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Jon Hamm

August 30, 2007|Mike Flaherty

Much like the ad exec the actor plays in AMC's Madison Avenue period piece "Mad Men," Hamm is a man of mystery. He seemed to burst out of nowhere to play suave, boozing philanderer Don Draper, but in fact the 36-year-old Missourian has been paying his dues in a plethora of series TV appearances ("The Unit" and "Gilmore Girls," among others). Having just wrapped the series' first season, Hamm spoke to us about "when men were men" and the rigors of all that smoking.

Does your last name make you self-conscious about overacting?

It certainly makes it easy for critics: "Hamm lives up to his name." It writes itself.

["Mad Men" creator] Matthew Weiner said that in creating Don Draper he had James Garner in mind. High praise.

There aren't a lot of guys like Garner anymore. He had that [now unusual] ability to be funny and sexy and a little scary. [Then] the '70s happened and guys became touchy-feely and therapy- oriented. There was a sense of "Are we getting away from what some women appreciate about men?" An overcorrection in the other direction can be just as offensive.

How do women relate to Don?

They say, here's this guy who we should hate, and yet for some reason we don't. We find him, not adorable -- he's not a cuddly teddy bear in any way -- but he's intriguing and mysterious, and that can be sexy.

Yet relations between the sexes, as depicted circa 1960, seem downright Neanderthal to modern eyes.

We look back on this time and it's so alien and primitive, and yet there's an awful lot of it that's comforting, for want of a better word. I think "when men were men" was about an expectation of what would be done, what would be taken care of.

Are you smoking for real on the show?

Those are herbal cigarettes, but you're still inhaling smoke and your throat takes a beating. If we hung out with this show for 15 seasons, it would end very bleakly: Everyone would be dead.

Speaking of realism, you have a most excellent five o'clock shadow.

The makeup people would agree with you. It's their job to manage it.

Have you had to shave again since we started talking?

Not yet, but I get handed the razor every day at lunchtime.

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