He’s famous for playing the incredibly sexy Don Draper in hit television show Mad Men, but when it comes to movies, Jon Hamm is keen to break out of the Mad Men mould.
New Idea sat down with Jon to talk his new movie, Friends with Kids (out now!) - which he produced and co-stared with his partner Jennifer Westfelt - and why he’s never had kids.
What drew you and Jen to this subject matter? Were loads of your friends going AWOL after having kids?
A little bit, yeah. There are these watershed or signpost moments in your life, where you have that year in your late 20s where you’re like, ‘Wow I went to 5 weddings this year.’
Then 30, 32, 33 it’s ‘I went to 5 baby showers.’ We had that thing where we had friends of ours and Jen and I looked at each other and went, ‘We haven’t seen those guys, what happened to those guys, Oh yeah, they had a baby’.
And you go into the cocoon for like a solid 6-8 months and we visited and we’d see the baby and everything but you really don’t have time for dinner and hanging out and whatever, so it was the kernel of the idea of ‘what is this?’.
It’s very real, considering you’ve not got children yourselves.
We don’t have kids but I’m an uncle seven times over and one of my nieces just recently had a baby so I’m a great uncle.
And I love our friends’ kids, it’s just that for whatever reason we haven’t chosen to have them. Part of it is our lives, it’s very crazy and difficult if you’re travelling around the world, to have a baby.
And we don’t have the kind of relationship that allows one person to just stop and stay home and deal with that so it’s a tricky balance.
But we do understand – we tried to portray the difficult parts as honest but also humorously, and some of the other parts, as difficult, emotional.
And you talk about how most people get married in their 20s and have babies in their 30s and you’ve been with Jen a long time but chosen to do neither. Is that on purpose?
I’ve never been a person who’s been a very big planner. Life for me has certainly shifted in the last 5 or 6 years in what some would say a very positive way but certainly in a very different way, and I certainly couldn’t have predicted that 10 years ago, so I take things as they come a little more than most people.
I was raised as an only child although I have older half sisters from my father’s first marriage, and I also lost my parents at a very young age, so I feel like maybe that’s my rudderless affect that I have.
But I’ve been fortunate in that Jen and I are very good communicators in that we don’t leave a lot unsaid so we’ve both been on the same page about it.
So how is it being directed by Jen?
It was wonderful. What you want in a director is somebody who is incredibly confident, incredibly knowledgeable about the script about the world you’re trying to inhabit, and Jen is that.
She among anyone on the film knew the most about the story because she wrote it, and obviously she had to do a lot of work in front of the camera as well and we were very fortunate to have an executive producer who was able to sit behind the monitor and watch when Jen couldn’t be there, and be very helpful as a second set of eyes.
I was there as well to do that. But it was great, it was really great and I think that I’m pretty sure everyone involved in the film would say the same thing – that having Jen’s remarkable enthusiasm, and energy and dedication and leadership were, for me, a joy and inspiring to watch.
Does working with Jen mean you have to change your relationship together when you’re at home and at work?
I think it was fairly easy, we have a fairly easy way of communicating, and she’s not a tyrant, she asks for what she wants and as an actor you can say, ‘Well I think this...’ and you have a conversation but I’m a fairly low-key person as well so it worked out great.
Everyone thinks that it’s going to be contentious or weird but honestly we both kind of sat through the pre-production, we’re all trying to make the same movie, there’s no contentiousness back and forth, so that was probably why it was so effective and so fun.
Being Don Draper... it’s such an iconic role. Can you walk down the road now without women throwing themselves at your feet?
That doesn’t happen... I think part of it is that I don’t really buy into it, I don’t really play it up, I find it all a little bit humorous that people think that I’m this character that I couldn’t be less like, but it is nice, when you’re appreciated for something that you do, and especially when it’s something that you’re proud of.
What’s the biggest misconception people have? In an interview with co-star Chris O’Dowd he said ‘He’s not like Don Draper at all, he’s really goofy and he’s into poo jokes’!
I have to say I really don’t know where that poo joke thing came from. I was combing my brain to find out any scatological references I’d made to Chris and I couldn’t come up with any, so he may be projecting!
But I try to be funny and take the piss, as they say here, and look at things a little skewed. That’s more my personal mentality. Don Draper’s a little more serious or intense.
You hung in there for a while didn’t you, before your big break – did you have a cut off point for making it as an actor?
I actually got to 25 and I said I’ve got until 30 to get to where I don’t have to have a day job. My day job at the time was waiting tables and bar tending. I said if I’m still waiting tables at 30 as my main source of income, I’m not going to do it.And on my 30th birthday I was down in Georgia working on a film and Jen and three of my closest friends from high school came down to visit so I had succeeded.