The first time Jon Hamm ever saw himself on screen was as an extra in a Missouri lottery commercial. Aaron Paul’s debut was a Method-acted Corn Pops commercial, while Julianna Margulies learned the dangers of lying about job skills on her first movie. She had told Steven Seagal she was Puerto Rican, only to have him request she speak her lines in Spanish: “I was like, you know, I'm a Jew and Spanish is not my second language.... I was mortified that that was my first moment on the screen.”
Their "firsts" was one of many topics discussed when The Times brought together Claire Danes (“Homeland”), Michael C. Hall ("Dexter"), Hamm ("Mad Men"), Margulies ("The Good Wife") and Paul ("Breaking Bad") for an enlightening roundtable conversation about the art of TV drama.
For Paul, learning to leave the intensity of his meth-dealing Jesse Pinkman character on the set took time.
"The first couple seasons on the show, I used to try to stay in character for some reason all the time...I didn’t want to unzip the skin," he said. "I would take it home with me. I just took myself way too seriously."
The actors compared how they shake off their characters at the end of the day, as well as their thoughts on bloggers, recappers and commenters. Margulies said she worried that show runners would be swayed by fans' desires to push certain plots or characters (like reuniting Kalinda and Alicia on "The Good Wife"), possibly to the detriment of the greater narrative. Michael C. Hall agreed, noting, "You don't have to give it to them."
Although the focus of the roundtable was serious award-winning drama, the chat often veered into comic territory. Hamm (who made a memorable cameo in "Bridesmaids" but professes not to be funny) tossed out jokes.
Asked whether awards open doors for an actor, he quipped, "Probably not an Emmy, but an Academy Award is super heavy, so if you like bang it right on the knob, it’ll probably crack that thing right off and push it right open."