Fargo’s Jon Hamm on Mad Men, Marriage, Morning Show, Jennifer Aniston 5

In January of 2022, Jon Hamm starred in a commercial titled “Everyone But Jon Hamm.” The minute-long spot, for Apple TV+, played off the idea that everyone in the industry seemed to have a television show but him.

When the concept was first pitched, Hamm hesitated. “I was like, ‘There’s a version of this that could go terribly wrong — just thirsty and weird,’ ” he says. But he knew the director and trusted that he’d strike the right tone. So, they moved forward: Hamm, on the couch, scrolling through a carousel of familiar faces with projects on the platform. “Samuel L. Jackson, Billie Eilish, Tom Holland, Chris Evans. What about Jon Hamm?” he says, to the camera. “Jen and Reese, no Jon? Feels like a missed opportunity.”

Now, two and a half years later, he jokes, “I can’t stop working for Apple.” He even did a season of The Morning Show, and he’s poised to do more — assuming he can carve out time from filming his other Apple TV+ series, Your Friends and Neighbors. In between, he starred in the fifth installment of FX’s Fargo, led the voice cast of Fox’s Grimsburg, released a second season of the comedy Good Omens, shot a new drama from Taylor Sheridan and reprised his iconic role as Don Draper in, of all places, Jerry Seinfeld’s Pop-Tart movie. 

Jon Hamm was photographed Feb. 27 in Topanga Canyon.

Photographed by Gavin Bond

So, at 53, the newly married Hamm is back in the zeitgeist in a way that he hasn’t been since Mad Men ended nearly a decade ago. His absence was partially by design — or, at least, a predictable byproduct of the smaller, quirkier bets he placed, including the critically adored reimagining of Fletch, which he’s eager to reprise. “People were chucking all kinds of stuff at him,” says his frequent collaborator and close pal John Slattery, “and I think that he’s played it smartly, career-wise, just finding the best parts he could as opposed to some of the choices where you go, ‘Oh, that’s a good paycheck.’ ”

Fargo writer-director Noah Hawley conceived of Sheriff Roy Tillman, a MAGA Marlboro Man, with Hamm in mind. He needed someone the audience couldn’t help but like on some level despite his deplorable behavior, and Hamm demonstrated a gift for that with Draper, the hard-drinking, smoking, womanizing ’60s ad man. “Jon is a kind of American man that doesn’t seem to exist anymore,” says Hawley. “And there’s always something about Fargo where, in this region of the country, it’s contemporary but it’s also somehow 1982 and 1965, and Jon has that quality — he’s sort of out of time.” 

On The Morning Show, it was Aniston’s idea to cast Hamm as her love interest — and she’s enjoyed playing opposite him so much, she’s now trying to will a rom-com into existence. (For the record, the genre is also “tremendously appealing” to Hamm, as is reteaming with Aniston.) “Jon’s one of those rare combinations of a gorgeous face and extreme talent both dramatically and comedically,” she says of an actor who’s as comfortable hosting Saturday Night Live as he is playing a brooding antihero for seven seasons — though the latter weighed more heavily on him, as evidenced by his post-Mad Men overhaul, which included a stint in rehab and the demise of a long-term relationship. 

Over the course of a few hours and several cups of coffee at The Corner Bistro in Manhattan, where Hamm’s currently filming, he opens up about navigating fame, embracing therapy and wanting kids. His dog, Murphy, a large Mastiff mix, pants by his side. 

Photographed by Gavin Bond

While shooting the Mad Men pilot, you got vitiligo — stress doesn’t cause it, but it is a trigger. Has it waned since the show ended?

It’s waxed and waned. It’s a pigmentation thing. Michael Jackson had it. It affects the Black community significantly more because you have melanin in your skin and it goes away. But I remember waking up one day while shooting the pilot, and it looked like someone had dropped bleach on my chin. Then I looked at my hands and shins, and they had these patches on them. I went to see a couple of doctors, and they were like, “You can try this cream. We don’t really have a solution. But you’re white, it’s probably fine.” Which is what people have said to white people their whole life: “You’re white, you’re probably fine.”

Now, nearly 10 years removed from Mad Men, has your perspective on the experience changed?

A hundred percent. You go through it and it’s happening to you — all the notoriety, the press, the fame. But it’s a thing where I look back on it, and I wish I would’ve paid more attention.

As in, enjoyed it more?

Yeah, kind of. Because it’s happening to you so viscerally and it’s such a swirl all at once and there’s no guidebook, and you go, “Shit, man.” But it’s fun to be at the center of the conversation for our business. I’ve had a bit of that with Fargo. And it’s nice to be back in the conversation, to be part of something you’re proud of and that’s hitting people in a way that they want to talk about it. And that’s what Mad Men was and still is. Anna [Osceola, his actress wife] and I came to this bar the other night for a burger, and some fucking 25-year-old kid was like, “Oh my God, Mad Men‘s so good.” And I’m thinking, “Why is it good to you? You were a baby when it started.” But, yeah, it feels good.

Hamm with friend and Mad Men co-star John Slattery, who tells THR, “We hit it off immediately. You just meet certain people and find yourself on the same wavelength.”

Jamie Trueblood/AMC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Had you missed being part of the conversation when you weren’t?

No, but it hits different when you’re in it. Look, I’ve steadily worked since Mad Men. I’ve not had a down year. I call my business manager once a month and go, “How are we doing?” And he says, “We’re good.” But there’s work and then there’s work that people put on magazine covers. And I’ve had so many people come up and want to talk about The Morning Show. Fargo, too. People will literally whisper, “Jesus, I really loved you in Fargo.” I’m like, “You can say it out loud.”

I’ll admit, I had to watch some of Fargo through my fingers.

It was very dark. And being by myself in Calgary was dark in every way. I was very thankful I had a Peloton because I could at least get a sweat going. But it was a hard job. I also loved it. It’s fun to play the bad guy.

I hear you’ll be returning to The Morning Show, too.

I believe I am. It’s a matter of scheduling, but my thing was, “Don’t bring me back just to bring me back. Bring me back to move the story forward in some way.” And I think they’ve figured out a way that that might happen.

“He’s a ridiculously smart goofball,” says Jennifer Aniston, with Hamm, on the Morning Show set.

Erin Simkin/Apple TV+

You did Bill Maher’s podcast not too long ago, and he pooh-poohed your commitment to therapy, suggesting you couldn’t possibly need it. You pushed back …

Well, because what does that even mean? When my mom died [Hamm was 10 at the time], they gave me a book. You go, “Jesus Christ, maybe a sit-down would’ve been a little more helpful?” But it was St. Louis in the ’80s. I mean, I didn’t meet another kid that had divorced parents until I was in ninth grade. Ninth grade! It was just a different time. And the availability of support or any of that, it wasn’t there. It was Cub Scouts or church or sports.

When did you first go to therapy?

After my dad died [a decade later]. My [half] sister was like, “You are spiraling. You need help.” And I was like, “No, I don’t. No, I don’t.” Then you eventually go, “Oh, yeah, I do.” And if you’re smart enough or present enough in your own feelings, you go, “This is actually tremendously helpful.” And that’s what it was. I went to therapy; I got put on Prozac and was pulled out of the spiral that I was in. I got my brain chemically altered, and I was like, “OK, this is clearly something that I needed.” I check in with it all the time. I’m still in therapy. I have a wonderful therapist. And I understand that when I’m — “distracted” is the wrong word, but when I’m not present — that’s when I can start to spiral into something that’s not healthy. And I go, “I don’t want to do that. I want to be healthy. I want to be happy.”

You’ve often said it took you years to break into this business. What was the feedback early on?

I just didn’t fit. I was the guy who was 25 but looked 35. It’s like I fell between two barstools. I mean, I didn’t look like I was in high school when I was in high school. I don’t know if it was losing my parents, but I looked older.

Then, finally, Mad Men came.

I got the Mad Men script, and I was like, “Shit, this is really good.” And it’s a good lesson in not getting ahead of yourself because I remember thinking, “They’re never going to cast me.” Because I’d had an experience with another really good script that I read and I was like, “I would do anything to get this part.”

What was it?

It was The West Wing. Rob Lowe’s character, Sam. I thought, “I could murder this part.” And I was great in the audition, but I saw the casting director’s face, and I knew this part’s already cast. Then it was like, “Oh, it’s Rob Lowe. OK, I get it.” So I thought the same thing would happen on Mad Men. I’ll give a great audition, and they’ll give it to a movie star. The first time I went in, I was the only person auditioning, it was so early in the process. And then as I’d go back in and go back in, I started seeing names that I recognized on the sign-in sheet.

Including Rob Lowe’s, no?

Rob never auditioned, but he was definitely under consideration. And Lacey Rose Matthew Weiner, God bless him, basically said, “We can’t have a superstar. If Rob Lowe plays this part, it’ll be the Rob Lowe show, and we don’t want that. We want it to be a mystery about who this guy is.” And to my tremendous benefit, that worked.

Editor’s note: This is not Hamm’s dog. But he’s a good boy, nonetheless. God’s True Cashmere hoodie, track pants.

Photographed by Gavin Bond

There’s a story that Weiner tells about how you left your first audition, and he said, “That man was not raised by his parents.” In his eyes, it made you an ideal fit to play the orphaned Don Draper?

There is something about being orphaned that gives you a different sensibility. You’re older than your years. And you have more experience than most kids and a different outlook or approach to life. And I still think about it that way. My friends that have parents that are still married or still alive, and it’s not a judgment either way, it’s just different. It’s a different way of going through life, and I don’t really wear it on my sleeve, but obviously Matt picked up on that, and it worked for Don Draper, for sure. There was something haunted in Don.

You’ve suggested that you think that story is apocryphal. Why?

Well, Matthew’s definitely a person who takes a lot of credit for things that, in retrospect, he didn’t necessarily think of at the time. But God bless him, it’s a good story. Print the legend, right?

It often felt like you were exhausted by the Don Draper worship. Is that a misread?

Jimmy Gandolfini, whom I knew a little bit, had a similar relationship to Tony Soprano, and Bryan Cranston had it with Walter White. The character got celebrated for the wrong reasons. People thought that Don was this paragon of masculinity or whatever. There were so many think-pieces, and you go, “Wait, he was pretty fucked up.” And I was very happy with how Matt ended the story, but it was also hard.

Did you talk to Cranston and Gandolfini about those challenges, including how to move on? Like, an antihero support group.

Never specifically. But Jimmy and I have a very interesting connection because when he passed away, his son, Mikey, reached out to me, and I’ve been a bit of a mentor to him. He said, “My dad told me that you were a good guy.” I literally was like, (pantomimes bawling), “OK, let’s be friends.” And he is. He’s my buddy. And Bryan, we did one of our first photo shoots together for AMC’s new lineup. He’s in his tighty-whities and a chemical apron and I’m in a suit with a cigarette. He’s like, “You got the better deal on this.” Turns out he got a pretty good deal, too. But yeah, he’s been a great friend and a good source of wisdom. You go through things like that, and there are very few people you can commiserate with.

I was only half joking about the antihero support group.

It’s the “What’s next?” That’s the thing. You can talk to anybody from Friends, it’s the same thing. We’re all just finding our way.

What were your fears rooted in?

I don’t think there were any fears coming out of it. It was exhaustion, and relief. I was going through a lot in my personal life at that point, too. It was just managing all of that and thinking, “I just want to go away for however long and reboot,” which I did, and that was helpful.

What does “reboot” mean to you?

Just reengage with a life that isn’t Don Draper — that isn’t this character and isn’t this schedule. My life had been defined by this one track, and it was a lot. It was nice to be able to take the Etch a Sketch and just shake it and start over. It was also hard, but I needed to go reboot the system. And then I got to go do a lot of cool work, whether it was Baby Driver or Beirut, with people that I really respected, and it wasn’t Don Draper.

At one point, Weiner wanted you to be in his film, too, no?

Yeah, and he asked me to do a part in The Romanoffs, too. And it wasn’t a fuck-you to him, it was more, “I love you very much, but I need to go walk this path alone.”

Cut to a decade later, and you and John Slattery just reprised your roles in the middle of Unfrosted. How? Why? Tell me everything.

I was of two minds. I told Jerry, “I don’t enter into this lightly. I’m not trying to be too precious about this, but I don’t want to devalue it.” He goes, “I understand that, but this would be very funny.” Then I called Slattery and said, “If you don’t do it, I won’t do it, but it could be really funny.” He goes, “Why wouldn’t we do it?”

What did it feel like to be back in the suit and the slicked back hair?
I look at pictures now and God, I’m, like, 20 pounds heavier, 10 years older, and it’s just like, yuck. But it was literally like putting on a very familiar, very comfortable suit. You’re just like, “Oh shit, I can do this.”

Do you need Weiner’s permission to revive the character? Or do you give him a heads up?

No. Maybe I should have? But I didn’t and I wouldn’t. I think I have a legitimate claim to ownership over that character as much as he does.

Are you two still close?

I don’t see him much, but I’ll text him probably once a month. For better or for worse, that guy gave me my career, and I love him and can’t wait to see what he does next.

It feels as though he’s in that nebulous place in culture where I’m not sure if he was canceled. I think he fell into the #MeToo bucket [with allegations of sexual harassment, which he denied].

That was a fun time with all of that coming down and going, “Where does anything fall? And are we allowed to have the conversation or is it just immediately shut down? And is it binary or is it a continuum?”

In the early days of the movement, it seemed to be quite binary.

I think we’ve moved through that. And listen, there definitely needed to be a reckoning of some sort. But the binary situation felt very unhelpful because it was tarring a lot of people with a similar brush, where you’re like, “Oh, is that the same? Because it doesn’t feel like it’s the same at all.” I felt that with Aziz Ansari, like, “Wait a minute, this doesn’t feel the same as Harvey [Weinstein].”

Legacies get tarnished, too. Do you worry about that with Mad Men? Next year marks 10 years since it ended, and I’m not sure the media will jump to honor him or the show in the way it otherwise would have.

Or maybe they will. Who knows?

Greg Lauren henley, track pants; Jacques Marie Mage sunglasses; David Yurman silver chain.

Photographed by Gavin Bond

Looking back, what guided your post-Mad Men choices?

“Will this be fun? Will it be something I’d want to watch?” That’s Keeping Up With the Joneses or Tag. These are not movies that are going to move the needle as some great cinematic achievement, but I got to work with some of the funniest people on the planet and I had a blast. And that’s the decision-making process. Obviously, I was newly single and sober and not sober, so all of these things were happening in my life as well, and work was very much a guiding light for me.

At some point during the run, you met Matt Damon at an awards show, and he said …

“I want to meet the guy who’s going to take my parts.” And you’re like, “Oh, right, even Matt Damon understands that it’s a generational biz.” I mean, it’s hard. It’s fucking hard.

Was there a time when you were competing for roles with the Matt Damons and Ben Afflecks?

There was certainly a version of, “Is this what you want? Do you want to be Ben Affleck?” And I worked with Ben on The Town, and I was like, “OK, I get that, that’s a certain path, but I don’t know if I want that.”

Why not?

I love Ben, he’s a wonderful actor and filmmaker, but I was like, “I don’t know if that’s for me.” I wanted to do different things instead of just being a leading man, whatever that is. And I don’t know how different my career would have been, but I know it hasn’t been the traditional leading man thing. Maybe it’s because I am a little more quirky. I know I look like I should be that guy …

And if you look like that guy, and can act like that guy, the industry often pushes you to be that guy, which means you had to opt out.

Yes. I’ve turned down a lot of things and other things have come my way, like Gone Girl, and I just wasn’t able to do them.

Who is still on your collaborator wish list?

Guys like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Bong Joon Ho – all these tremendous lions of the cinema, so to speak. But there’s also people like Julio Torres, who’s phenomenally gifted. I’ve had my eye on him since he was writing for SNL. I remember going to a show, Emma Stone was hosting, and there was this weird outlier sketch called “Wells for Boys,” and I asked my friend, “Who wrote that?” She says, “Julio Torres, keep an eye on that name.” And I said, “I sure will.”

The parts you passed on, some of that was superhero fare. Correct?

Yeah. And it’s not like they were saying, “We want you to be Iron Man.” But there were a lot of conversations, and I’m still in those. I talk to the guys that run Marvel and DC. And I’m a comic book nerd. So, we’ll see. Even that part of the industry is changing.

You passed on Green Lantern, did you not?

That was one I definitely didn’t want to do. But I’ve pitched myself for a couple parts of the Marvel universe, I don’t want to say what exactly, but it was a part of a comic book that I really liked. I was like, “Are you going to do this story?” And they were like, “Yeah, we’re actually thinking of that.” I go, “Good. I should be the guy.” So maybe it’ll work out. But I look at a guy like Jeff Goldblum’s career — and I know Jeff a bit, we used to have the same therapist — and I’m just like, “God, how awesome to be able to do all the things he’s done.” He had his leading man phase, and he does Marvel and he’ll just roll through and steal the scene, and then he’s doing commercials and he’s funny as shit. I see him out and he’s happy. So, consciously or not, I’m modeling my life to be that: varied and happy and fulfilled.

I’ve heard you say that your agents wanted to keep negotiating on Top Gun: Maverick, and you were adamant that they just take the offer. You really wanted to do it. How often does that happen?

It feels like it happens pretty often with me. I’m like, “Let’s not fuck it up, I just want to do it.” Morning Show was like that. “Make the deal, whatever it is.”

At the same time, you’ll fight for more when you feel it’s warranted, as you did on Mad Men, right?

There was definitely a moment on Mad Men where I was wildly underpaid, and that was corrected. And you go, “OK, good.” But it came with a fair amount of wrestling. I was like, “Guys, here’s the deal, I will walk away from this. You need to know that.”

And you were prepared to do that?

Absolutely. It was after season four, which was really difficult for me. I was like, “Call my bluff.”

Nobody in that cast wanted to disappoint you. Was that something you were cognizant of?

You can be a leader that people follow with bad examples, or you can be a leader that people follow with good examples. I really wanted to be the second.

At the same time, I’d read about this mystique, this almost unknowable aspect to you. You weren’t, like, everyone’s best friend.

Well, being obsequious isn’t really leading.

Says Fargo writer-director Noah Hawley, “Jon can be handsome on a horse like nobody else, but that’s not interesting to him anymore.”

Michelle Faye/FX

Many in your orbit now remark on how much you’re working lately.

My bones ache, but I’m in a good place. Something happened in the last four, five years, where I got really, really comfortable doing what I do, like I’m invited to the party. I was talking to Billy Crudup, and I revere Billy, and he goes, “Man, do you still get freaked out about all this?” I said no. I let that go at some point. I used to think, “I’m not going to be good enough,” and all that. But there’s always take two. And they don’t use the bad takes. So, yeah, I like where I am. I’m a happy guy. And I’ve worked hard to get here, and it’s not been a steady upward climb. There have been setbacks and difficulties, but that’s life.

You also got married last year. Had marriage been important to you?

I didn’t look at marriage as a thing. Obviously, my parents were not married long, so I don’t have a model to look at and go, “Oh, this is how one finds happiness.” I just knew at a certain point I wanted to be with this person. But when I proposed, I was terrified. I was like, “What am I doing?”

Terrified of what, exactly?

I don’t know. I just remember feeling, “This is really scary.” Then going, “Well, it probably means it’s worthwhile.” And my wedding day was perfect. Everybody I love was there. It was so emotional, and it felt right. I was like, “OK, I guess this is a thing.” We did it [where they had shot the Mad Men finale], which was also amazing. Again, it was like a reset, a reboot, a reframe, a reimagining, nine years later, almost to the day. So, it’s been great. And I hope it turns into kids. It’s not lost on me that I’m 53. I will be the old dad, but so it goes. It could be a good thing. We’ll see.

I had asked Slattery what was the question he’d want me to ask you, to which he said, ” ‘How much money do you have?’ No, seriously, ask him how much.”

Enough, Slattery. I have enough.

And finally, what’s the question you’d like never to be asked again?

“How much money do you have?” (Laughter.)

This story first appeared in the June 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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