, I don’t fully exhale till each episode is over. And he is charming and self-deprecating to boot? WINNING! Emmy or no…

  3. Alex says:

    It’s always such a delight reading interviews with Jon Hamm. In a world of people that are stuck of themselves and fame, he’s such a breath of fresh air. He seems like such a humble and wonderful person, a great departure from Don Draper. I absolutely love seeing him do comedy as well, the man really is a jack of all trades.
    Thank goodness Cranston is out of the race this year, I really hope that Jon Hamm wins the Emmy, can’t think of anyone more deserving.

  4. LA says:

    His performance in The Suitcase was absolutely amazing. Hamm’s the man to beat.

  5. Melanie says:

    He was great. BUT Charlie Hunnam was better. Hope he actually gets SOME recognition this year. It’s time.

  6. davey says:

    Loved that Hamm mentions the cast of The Wire as actors who should obviously have ben nominated and/or won an Emmy! I think this might be his year though :)

  7. Davey says:

    Jon Hamm is fine but Hugh Laurie still hasn’t gotten an Emmy, has he?

  8. Cathy says:

    I think Jon Hamm is a terrific actor, but 7 years later Hugh Laurie still doesn’t have an Emmy. First it was always James Spader winning, then Bryan Cranston, now Jon Hamm is the favourite to win so even if Hugh Laurie does get a nomination this year, there’s no chance. For him not to win an Emmy for such an iconic a role as House is just wrong.

  9. Valerie says:

    Sorry Jon Hamm, but I’d bet money that the one to beat this year is Boardwalk Empire’s Steve Buscemi.

  10. Amy says:

    Wait, so on top of everything else, Jon Hamm is a “Black Adder” fan? I didn’t think it was possible to love him more, but somehow, it is.

    Although I agree Hugh Laurie earned an Emmy (and then some) playing “House,” I don’t see how he stands a chance after such a lackluster season for his show. If anybody beats Jon Hamm, it will be Steve Buscemi (whom I think is a great actor, even if I don’t see the appeal of “Boardwalk Empire” in the slightest.) But it sounds like Hamm has a totally mature, laid-back attitude about it.

  11. sp says:

    Jon Hamm will have a long , prosperous, and varied career, like his hero Jeff Bridges. And, I would bet my life on that. He is this wonder character actor trapped in a movie star’s body. Hamm’s work on Mad Men, SNL, 30 Rock, The Town, and even his few scenes in Bridesmaids – really displays his astonishing acting range. Their is nothing this charismatic man cannot do ! Jon is smart to pursue supporting roles in interesting films , tv series, and work with characters that are opposite from his Don Draper persona. Yes, Hamm is always gracious and humble for his interviews.

    P.S. I am happy Jon didn’t become a major star in his 20’s because his life experiences adds more resonance to his acting performances.

  12. Callie Henry says:

    The Suitcase was the single best episode of 2010. Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss were absolutely phenomenal. If they don’t win emmys this year it will be a terrible shame. I also think young Kiernan Shipka deserves a nomination over January Jones. It’s pretty sad to see a child actress upstaging an adult.

    • Shannon says:

      I could not agree with you more if you paid me. That episode is amazing. It might be the best episode of Mad Men of all the seasons. We just get so much out of Don and who is he, seeing him reveal all this to Peggy and just being honest with her. Oh, it’s just so gratifying. Oh, dear, I’m getting all moon eyed over it.

  13. Richard says:

    Haven’t seen enough Mad Men to judge. I’ve only seen the first season and the first four episodes of season 2 of Breaking Bad but unless it seriously jumps the shark (which Ive heard season 3 is better, I dont know how that is possible, since it is a PERFECT show)Im glad Cranston won all 3 Aaron Paul won one and Lynne Willingham won for editing twice. Also, wich it would have won best drama series one of these years, and also wish that it had won for writing/directing, since Gilligan is such a genuis. Also, suprisingly, it has never won for cinematography, despite having the most unique, but more importantly best cinematography on TV.

  14. Richard says:


    Breaking bad is the best tv series of allt iem. Even better than The Wire. it goes:
    1. Breaking Bad

    2. Boomtown

    3. Malcolm in the Middle (seasons 3-6, 2nd half of 7)

    4. The Wire.

    5. Law & Order (seson 1-3 1990-1993)

    For those of you who dont know what Boomtown is by the creator of Justified Justified, I haven’t really seen, but it is by the creator of the 2003-03 NBC series Boomtown, which is in the top 5 list of greatest series of all time, so I will be sure to watch the first season of Justified at some point. Also, some of the writers/directors of Justified worked on Boomtown such as Fred Golan, Fred Keller, Michael Watkins, Peter Werner, and Jon Avnet.

    Also Graham Yost wrote for WWII HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific (also directed an episode of Pacific). Also, other writers/directors of Boomtown worked on those two legendary miniseries. Boomtown is just sooo good. If you liked Justified, buy the first season of Boomtown on eBay and watch it in order! It only went one and a half seasons (season 2 was lame cause NBC they completely changed it up and messed it up due to ratings.)

    Yost wrote 5 episodes in season 1 and was also the executive producer/showrunner. Jon Avnet (director of Fried Green Tomatoes) was also an executive producer and directed 9 episodes. Yost and Avnet (especially together) are amazing. Other amazing writers who didnt work on Justified but are still amazing are Michelle Ashford, Chris Brancato, and Larry Andries. Ashford and Andries also wrote for the Pacific. Boomtown really is one of the best shows. And when you watch it, give it four (yes, 4) episodes. No that the first episode isnt good, its amazing. Its just, it might take a bit to kind of get hooked. First time i saw it i liked it, i didnt love it. But watching it again, in retrospect its just as amazing. Watch Boomtown. Its so good.

    Im taliking more about the behind the scenes people, so here are some of the stars.

    Donnie Wahlberg (The Sixth Sense, Band of Brothers, Blue Bloods) Neal MCDonough (Band of Brothers, Walking Tall) Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump) And Gary Basaraba (Fried Green Tomatoees, Brooklyn South). Possibly the Best Cast and crew in the world. One of the best tv series of all time.

    It gooes

    1. Breaking Bad

    2. Boomtown

    3. Malcolm in the Middle (seasons 3-6, 2nd half of 7)

    4. The Wire.

    5. Law & Order (seson 1-3 1990-1993)

    so yes, it is time Graham yost gets his due at the emmys, cause ive heard Justified was really good, and plan on watching it soon, also, if nothing else, to make up for nobody on Boomtown winning any emmys.

  15. TvTroz says:

    Ahem… this is to “Richard” above, who seems to have long and varied opinions (although I’m biting my lip not to ask what the heck was wrong with the first half of the seventh season of Malcolm in the Middle that made you excise it from your list). So here goes: NOBODY CARES. List your long-winded critiques to your dog. That is all. Good day, sir.

  16. creasote samlisoni says:

    Richard, Richard, Richard! I will only apologize if you’re home bound by illness or physical disability. Good god, you’ll look back on your life and say…holy s***!

  17. creasote samlisoni says:

    …and, even if you are a TV critic and actually make money writing this drivvel, you’ll still say “holy s***!, didn’t I have anything better to do?”

  18. rebecca says:

    He hasn’t won because Bryan Cranston is far better than him and if he wins this year it’s only because Cranston isn’t there.

  19. maggie says:

    I would be happy if either Hamm or Laurie won a Emmy for Best Actor this year. Both are due, with Laurie being especially overdue.

  20. tripoli says:

    Completely overrated. In both acting and looks.

  21. Catalina says:

    Fabulous interview.

  22. MasterKat says:

    He always mentions someone else or praises someone else when they ask him a question. It’s almost formulaic. On the other hand, he still comes across as a genuinely Nice Guy.

  23. Susie says:

    isn’t there a grammar mistake in the very first paragraph?