Don Draper may act like he answers to no one, but Jon Hamm respects the “Mad Men” hierarchy.
Series creator Matthew Weiner prohibits the actors from leaking any storyline teases, but Hamm knows how to work around it by dishing some behind-the-scenes details – and, after directing the season’s debut episode, he’s just as insider-y as the show’s own take on the '60s ad world.
Are you as excited about arrival of the new season – at last – as the viewers?
I am very excited. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, we hope, so, I'm thrilled. We were happy to come back to work. I'm happy to almost be done with work and I'm thrilled to get it on the air, honestly.
What can you talk about in terms of your feelings about playing Don this season?
We had a very long break, and it was hard. It felt weird and strange because we were gone so long. Then when we got back the ramp-up period was a little shallower. We didn't ramp right back into it, but once we locked in it was pretty great. It was really fun. I love my job. I love Matt Weiner’s writing.
Can you talk about directing actors that you've worked with as a colleague?
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Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.
It was great, honestly. Part of it is that we're all very close and we're all very good friends and we've all worked together now for almost six years. So for me it was very easy to say, 'Okay, that was great. Let's do it again. Let's try it a different way,' kind of simple direction and not too complicated. I didn't try to overreach my grasp or whatever that thing is. I didn't try to do too much. It wasn't about camera moves. I wasn't trying to do be David Fincher. Part of it was like, 'Let’s see if I can do this and not run the train off the tracks.'
Is there a danger when you direct your friends?
I don't know if I would call it dangerous. I think that everybody realized that, because we had done it with John Slattery the year before, twice, and it was great. It was a really nice experience and everyone was very supportive, so that kind of carried over onto my episode. People were supportive, and not just the cast. The crew, everybody was like, 'Let’s make our day.' We had some very challenging shoot days with extras and this and that and locations.
Where were you?
We were on the space shuttle. That was one. The Matterhorn, that was another one. [Laughs]
Was it difficult directing when you were in the scene?
It's not that hard. You have playback, so you can go and you can watch. It just takes a little longer because you're not really watching it in real time. You have to go back, spin it back and watch it again. It was tricky, but it wasn't that hard. I'm one of those people that doesn't necessarily have a hard time watching themselves. I don't get too wound up and freaked out. If I was I don't think that I would've chosen to direct. It would've been very hard, so I was like, 'Okay, let’s do it again. I was terrible. Let’s do it again.' I'm not ashamed of calling myself out.
Where are you aspirations as far as directing more and do you want to keep it to television or are you thinking feature film?
I realize the incredible vision and dedication it takes to shepherd a feature film into existence. I watched Ben Affleck do it [on ‘The Town’] and I was like, 'Hats off to you.' I just recently watched my girlfriend [Jennifer Westfledt] do it and I watched her work 24/7 for the better part of a year and it takes a tremendous amount of focus, a tremendous amount of drive and just a tremendous amount of work – whereas in television so many of those decisions are already made. There's already an apparatus in place. There're already departments in place. There's already a machine that's set to ‘lets’ go’ and you don't have to get that up and running. So I would definitely do it again, but I would do TV again and I would love to do it in a place where I feel as comfortable as I feel on the 'Mad Men' set.
Can you talk about the first table read you guys had when you came back?
It was fun, very fun. I was directing and so that was a weird thing. We're very supportive. I think that everyone was excited to be back to work and I think that's from Matt on down. Everybody was jazzed to be back up and running. It was different and fun for me to be in a different chair, in the director's part, so that was a little bit exciting and gave it enough of a new flavor and then we were back into it.
Does each season feel like a history lesson, do you learn something about the era that you didn't previously know? Not so much for the audience, but for you?
No. I think the closest thing that I could say to things like that are like, 'Oh, that was when that happened – right,' some whatever-thing it was. 'Oh, yeah, that was that – right,’ not having been alive during that time. So it doesn't necessarily feel like a history lesson and we try to really minimize that because whenever people talk about The '60's with a capital T, capital S ,it always feels like it's this weird, important thing. We try to make it a story about these people that happened to take place during this time.
How would you like to see the show move into the '70's with a new wardrobe – a little polyester?
Well, it would have to move in to the awfully late '70's. I don't think that Don is going to Studio 54, but you never know.