The actor reflected on the landmark 2007-2015 series and his performance as Don Draper in a wide-ranging Q&A Saturday night held as part of the New Yorker Festival.
Hamm told New Yorker articles editor Susan Morrison that the AMC drama was a transformational experience, personally and professionally.
“To have that kind of omnibus experience is once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky,” he said during the session held at SIR Stage37. “Navigating the success, what the show became. that was the trickiest part,” Hamm added.
Now that the series has ended, Hamm told Morrison, he’s looking to branch out.
“The fun of being an actor is getting to different things” after playing Don Draper for seven seasons. “It wasn’t that I wanted to react against and play the opposite, but I definitely wanted to do different things,” he said.
Morrison asked Hamm about his comedy chops, showing clips from “Bridesmaids,” “Saturday Night Live,” and “30 Rock.” A self-described comedy geek, Hamm credited his creative journey from losing his mother at the age of 10 and eventually finding a nurturing environment in his “wildly progressive” St. Louis high school, John Burroughs School.
“We didn’t have cable TV,” he said. “You had to like, read books and listen to albums and cassette tapes.” Hamm cited Spy magazine, Monty Python, and comedians including Bob Newhart, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor as inspirations. He even liked Cheech and Chong, adding ruefully, “My grandmother did not like that one. It literally had a car-sized joint on it.” Read the rest of this entry »
Alyssa Norwin reports: Jon Hamm finally had his big Emmy Awards moment! The 44-year-old won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series, making it his first win at the show. And it was perfect timing, too, as this was Mad Men‘s last year of nomination eligibility since its series finale aired on May 17!
It’s about time!! Jon was so excited when it was announced he finally won an Emmy, that he didn’t even take the time to walk the long way up to the stage, and instead, opted to hop right on up from the front. But all jokes were cast aside when he got to the microphone, and emotionally and graciously accepted the honor, praising his fellow nominees in the process.
Jon has been nominated for this award every year since 2008, but has never taken home the trophy…until now! Read the rest of this entry »
As Jon Hamm explained to Jimmy Kimmel last night, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner had been thinking about ending the show with that iconic Coca-Cola commercial for years before the company cleared the way for him to use it. If things had gone a different way, the ending might have had a slightly different impact…(read more)
The Real Story Behind ‘Mad Men’s’ ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’ Ad
(Warning: spoilers) John Jurgensen writes: For Don Draper, enlightenment apparently came in the form of the perfect advertising pitch. After sinking to the depths of anguish, loss and emptiness in the series finale of “Mad Men,” Don ended up in lotus position, bathed in sunshine on a hillside, with a sphinx-like smile on his face. Cut to a grainy 1971 commercial for Coca-Cola, one of the most famous TV spots in advertising history.
The implication (which sharp viewers predicted, after so many Coke allusions in recent episodes) was that Don would return to McCann Erickson with a brilliant idea in hand for a commercial featuring a multiracial cast singing about a world living in “perfect harmony,” thanks to a particular soda.
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In fact, the real-life person behind the idea was a creative director at McCann Erickson named Bill Backer…(read more)
“Mad Men” is going out with a bang, setting a series of events for the evening of the show’s May 17 finale, including Television Academy panel sessions moderated by Variety‘s Debra Birnbaum.
“The Television Academy Presents a Farewell to Mad Men” at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood will feature Birnbaum moderating a Q&A with creator Matthew Weiner and star Jon Hamm. That conversation will be followed by a panel with cast members January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery, Kiernan Shipka and Jessica Pare, as well as key production staffers including costume designer Janie Bryant and production designer Dan Bishop and d.p. Christopher Manley.
The 5 p.m. PT event will stream live at TelevisionAcademy.com…(read more)
Cynthia Littleton writes: Next to Matt Weiner, nobody knows the look and feel of “Mad Men” better than Phil Abraham. He was the cinematographer on the pilot, and he made an auspicious debut as a director for the series with 2007’s “The Hobo Code.” Abraham took a break from helming an episode of AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” in Atlanta on Monday evening to talk about directing his final “Mad Men” episode, the May 3 installment “Lost Horizon,” from a razor-sharp script by Semi Chellas and Weiner.
This episode had so many pause-worthy moments for Joan, Don, Peggy and Roger. Did you know that going in or did it evolve as you were shooting?
“Mad Men” is different than any other show because the objective is to create those moments on camera and define them in a precise way. They are so special and so carefully crafted by the writers. As a director you’ve got to make sure they play visually and performance-wise and that everyone who is watching is aware of them….That’s what makes “Mad Men” such a different show than any other I’ve worked on. There is a precision to everything.
Does that precision make it harder or easier for you as the director?
The rigor with which these episodes are crafted is something special. The only way you can have moments like the one where Don is sitting in the conference room hearing the research thrown out and seeing the disembodied hands open up their portfolios and all take their pens out at the same time — that’s all scripted. But it has to be visualized to resonate. When you have Jon Hamm it’s not hard to make those things resonate. … It’s this amazing dance of performance and staging and everything that makes “Mad Men” the unique series that it is.
Christina Hendricks steals the episode with Joan’s showdown with McCann’s Jim Hobart.
She’s so strong-willed and I thought such a worthy adversary to (Hobart). I remember going through those scenes with her. Those are long scenes, there’s a lot of words. We talked about the emotion and the lack of emotion she would need to go toe to toe with the big boss. It was great. (Actor H. Richard Greene) was fantastic as well. The two of them played off each other so well. That scene stole the show for me. The dance they dance. It’s been a year since we shot it so it was great to watch it.
Roger and Peggy had a long and entertaining ‘moment’ together. How is Elisabeth Moss’ roller skating?
Peggy says to Roger ‘I don’t think you’ve ever paid this much attention to me.’ I don’t think they’ve ever had such a big scene. Read the rest of this entry »
Eric Thurm writes: TV is an odd mishmash of a medium. It shares enough qualities with film that we can use the word “cinematic” as a blanket compliment, yet its traditional broadcast model more closely resembles radio. In fact, with the advent of original programming from online-only platforms, it’s increasingly difficult to tell what, exactly, TV is.
“At its core, that self-reflexivity is rooted in anxiety for the future—as well it should be. Because as it turns out, the end of Mad Men is not the end of TV, but rather the end of a particular era for the medium, one that has been repeatedly canonized in books like Brett Martin’s ‘Difficult Men’ and Alan Sepinwall’s ‘The Revolution was Televised’.”
Maybe that’s why, dating back to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, TV is so often about itself. There’s a long history of scripted TV that’s about making TV. Yet, for all the literal examples of it—Sports Night, 30 Rock—Mad Men, which returns for its final seven episodes on Sunday, is the most self-reflexive series of them all.
[Order Brett Martin’s book “Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad“ from Amazon.com]
Mad Men‘s ad firm Sterling Cooper & Partners (né Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, né the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency) is itself a representation of the process of making television. The writers’ room pitches, the long nights, the fights with executives over the creative integrity of material that, with varying degrees of explicitness, is ultimately about selling products. Many of the show’s most triumphant moments come not from interpersonal dynamics, but the act of intellectual conception—being struck by writerly inspiration, often in a room full of people trying to come up with their own perfect idea.
And the show’s behind-the-scenes dynamics become manifest in its characters. Critic Todd VanDerWerff has described episodes as “fan fiction Matt Weiner is writing about his own writers’ room,” something that’s especially apparent in the relationship between Don Draper and his protege-turned-peer, Peggy Olson.
“The writers’ room pitches, the long nights, the fights with executives over the creative integrity of material that, with varying degrees of explicitness, is ultimately about selling products.”
Their tempestuous creative partnership prompts fights over the ownership of everything from ad campaigns to each other’s careers, culminating in the infamous “That’s what the money is for!” scene from “The Suitcase”—an episode in which they argue over what you can and cannot do on TV.
In later seasons of the show, even that layer of metaphor has fallen away; the show has become much more explicit in enacting its own struggle to surpass the limitations of TV storytelling. In particular, the merger between Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and onetime rival agency Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough is a self-conscious solution to the problem of keeping Peggy on the show once she had naturally grown past the point of needing Don as a mentor and professional champion.
“Many of the show’s most triumphant moments come not from interpersonal dynamics, but the act of intellectual conception—being struck by writerly inspiration, often in a room full of people trying to come up with their own perfect idea.”
Don and Betty may have gotten divorced, but their relationship is effectively unchanged from what it was in Season 1—because to send her offstage is to deny Don his true moral foil. Will any of these characters ever change?
Maybe not, but they’ll certainly keep trying, and stay painfully aware of their failures. Matthew Weiner and his staff threaten change, but it’s never real; they’re just daring us to confront what would happen if the status quo ever seriously shifted. And it’s all so artfully done that Mad Men more than justifies the level of Talmudic recap coverage it has historically received.
“Indeed, many of today’s prestige shows feel like the creative efforts of people who watched ‘Mad Men’, ‘The Sopranos’, and ‘Breaking Bad’ and then tried to replicate them without understanding what actually made them so good.”
But at its core, that self-reflexivity is rooted in anxiety for the future—as well it should be. Because as it turns out, the end of Mad Men is not the end of TV, but rather the end of a particular era for the medium, one that has been repeatedly canonized in books like Brett Martin’s Difficult Men and Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution was Televised. The Difficult Men narrative of “visionary” showrunners provides a picture of what Good TV is supposed to look like, and how it’s supposed to be made: by exacting geniuses like Don Draper. Read the rest of this entry »
Marc Myers writes: When “Mad Men” returns to AMC on Sunday with the first of its final seven episodes, viewers will be wondering how ad-agency executive Don Draper ends the series—emotionally awakened or drifting down from his office window, as hinted by a falling silhouette in the show’s opening credits. For fans of the series’ 1960s wardrobe and sets, the more pressing question is how the show’s fashion and furnishings will evolve as its timeline inches past the moon landing and enters the shaggy, burnt-orange decay of 1970.
“Through the lens of series creator, producer and writer Matthew Weiner, the adult world of the 1960s is much more jaded and complex than the rosy, adolescent one recalled by many baby boomers who grew up then.”
The runaway popularity of “Mad Men” owes much to its dark story lines of personal demons, office power struggles and noirish character interactions with historical events. But from the start, in 2007, the series’ appeal has also been rooted in its richly detailed look that transports viewers back to an age of sleek office furniture, space-age design, meticulous grooming and colorful clothes. All are represented in “Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men” at the Museum of the Moving Image, an exhibit that celebrates both the show’s vision and visuals.
“The show is not a history lesson or intellectual exploration. It is entertainment based on tension, irony and storytelling that is closely related to today’s life.”
— Matthew Weiner, summarizing the show’s guiding principle
Through the lens of series creator, producer and writer Matthew Weiner, the adult world of the 1960s is much more jaded and complex than the rosy, adolescent one recalled by many baby boomers who grew up then. As the decade unfolds beginning in 1960, the show’s characters find themselves caught in a cultural riptide, with rock, civil rights and feminism changing the balance of power faster than they can adapt. Many turn to alcohol, drugs and serial affairs to ease the stress and hold on to the world they once knew.
Staged in a winding series of rooms, the new exhibit sheds light on how ”Mad Men” was developed by Mr. Weiner and his writers and designers. The exhibit begins with a glass case of books that most influenced Mr. Weiner’s approach, including Helen Gurley Brown’s “Sex and the Single Girl,” the “Journals of John Cheever” and David Ogilvy’s “Ogilvy on Advertising.” The book display is followed by a full-blown re-creation of the room used by the “Mad Men” writing team, complete with their 1960s Danish modern teak conference table, 10 black leather executive chairs, and character-development cards on a wall board. Read the rest of this entry »
Julia Emmanuele writes: When you have a starring role on one of the biggest television shows in the world, people are going to try all kinds of dirty tricks to get you to drop hints about the new season.
Unfortunately for Mad Men fans everywhere, Kiernan Shipka is very good at keeping secrets. After spending seven years working on the show, keeping plot details tightly under wraps has become second nature to the super-stylish actress.
Still, when we got the chance to catch up with Shipka before the final few episodes of Mad Men’s run premiere on April 5, we couldn’t help but try our luck at getting a few secrets out of her.
“Everyone kind of knows we can’t give anything away,” Shipka said apologetically. Read the rest of this entry »
“For me, Peggy and Don will always be my favorite relationship on the show. I used to hear for so long, ‘Are they going to get together romantically or is it a father–daughter thing? Is it mentor–protégée? Are they enemies? Are they friends?’ It’s all of those things.”
— Elisabeth Moss
For National Review Online, Thomas S. Hibbs writes: With the conclusion of the first half of season seven on Sunday, May 25, Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed AMC series Mad Men has only seven episodes left (which we won’t get to see until next spring).
“…it is not difficult to see in the show’s unmasking of the illusions of the self-made man a critique of the world of capitalist advertising with its construction of images of happiness…”
Main character Don Draper began this season at the nadir of his career and personal life. The previous season began with Don on a beach with second wife Megan, now an actress. Reading the opening of Dante’s Inferno, he intones: “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” The book is a gift from Sylvia, a married neighbor with whom he is having a torrid affair but whom he tells at one point, “I want to stop doing this.” The despair in his voice indicates how incapable he is of freeing himself from something he knows is wrong.
Season six proceeded to portray a descent for Don, perhaps reminiscent of Dante’s journey into the depths of hell: progressive alienation from his new wife, a heart-wrenching scene in which his daughter Sally catches him in sexual congress with Sylvia, and his self-destruction in the middle of a business meeting in which he breaks down and tells clients about his childhood in a brothel. The last move put him on an indefinite leave. Unlike Dante, however, Don has no clear path and no Virgil as his guide.
“…But Mad Men also manages to capture something of the attraction of the life of the entrepreneur.”
The question of season seven is whether, like that of Dante, Don’s descent will be followed by an ascent or at least a return to form as a Manhattan master of the universe. In the concluding episode of the first half, Don finds himself facing loss on multiple fronts: the end of his marriage, as he and Megan realize they have been leading separate lives; and the imminent loss of his job — especially with the death of Bert Cooper, who had reluctantly continued to support Don’s presence at the firm. But the episode ends on a high note, with Don’s job and his connections to the longest-standing members of the firm restored. In a final note of whimsy, Don has a vision of the now dead Bert doing a song-and-dance routine of “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Is this a sign that Don is coming unhinged or that he has found his Virgil? Read the rest of this entry »
In honor of Morse’s magical musical final moments as Bert Cooper on Sunday night’s mid-season finale of Mad Men, Here’s Robert Morse the Broadway star, from half a century ago, singing the song he’ll always be identified with in the 1967 film version of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”
For Vulture, Jen Chaney writes: This year’s last Mad Men episode — the finale of season seven, part one — airs Sunday night on AMC. In the days leading up to that momentous Memorial Day weekend event, Mad Men fans will do what they always do on such occasions: spend ludicrous amounts of time speculating about what will happen in that pseudo-finale, even though they know all their theories will be rendered moot come Sunday at 11:10 p.m. Because … eh, what else are you gonna do?
We at Vulture, will help fuel this absurd plot-prediction process by offering a list of 10 theories about what might happen on Sunday’s Mad Men. In order to compile this list, we’ve used all the tools at our disposal. Those tools include:
- The official AMC promo for the episode, which is chock full of information. (Just kidding: It’s just a bunch of scenes from previous episodes that tell us nothing!)
- The summary of the episode, called “Waterloo” (uh-oh). It states: “Don is troubled by a letter; Peggy may seek a new future on a risky venture; Roger receives a phone call; Pete and Cutler butt heads.” So it tells us something, and yet, at the same time, also nothing.
- Random crackpot ideas from the internet.
- Random crackpot ideas that percolated in our brain after one too many shots of rum from Lou Avery’s office tiki bar.
Now, in no particular order, here’s the list of theories, some of which are credible and some of which are flat-out cuckoo. But let’s be honest: If anyone had told you before the season-six finale that Pete Campbell’s mother would go on a cruise with Manolo and fall off the ship to her death, would you have believed it?
Theory 1: Don gets a letter that says the Department of Defense is investigating him for posing as Don Draper and deserting his military post.
As the helpful DVR description of “Waterloo” notes, Don will be “troubled by a letter,” a statement that sparked a flashback to the season-four episode “Hands and Knees,” when DOD officials questioned Betty as part of a background check on Don. (“Do you have any reason to believe Mr. Draper isn’t who he says he is?” one of the G-Men asked.)
That background check happened because Pete had finally landed North American Aviation as a client, and also because Megan, then Don’s secretary, unwittingly filled out a government form on Don’s behalf without sufficiently flailing her arms and screaming so Don would know he shouldn’t sign it. Pete took a bullet for Don, squashing the $4 million account in order to eliminate the possibility that Don would be investigated. But somewhere, in some government office, that form peppered with Don Draper red flags is still sitting there. Perhaps its information has even been sucked into a database housed in one of those dreadful computers Harry Crane loves so much. And perhaps it could resurface, especially if Betty gets background-checked as part of Henry’s attempt to become New York’s Attorney General. (Betty mentioned Henry might pursue that job in episode three of this season, “Field Trip.”)
Theory 2: The finale will focus in part on the Stonewall Riots, in which Bob Benson will be involved.
Mad Men Redditors have been speculating in various threads about which 1969 events will be featured in upcoming Mad Men episodes. One possibility for this week: the Stonewall Riots, which kick-started the American gay-rights movement.
It involves a critical moment in sports history in New York in 1969. Only fairly dedicated baseball fans, or those familiar with the history of New York, would ever make the connection. it’s unimportant to the story, except as a background detail. But it’s the kind of clue that’s meant to reward an observant viewer, like Walter Dellinger, who sees a link between the New York Mets and Don Draper‘s future.
Season 7, Episode 4, ‘The Monolith’
“..the metaphor for his (coming) revival is not the new computer, but the 1969 New York Mets. At his lowest point, Don finds a discarded Mets banner under his file cabinet. He drops in the waste basket. But the next time we see Don, he has retrieved the classic orange banner and hung it on the wall.
When he awakes from a drunken stupor, he sees it from upside down and stares at it. And he calls Freddy to take the day off (from doing no work, anyway) to see a Mets game.
And so all you Don Draper fans who don’t follow baseball need to know that there is indeed hope for Don this season, at least if this deliberate invocation of the Mets has any meaning (and what on this show doesn’t?). The New York Mets were relatively new to baseball and in their eighth season in 1969. They had never had a winning season, and were at that point a metaphor for futility. But in that year they became the “Miracle Mets” winning 100 games and upsetting the great Baltimore Orioles team to win the World Series…”
If Dellinger is right, and Don Draper’s fortunes are finally about to turn, it couldn’t come a moment too soon. After a nearly unbearable string of misfortunes, a downward spiral lasting throughout season 6, unwinding into season 7, Don self-destructive personality has worn out its welcome, for his partners and coworkers, but also for the viewers. I wonder how many of Mad Men’s original fans are still along for the ride. Read the rest of this entry »
For Daily Finance, Annalisa Kraft-Linder writes: Millions of Americans are addicted to “Mad Men,” the AMC drama chronicling the lives of the people at ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Enthralling us over seven seasons are their mostly sordid sex lives, boozy business lunches, snazzy apartments, period clothes and finned Cadillacs.
“They say money can’t buy happiness, but it sure as hell buys everything else.”
— Bob Benson
Although money is rarely addressed, suck-up Bob Benson of season six (James Wolk) sums up their attitudes neatly: “They say money can’t buy happiness, but it sure as hell buys everything else.” Here’s what else you can learn about money from the hit show, which wraps up this year.
‘Happiness Is the … Freedom from Fear’
Agency creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm) leads a complicated life. He had been on unscheduled leave after a major meltdown in front of the Hershey (HSY) clients. He conspires with his former secretary to keep his family in the dark about his out-of-work status. His relationship with his work and money is so tied in to the ’60s concept of the masculine breadwinner that on the April 27 episode he finally admits his fear to wife, Megan (Jessica Pare),”If you found out what happened, you wouldn’t look at me in the same way.”
“I’m just acknowledging that life, unlike this analysis, will eventually end, and someone else will get the bill.”
— Roger Sterling
Draper could have taken a job at another agency for less money but submits sheepishly to be part of the SCDP fold under humiliating conditions to keep up his lifestyle and win back Megan. Read the rest of this entry »
On the red carpet at Mad Men’s Season 6 premiere, BuzzFeed asked the show’s stars where their characters would be in the ’80s. Here’s what they’re predicting, along with our interpretations of them as contemporary ads.
— Mad Men (@MadMen_AMC) April 14, 2014
I remember this episode. One of the highlights of season 4 (before Draper went into alcohol-fueled decline in season 5) when Don’s new Manhattan apartment, new Ad Agency, and hot new French-Canadian replacement wife (who sings, too, ooh la la!) looked like the ingredients for professional success and domestic bliss. And Zou Bisou Bisou made a splash, too. The only person in who didn’t like the performance is Don Draper, but everyone else at the party thought it was sexy as hell.
Though I admire January Jones‘ acting, the Betty character was overexposed. When Draper remarried, I welcomed the introduction of the Megan character as wife #2. Besides being more of a 1960s modern girl, let’s face it, actress Jessica Paré is sexy. Even though this marriage is not destined to succeed, either.
Draper, well, he’s a complicated guy.
For collectors, Amazon has Mad Men: Seasons 1-4
(and if you do get it, order it via this link, or above, it’s like a micro-tip jar that helps support this site)
I have all four. I’ve been collecting them along the way, though I haven’t added season 5 yet. (the Draper-in-decline ‘bummer’ season) Season Six starts this spring. I can’t wait.
Recalling Don Draper’s creative peak, his most poignant pitch, to Kodak. Before his unresolved personality disorder, cracked identity and mid-life crisis led him to his epic season 5 meltdown.