The ending of AMC’s critically-acclaimed series “Mad Men” has been kept tightly under wraps, with the early reviews revealing very little in regard to plot and characterization, as is the standard. It’s what we’ve come to expect from creator Matthew Weiner, whose drama of epic subtlety — its quiet intrigue often screams volumes more than even the likes of a more brutally upfront show like “Breaking Bad” — comes to an end beginning with the Season 7b premiere on April 5.
The fate of “Mad Men” and its dashing, beautifully fleshed out characters may be unknown, but what about its leading man? Jon Hamm has had an amazingly twisted run as the show’s brilliant ad man/self-destructive womanizer Don Draper. In a recent GQ feature, the actor, now 44, talks about his thoughts on the ending and his own future as an actor.
“Look, the one constant thing I’ve had in my career is now removed,” Hamm told GQ. “And that’s an eye-opener: Are people still going to take me seriously? Am I just going to do romantic comedies for the rest of my life? What’s next? And I don’t know, you know? I wish I was smug enough to have had a grand plan.”
So while Hamm may not have a grand plan for after “Mad Men,” we can make a few suggestions as to what it should look like.
When In Doubt, Netflix
At its core, “Mad Men” has always been about a changing culture and how its characters adjust to that never-static landscape. The ’60s setting brings with it a constantly-shifting atmosphere against the backdrop of some of America’s most iconic, memorable and sometimes tragic moments. In today’s changing landscape, television is not the same as it was even a few years ago. It would be ironic but logical for Hamm to jump from the period setting of “Mad Men” into the open arms of the streaming-age of television. [SPOILER ALERT] He already landed a guest role in “Unbreakable Kimmy Scmidt,” but Hamm’s abilities to carry a long-term show have already been proven, and Netflix is the place to be in today’s changing TV world. [end spoiler alert] So perhaps the next original series the streaming service nabs should find its way to Hamm.
Comic Book Villainy
Don Draper is considered an antihero of sorts, one of the last in television’s golden era that includes “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White and “The Sopranos'” Tony Soprano. Its debatable whether Draper is a bad guy or just misunderstood. Hamm knows the answer, apparently. The GQ piece calls back to a question raised by Vulture: is Don Draper a bad dude? When fans want to justify the character’s actions, Hamm shuts them down, saying, “I’m the guy who lives with the guy every day and I’m like ‘no, no, no, no, no.'” Hamm has been playing a “bad dude” for eight years. Why not give it a try on the big screen? Comic book adaptations are quick to scoop up veteran or out-of-the-box actors (Robert Redford in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”) and Hamm would fit the bill, as long as said villain was questionably villainous, i.e. maybe a little misunderstood.
Ring in the Oscar Season
Hamm has been doing the TV thing for a long time. Apart from “Mad Men” he’s had guest roles in the likes of “30 Rock” and even hosted “Saturday Night Live.” His filmography could use some adrenaline. Supporting roles in “Bridesmaids” and “The Town” and a starring role in “Million Dollar Arm” stand out, but other than those three films, Hamm hasn’t been doing much in the realm of the movie theater — and that’s disappointing. “Mad Men” wrapped filming last year. It’s prime time Hamm jumped on board something with serious legs to stand on, and what better than a role in an Oscar favorite? He’s proven he can handle a dramatic, engrossing performance on the small screen. It’s time he took it big.
Behind the Camera
Hamm has been a producer on “Mad Men” since its fifth season and has directed two episodes. He’s been a major part in the creative process, meeting with Weiner regularly to discuss Draper’s character and his fate. “We would sit down and talk about where we left off and how old is Don now,” he told GQ. “What is it to be 36 and in a position of incredible power and to have the rug pulled out from under you in your relationship? What is it about starting a new job—the bluster and confidence that takes? What is it about turning 40? Losing touch with your kids? Being in a relationship with a younger woman? What’s that all about?” He’s been involved enough in creative processes, and has a good enough grasp on what it takes to develop strong characters, that maybe taking his talents to behind the camera would be fitting, whether it’s for the small or big screen.
The Next Great Comedy
Jon Hamm is a pretty funny guy. As mentioned, he’s excelled in “Bridesmaids” and “SNL,” which worked especially well as departures from his “Mad Men” role. “As soon as you start talking to Jon, you realize he speaks in the terminology of comedy,” said Seth Meyers. “He has an ability to give it a Leslie Nielsen-type quality. He can play something with no awareness when that’s what’s required.” Perhaps he can make waves in the next great comedy and show us that range. “Being goofy, being funny, fucking around—that’s part of what makes life worth going through,” said Hamm. Sounds like he’s got it all figured out already.
At the end of the day, maybe Hamm doesn’t need that grand plan. He’s doing pretty well for himself regardless. Maybe taking a step back, taking a break, focusing on himself IS part of the grand plan. He’s been storming through the busy 1960s streets of New York for nearly a decade — nobody said its a bad thing to take a break from this mad world.