The end is nigh. Jon Hamm knows this because he’s had to unleash the razor again, slip out of his comfy baseball jersey and squeeze himself back into Don Draper’s whippet-slim suits. After seven years of staring pensively out of Madison Avenue office windows, soon the Sterling Cooper & Partners company men will meet their respective fates, just like Walter White and Tony Soprano before them.
Hamm views the end (two seven-episode instalments due to air in early 2014 and 2015) with a mix of emotions, both “misty eyed” at the memories they’ve made, and eternally grateful for the strong family they’ve built up on set.
His new-found freedom will give him the chance to pick new projects – much like little “odd ducks” such as the main reason for our interview today. A Young Doctor’s Notebook & Other Stories, co-starring Daniel Radcliffe as his younger self, is back for a second (slightly re-titled) series of morphine-addled black-comedy madness.
So what else is next for the 42-year-old erstwhile ad man? A career as an agony uncle if our 40-minute chat with him is anything to go by. Just don’t ask him about Kim Kardashian…
You wear period costume in both Mad Men and A Young Doctor’s Notebook, but today you’re off duty. How are you dressed?
I’m dressed like a sleepy out-of-work actor.
Does that mean you are still with-beard?
I was rocking it up until around two days ago. Then I came back to work, so I had to shave it off. I start tomorrow, actually.
We’ll come back to Mad Men in a minute, but let’s talk A Young Doctor’s Notebook first. Your co-star Daniel Radcliffe told us he fancies directing, but producing would be too much grief. You produced this show. Was it a hassle?
Well, sometimes it is. It’s dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. And that can be horrendous. For the wrong mind-set it can be a very difficult endeavour. But I happen to think Daniel would be good at it, because he is a remarkably intelligent and diligent hard-worker, for such a young man. I’ve been nothing but impressed. When I was his age, I had a 10th of that work ethic.
Was Daniel who you imagined as your younger self?
All I can say is that I am tremendously pleased that the younger version of me is Daniel Radcliffe. Given the options that are out there, I think I’ve got the best one.
What were you like when you were his age?
Just far lazier. I had longer hair, that’s for sure, and more of it. But you know, that’s the wonder of being 40 – everything goes.
How has A Young Doctor’s Notebook gone down in the US?
The first season premiered recently, and it was incredibly well received, which I was pleasantly surprised by. It was received in the spirit it was intended. We’re not trying to be Two And A Half Men. It’s to prove there’s another way to get televised entertainment to people’s homes.
What is it about Mikhail Bulgakov’s stories that you love so much?
I just thought that it was so surprisingly different, and that for me was a draw. Going over to the UK to work on The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret, which was another television show that I just thought was so different and super-fun and interesting, and then A Young Doctor’s Notebook came along. The things that make me laugh are the things that are unexpected.
Do you watch any cult British comedies?
For a time in the Nineties you guys had some of the greatest television shows on the planet. I started getting into programmes such as The Day Today, Brass Eye, Jam – and then it kind of reversed on to itself, and became even weirder with things such as Nighty Night and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Part of the reason I sought out work in the UK is that there are these short-run little things that are supported by the larger machine.
Obviously now you’re part of the larger machine with Mad Men, but did you ever think of giving up when you were a jobbing actor looking for work?
Just remember that the big studio part of Mad Men is only very recent. At our kick-off party last week they showed the gag-reel from the pilot – before we even had a Season 1. That was eight years ago. We watched it and got all misty. That was when no one wanted us, there was no big studio. We were just these weird outsiders. Only now have we become the viable commercial thing.
How does it feel now that the show has finally reached the home straight?
Well, oddly it feels fine. It was nice to be with everyone again. We are finishing, at the end of a very long road. All roads end, but still, it’s bad. You meet people that become a sort of family for 10 years.
And at the end of this season, after you’ve done the two portions of the series, you will be a free man. Will you be getting stuck into big-budget films, smaller indies or more TV shows?
Well, I wish it were up to me. It’s not usually up to me. The dream would honestly be to continue what I’ve been able to do. To work with people that I like, on work that I respect and with people who challenge me as an actor.
Your name is bound to be linked to all sorts of parts, though – including superheroes. Has the backlash against Ben Affleck as Batman put you off?
I’m a tremendous fan of Ben. We had a lovely back-and-forth during the World Series [Affleck’s beloved Red Sox played Hamm’s team, the St Louis Cardinals]. I can only express my tremendous gratitude for what he’s done for my career. He’s a big star and he deserves all that stuff. There are plenty of other movies, and he’s going to make a great Batman – he’s been great in everything he’s done. I used to play on a baseball team with Casey [Affleck]. I’m a fan of the whole Affleck clan. Their mum did a wonderful job. I can only hope he’ll ask me back at some point.
You guys seem to have a sort of kinship, you’re quite similar…
It’s odd because he’s younger than me and that’s the thing that drives me crazy. I’m like, “You’re younger than me, how does that work?” He seems like my dad.
Well, you have Radcliffe as your younger self, so you can have Affleck as your dad.
It’s a very strange position I’ve got myself into.
You often collaborate on projects with your girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt. Do you try not to talk shop at home?
You can’t not. It’s part of our lives. It’s a daily part of our lives. Of course you talk about it. We are in very different career moments at this point in our lives. When we first got together, the scripts were very much flipped – I was waiting tables and she was working on television shows. So we have similar experience with being on both sides of that. You know, it’s tricky, you have to talk about it. It’s like a marriage, you have to work it out, or else I think it could go to a very dark place very fast.
And how does it affect things when blogs are written about your beard length, or you have tabloid stories about you not wearing any pants? Do you laugh about it together at home?
We’ve developed a thick skin about it. The culture we live in is one that needs something to talk about all the time. Seriously, it’s the dumbest thing in the world. I got sh*t on for saying I don’t agree with the fact that the Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons of the world are worthy of attention, and people were saying, “How dare you!” I thought, “Wow, really? That’s a terrible thing to say?” It’s ridiculous. I’m getting older, I’m slowly morphing into that the guy who stands on his lawn and shakes his fist and shouts “Get off my lawn!” All I can say is that I don’t get Miley Cyrus, I don’t get Katy Perry, I don’t get One Direction. I don’t get why that’s a thing.
Do you enjoy being something of an elder statesman and dishing out advice?
I was a teacher for a big portion of my life. And even though I’m not a father and I don’t have children of my own, I have nieces and nephews and friends have kids. A lot of my friends’ kids are getting into double digits and turning into little people, and it’s fascinating. You have a duty as an adult to impart to the next generation. I’m happy to do that.
On the flip side, Don’s character in Mad Men is easily taken for his bad points. Have you ever had people confess that he inspired their affairs?
It surprisingly tends to be women who are fascinated with Don, and I always correct them. I say, “You know that he’s a bad person?” You really shouldn’t want to model yourself after this person. He’s not great. But, you know, there are people who want to be Walter White. The bad boy mentality of our culture is very pervasive. But it’s a quick ride to unhappiness, to get into that kind of world.
Speaking of Breaking Bad, the Mad Men final season is going to be divided up in the same way. Do you feel satisfied with that?
Obviously, I’m not a network executive. I defer to [the show’s creator] Matthew Weiner creatively, but they’re not saying, “OK, shoot the whole thing, then split it.” So it gives you the chance for the story perspective to build, and to wrap up the season. I haven’t even seen the first script, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what’s happening.
When do you start shooting?
I start filming at six in the morning tomorrow, and then we can read through it at noon. I think we’re locked into a location, but we start with the rest a few days after.
So are the scripts all top secret?
We’re all pretty well trained by this point to stay quiet about the whole thing. It’s been effective; everyone is mystified by our group secrecy. But I don’t know any other show that regularly tells viewers what’s happening. We live in a culture right now where everything is available, always. In many ways, our show is very retroactive in that respective. And if people are that excited about it, then it is tremendously exciting for us, too.
A Young Doctor’s Notebook & Other Stories starts 21 November at 9pm on Sky Arts 1 HD
(Image: Rex Features)