Mad Men Was Almost Finished Before Jon Hamm Got Over His Jitters

If you spent any time observing the chaos of the Sterling Cooper offices, then it's probably hard to look at Jon Hamm and not immediately flashback to his days as the suave ad-man with a laundry list of issues. Over the course of seven seasons, "Mad Men" tangled with the impossible task of unpacking the inner life of Don Draper, who proved to be an alcoholic, a serial womanizer, a terrible father, an even worse husband, an abusive boss ... and yet, a sympathetic character.

The magic of "Mad Men" was multifaceted — partially a product of series creator Matthew Weiners's writing and directing, but also successful in a way that wouldn't have been possible without many brilliant performance from the likes of Hamm and his former co-stars, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, and Kiernan Shipka, to name a few. With all that hard work combined, "Mad Men" has gone down as one of the finest dramas in TV history, earning a spot beside greats like "Breaking Bad" and "The Sopranos." And Jon Hamm's performance as the Madison Avenue executive forever haunted by his complicated past remains one of his most notable roles.

The man, the myth, the mess

Ahead of the "Mad Men" season 7 finale, Hamm sat down for an interview with IndieWire looking back on his time as Don Draper, and particularly, the challenges that came with the role. The biggest amongst them was "making him human." Don was a character constantly plagued by his flaws and wrought by his humanity, caught in a constant state of crisis as he attempted to hide his checkered past and start fresh. And yet the man is constantly hurting the people in his life, expressing his emotions terribly and being yet another ruthless Madison avenue ad-man. In the interview Hamm explained his approach to Don's complicated nature:

"I think a lot of people in all of our lives can be despicable or unlikable, and sometimes you have to work with those people, deal with those people, manage those people, or handle those people in some way ... Don has been a lot of things to a lot of people and not all of them good."

I'd guess that most of the women in Don's life would levy many complaints against him, whether as a father, husband, or boss. But he's also not without his tender moments and for all the bad, there are those endearingly human moments where it becomes easy to understand how everyone gets drawn into his orbit.

The challenge of Don Draper

The complexities of Don Draper aside, Hamm encountered another challenge during his tenure on fake Madison Avenue and this one might catch you by surprise — it was his own nerves. Hamm had a funny way of describing this, saying: "Have you ever seen a puppy when somebody rings a doorbell? They kind of wag all of their bodies, and they pee on the floor?" Apparently, he felt this way all the time, especially during the "Mad Men" audition process.

"There is such a mixture of excitement and terror and awe and wonder and hope and fear all going on at once. I've never been that much of a tail wagger, so to speak, but I was vibrating on that first day of school, so to speak. Because getting there was such a journey. This has all become apocryphal at this point, but I had to audition seven or eight times. At every stage of that, if you have one s****y audition, they go, 'Never mind.' If you have five good ones and one bad one, they say, 'Bye bye.' Then they pull the thing and down you go. So I was able to wiggle my way through that and get the job and they said, 'Great!'"

How Jon Hamm conquered his nerves

All that anxious anticipation didn't just evaporate once Hamm got the role. He shared that he stayed nervous for years, but did his job by converting that energy into something he could use on camera. Hamm explained that over time, it became more bearable: "That gets easier to do because you spend more time in this person's head and this person's shoes and this person's life and house."

So when was he finally able to kick the jitters completely? Not until the fifth season of the show. That's right, "Mad Men" was past the halfway point and just a couple of years away from coming to a close. "Around about season 5 was when that first day of school feeling started to go away," said Hamm. "I at least felt like a senior, not a freshman going, 'Does anyone want to sit with me at lunch?' 'Where's homeroom?'" And to his credit, you'd never guess that the nerves persisted all the way through season 5, especially because the early seasons of "Mad Men" soar so successfully.