Maintaining His Mad Men 'Headspace' Wasn't Always Pleasant For Jon Hamm

In a lot of ways, "Mad Men" unfolds as just one prolonged downward spiral for many of its central characters. And the epicenter of it all is undoubtedly prodigy adman Don Draper. For all his suave talents and enigmatic presence, the man also has more skeletons in the closet than a haunted house. Then there's his tendency to uproot and destroy lives — including his own — while trying to frantically run from said skeletons.

By the time you're introduced to him in season 1 of "Mad Men," it's not exactly a habit he's kicked either. Even as an intense fan of the show, Don's depressive episodes and reckless routines become a little wearisome at times. Like the casual racism and fierce misogyny, the show doesn't hesitate to remind you how flawed the people that occupy this world are. For Jon Hamm, navigating his character's worst bits took its own toll on him.

The struggle of being a depressing Don

Emulating Don's inner chaos meant Jon Hamm had to keep his mind in dark places for extended periods of time. "It's not easy to maintain that headspace for a long time. It's challenging and it can be interesting as an actor," Hamm told IndieWire, "But I can only imagine if you're playing 'Long Day's Journey into Night' for your third year on Broadway, you'd probably be a little bummed out." 

He continued: "That doesn't mean it's not a beautiful play or a wonderful couple of roles for actors, but it's heavy. It slumps your shoulders and it's a lot of weight to carry. You want to go home and wash it off, leave it at work. I've been fairly capable of doing that."

Yet that didn't change how Hamm needed to be able to live in Don's head without becoming a little madman himself. It probably didn't help that his character was not only emotionally unstable, but also capable of being intentionally cruel and astoundingly selfish. But Hamm managed to survive Don's vices and sins by finding a balance between Matthew Weiner's heavy drama and any comedic roles he could find.

How Hamm coped with it

A journey through Jon Hamm's television roles reveals just how much comedy the actor dove head first into trying to cleanse his palette of Don. "I've been able to go and do some of the goofiest s*** on the planet with other people, which is also really nice to do," he told IndieWire. "I've been fortunate enough to be asked, too."

In the period that "Man Men" aired, he hosted "Saturday Night Live" and became a recurring character on "30 Rock." He also took multiple voice-acting roles in animated shows like "The Simpsons," "Robot Chicken," and "Archer," not to mention voicing a talking toilet in "Bob's Burgers." Hamm also counts himself a fan of the writers who've created characters for him, from Tina Fey to David Wain and Michael Showalter, creators of the "Wet Hot American Summer" prequel show he starred in. "So, yes, it's fun to do that stuff because it's so goofy and dumb," Hamm said. "Fortunately there's chocolate and vanilla, so we have both sides of the buffet to eat from."