It was the glory days of 1996 tele­vi­sion – bil­low­ing chi­nos and frosted tips firmly in their reign of ter­ror. A young woman named Mary was look­ing for “a sexy, hot man who is hon­est… and some­one who knows how to give a good foot massage”. She was a con­tes­tant on The Big Date and her choice was down to three (let’s be kind and say) el­i­gi­ble suit­ors. There was Marc, the stunt­man, who wanted to “take her home and show her [his] flex­i­bil­ity”. There was the lightly goa­teed Mar­cus, who wanted to “take her to Ve­gas, or bungee jump­ing… and at the same time, squeeze her like a lit­tle teddy bear”. The fi­nal con­tes­tant was 25-year-old Jon, who made his hum­ble pitch from be­hind the cur­tain of a parted Jeremy Lon­don ’90s fringe. “Well, I’d start off with some fab­u­lous food. A lit­tle fab­u­lous con­ver­sa­tion…” “What else fab­u­lous, Jon?” taunted the host, who would go on to helm Temp­ta­tion Is­land and An­tiques Road­show. “… Well, I’d end it with a fab­u­lous foot massage, for an evening of to­tal fab­u­los­ity.” Jon grinned big and awk­ward. Mary kind of cringed. She chose Marc. The next girl chose Mar­cus. Jon’s fab­u­los­ity would have to wait a while be­fore being re­alised. On an over­cast, driz­zly day in West Hol­ly­wood, Hamm ab­jectly re­fuses to watch that two-minute clip. It was his first TV ap­pear­ance. And it’s the only time he’ll be ashamed, or abashed, all day. But it’s a perfect check­point in a hero’s tale – a re­minder that a grinny, awk­ward twen­tysome­thing Jon can, pretty much a decade later, be­come Don Draper; a core part of redefin­ing and re­ju­ve­nat­ing mas­culin­ity and style for a gen­er­a­tion. More im­por­tantly, it’s a re­minder that Jon can be­come Jon Hamm. Gua­camole ar­rives on some typ­i­cally over­thought matte black LA crock­ery. Jon Hamm is dressed like a man ought to be – a no-fuss ging­ham shirt from Rag & Bone, punchy-but-not-too-preppy green chi­nos, boots and a scruffy cap from his am­a­teur base­ball team. We’re in a bizarre, luxe cowork­ing-space-cum-mem­bers-club, if that makes any sense. Why’d he choose this joint? “I didn’t,” he says with a shrug, lick­ing off a lit­tle rogue dip from his in­dex fin­ger. “It was cho­sen for me, like ev­ery­thing else in my life.” Be­fore we talk fil­mog­ra­phy, about the movie he’s meant to be flog­ging, style or strand-perfect hair, we’re into an in­ter­est­ing, if sud­den, deep dive. We wheel around geopol­i­tics, around race re­la­tions, around the democrati­sa­tion of in­for­ma­tion. Jon Hamm, you quickly learn, is thought­ful. He’s in­ter­est­ing. And in­ter­ested. “This is prob­a­bly the first time where the hetero­sex­ual white male has slipped,” he says. “It’s still the most dom­i­nant cul­tural thing on the planet, but it’s slipped. Like, marginally. And peo­ple are los­ing their minds: ‘What do you mean I have to pay at­ten­tion to some­one else’s view­point? I’ve never had to do that my whole life.’” Ap­par­ently, most are sur­prised by Hamm’s thought­ful­ness: “For what­ever rea­son – that I played a dummy, that I’m marginally good look­ing, that I’m an ath­lete? Some peo­ple think that those things can’t go to­gether. “But I was a teacher. I was a very good stu­dent. I love learn­ing. Teach me things, man. Let’s make ev­ery­thing a teach­able mo­ment.” The 45-year-old’s voice is straight from a sound­stage, a deep bari­tone lit­tered with kind Mid­west in­flec­tions. It car­ries com­fort­ably. That gen­tle coun­try twang is out of St Louis, Mis­souri. Hamm grew up there, raised by a sin­gle mother – his par­ents di­vorc­ing when he was two years old. “I was a to­tal latchkey kid – took the bus home, walked home, had to call my mom when I got home,” he says. Ever the ath­lete, Hamm was on both the swim­ming and foot­ball teams and glued to the TV on game day. “They would show the Rose Bowl, this Cal­i­for­nian col­lege foot­ball game, and the sun would be set­ting, and it’s in Pasadena, and there are girls in biki­nis and they’re hit­ting beach balls up in the air and you’re like, ‘You’ve gotta be kid­ding me – where is that? That is heaven.’” Hamm’s mother passed away when he was just 10. He moved in with his fa­ther. He went to col­lege, first in Texas, then Mis­souri, and even­tu­ally grad­u­ated with an English de­gree. “With hon­ours,” he’ll re­mind you. Then, at 20, he lost his fa­ther. Hamm tum­bled into de­pres­sion, though was never treated for it – he fig­ured he was just being sad and lazy. With mem­o­ries of the Rose Bowl, of Pasadena sun­sets and girls in biki­nis, Hamm, at 25, de­cided to head for Cal­i­for­nia, push­ing a 1986 Toyota Corolla, its odome­ter on the wrong side of 100,000 miles, from Mis­souri to Los Angeles. In his wal­let was $150, a gift from his grand­fa­ther. The night be­fore he left – in the mid­dle of a freez­ing snap in St Louis, where he’d been sleep­ing on a friend’s couch – Hamm had a vivid, lu­cid dream. He could see his mother, fa­ther and ma­ter­nal grand­mother. One by one, they re­as­sured him. They told him, ‘You’re go­ing to be OK. You just need to get on the road. You’ll be OK. We’re watch­ing out for you.’ “I woke up com­pletely emo­tional. I was wrecked. It was so very real. It was cathar­tic.” Aside from an icy, nervy drive up the Rock­ies, the road trip went off with­out a hitch. Jon Hamm made it to Cal­i­for­nia. Then, of course, the strug­gle re­ally be­gan. He took some wai­t­er­ing work on Venice Beach, along­side a care­free ac­tor and ac­tress on the make who were “prob­a­bly mod­els”. They wasted away half a dozen af­ter­noons boozing and play­ing vol­ley­ball. Hamm dis­tanced him­self. “I wanted to get an [act­ing] job and I made a deal with my­self. I said, ‘If I’m not do­ing what I want to do by the time I turn 30, then I’m go­ing to do some­thing else.’ I felt like five years was plenty of time to get some­thing done.” He fig­ured a pres­i­den­tial term is four years – and they got stuff done. But this was the era of Daw­son’s Creek. Of 90210. The 25-year-olds on the rise were

being cast as high-school­ers and Jon Hamm barely looked like a high-schooler when he was in high school. “There was some­thing about my en­ergy, the way I car­ried my­self. Some­thing sort of… older, more weath­ered, more… seen more of life. I’d lost that youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance. Whether that’s los­ing your par­ents, or feel­ing de­tached from any kind of group. What­ever it was, that came across.” Life fell into an un­steady rhythm of side work and au­di­tions. Hamm did a stint at well-known Café Med on Sun­set Boule­vard – tak­ing the bus to work just a few kilo­me­tres down the same road we now sit on. Things were slow. And then they teetered to life, just like peo­ple had pre­dicted. It was a small part on a big show. A one-off episode cast as ‘That Guy’ on Ally Mcbeal. A re­cur­ring role here. A pi­lot there. And right around his dead­line age of 30, there was We Were Sol­diers – his first meaty role. He quit the restau­rant gigs. At 35, with a few more cred­its se­cured, Hamm went back to the draw­ing board – back to test­ing for pi­lots. The last one he au­di­tioned for was a new AMC piece called Mad Men. Matt Weiner, the show’s creator, was on the look­out for his Don Draper – the show’s or­phaned, weath­ered, re­served pro­tag­o­nist. When Hamm walked out of his Mad Men au­di­tion, Weiner turned to the rest of the room, and with­out hes­i­ta­tion, said: “That man had no par­ents.”

Mad Men would be­come a sin­gu­lar tele­vi­sion en­tity for the noughties. Broad­cast on a then strug­gling net­work, helmed by a rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced writer and with an anony­mous cast, it took less than a sea­son for it to stand on its own two hand­somely brogued feet. It was a pre-noon cock­tail of he­do­nism, ar­chive-perfect cos­tumes, slow, de­lib­er­ate char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment and pedan­tic script­ing. Mad Men was a story from an­other era, tai­lored per­fectly to mod­ern times. It ap­pealed to mass au­di­ences with its day-drink­ing and day-fuck­ing and throw­back New York mas­culin­ity. It ap­pealed to crit­i­cal au­di­ences with its care­fully woven gen­der and cul­tural com­men­tary. It made stars of Hamm and his col­leagues. It made po­made-parted hair, rich tai­lor­ing and brood­ing stares an ubiq­ui­tous look from Lon­don to Syd­ney to New York and beyond. Ba­nana Repub­lic de­signed a col­lec­tion around the show. Michael Kors had a Mad Men- in­spired run­way show. It was a style mo­ment. And, nat­u­rally, Hamm trans­formed that mo­ment into a teach­able one. “It made me con­scious of pre­sent­ing in a cer­tain way. Be­fore that, my style was sort of frozen in my early twen­ties. But the biggest thing – I just started buy­ing clothes that fit. I started pay­ing at­ten­tion to it. Hav­ing them put on me and tai­lored, I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ You recog­nise that there’s a big dif­fer­ence in qual­ity and fit.” A week ear­lier, Hamm was at Tom Ford’s show in New York. It was his first run­way. “The aes­thetic is more like the ’70s – it’s sexy, it’s cool. He’s a con­nois­seur. I feel amazing in a Tom Ford suit. I wore one this week­end. I got a ton of com­pli­ments on it. I feel good. When you look good, when your clothes fit you, you feel con­fi­dent – it’s not a mis­take.” For Hamm, get­ting Mad Men marked the be­gin­ning of a long jour­ney. It also sig­nalled an end to a ten­u­ous time in life. “Get­ting a role like that, all of a sud­den, the rest of your life looks re­ally dif­fer­ent,” he says. “The game changes, and you’re like, I’m the same per­son I was a year ago – five min­utes ago.’” On a prac­ti­cal level, Hamm could now buy, do, or be any­thing he wanted. Sud­denly, he was at the Golden Globes. The SAGS. The Em­mys. “… And win­ning?!” he says with main­tained won­der­ment. Perks came – nu­mer­ous and in­stant. “As soon as you make a lot of money in this coun­try, you don’t have to pay for any­thing,” he notes. “I try to give it away to peo­ple. I give it to shel­ters. But it ac­cu­mu­lates.” With his bari­tone shift­ing from pleas­ant to iconic, Mercedes tapped him for voiceovers. A new car each year was part of the deal. “I have the most beau­ti­ful car in the world now. Even the valet guy to­day was like, ‘Holy shit!’ It’s the nicest car I’ve ever been in.” With the spot­light comes the ridicu­lous. And so it was, a few years ago, the ru­mour du jour that ‘Jon Hamm Has A Huge Cock’. Dubbed the ‘Hamm-aconda’, it was made com­plete with a (pos­si­bly?) Pho­to­shopped image. For a while, half a dozen Hol­ly­wood blogs rode Jon Hamm’s dick. So to speak. “It was a topic of fas­ci­na­tion for other peo­ple – cer­tainly not me. By the way, as ru­mours go – not the worst.” To set things straight – he didn’t go through a phase of wear­ing no un­der­wear. “I’ve al­ways worn un­der­wear – 100 per cent of the time. In fact, I love un­der­wear. What’s bet­ter than a com­fort­able pair? Who wants an old pair of un­der­wear? It’s a six-month, eight-month rule – you have to re­fresh the col­lec­tion. “That makes sense. In fact, there’s a cer­tain sweet spot where they’ve been washed enough and they’re su­per soft, but they haven’t lost the elas­tic yet. It’s a slip­pery slope. I feel that slip­pery slope is me, right now. I’m worn in a lit­tle bit, and al­most just old – about to be tossed in the bin.” That Hamm is hi­lar­i­ous and sharp of wit might also come as a sur­prise. He also has these won­der­ful ‘get-off-my-lawn mo­ments’, too. (On so­cial me­dia: “If you’re go­ing to be a dick, put your name on it. Own it. It’s only fair”.) He talks fur­ther about age. About catch­ing rock­ers Wilco the other night. “They’re also a lit­tle bit older – the crowd is a lit­tle bit older. There were so few phones up. Everyone there was like, ‘I’m not gonna put it on­line, I just want to lis­ten.’ They were great.” Hamm’s cur­rently star­ring in Keep­ing Up With The Jone­ses – a sort of Mr & Mrs Smith meets Bad Neigh­bours. His co-stars are Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis and Isla Fisher. He heaps praise on both. Next year, an­other com­edy, a new Edgar Wright film along­side Kevin Spacey. He also says he’d be open to a fea­ture adap­ta­tion of Archer – though feels it’d work best if Jon Ben­jamin’s voice was dubbed over his act­ing.


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