The second half of Mad Men’s seventh and final season has begun. Last week we posted part 1 of an interview between Jon Hamm and several reporters in which he discussed insights into playing the character of Don Draper. Here’s part 2, which touches on Don’s relationships, family, sense of mortality and Jon’s take on spoilers. Still more to come next week on Cablefax.com .
Is Don able to repair his relationship with Sally?
I think that’s the hope, honestly. When I talk about Don and his relationships, the one almost 100% of the time I come back to, in an exclusionary sense, is the kids. Because I think Don is very, very aware of what he is doing, has done and will do to his kids—because he saw it happen to himself. He was terribly parented, and does not want to be a bad parent. Sometimes he can’t help it, but he’s very cognizant of it, much more than he is with any of the adults in his life. I think he loves Sally, without any qualifying. I think he sometimes—as many men of that generation—has a hard time expressing it, and a hard time putting it in a place in his life that works.
So I think that’s one of his struggles. I think he’s going to have to work through that and maybe he’s the guy who becomes a great grandpa. I had a very good relationship with my grandfather and I would talk to my aunts and uncles about it and they were like, yeah he’s great. But you didn’t know him as a dad… He’s mellower. He wants to go fishing and play golf. He doesn’t have to raise six kids running around like banshees. So that’s an understandable difference, and I think that I hope, too, that they have a long and lovely relationship over the years.
Speaking of other relationships, when Don lets Peggy pitch Burger Chef instead, even though he probably needs it more than anything at that point, is that a passing of the torch in some ways? Is he saying, Peggy, take it and run? Or is he not quite that generous?
The short answer is yes, that is a passing of the torch. And I think Don is very aware that this is far more meaningful to Peggy than it would ever be to him. What that’s motivated by, that’s up to you. It could be motivated by self pity, it could be motivated by one last gesture… But I think like most things in Don’s life it’s motivated by practicality. He’s basically saying, you’re the best person to do this, so do it. It’s your turn and you can do it, so let’s go. And it’s a lovely expression of their relationship, too. A passing of the torch, however you want to put it, it’s a very mentor/mentee type of situation, but ultimately it’s a gesture of trust. And that’s big for Don. He’s not a big “truster.” Of any of the people in the world he was going to do it to, it would probably be Peggy.
Besides the fact that Matthew Weiner wouldn’t want you to reveal what happens in the season, how do you feel about spoilers personally?
I don’t really understand the attraction to them really. Unless it was homework… I guess I get it that context… I understand the desire to talk about it—that’s as old as the water cooler… The water cooler is everywhere now, so that’s the hardest thing about it I guess. But I don’t understand the idea of wanting to deliberately spoil something. I could literally write down the last scene of Mad Men for you, but why would that be fun? You would know something that no one else knows, but would you want to watch the episodes? It’s like reading the last page of a novel. It doesn’t really tell you anything because there’s no context… but I don’t really know how it ends—I know the last thing. The whole thing where [people say to me] “Matt told you how it ended four years ago.” Well, kind of, but he told me an idea that he had for a way that a thing might progress, but that was 30 episodes ago. He didn’t tell me how we were going to get there. I understand people wanting to talk about it. I just wish they’d talk with lower voices.
What was Don’s most meaningful affair?
Oh boy. I think they’re all meaningless.
Without obviously telling us anything, were you satisfied with how things came to a close? It seems like the joining of this idea you heard of years ago and getting to see it come to fruition.
My job is to do it. To be this person, to say the lines in the right order… Your job as an audience is to tell me if it’s good—if you get it or you like it or want to watch it again, or if it’s meaningful. I can’t determine that. I watch the show in a completely different way than 100% of people who watch the show, because I’m on it. It’s super hard for me to divorce myself from that perspective, so naturally I love it. This show is fantastic. The lead really has something. [Laughter]
Don, over the course of the show, sees a lot of dead people, in visions and other ways, including Bert. Is that, in your mind, him wrestling with his own mortality, or is there something about those visions that he’s haunted by?
That’s an interesting observation. I think Matthew has a very specific relationship with metaphysics, and some sort of spiritual other. You see a lot of reference to Tarot, to tealeaves, to fortune telling. We actually jump back and forth in the timeline a lot. Dead people show up when they’re not supposed to… a lot of dead people, when I think of it. You’re right. I think that that’s meaningful. It means that you’re thinking about that person. I’ve definitely had dreams about people in my life who are no longer with me. And it’s always meaningful. But I haven’t had them while at work in the middle of the day.
Is Don a character that worries about death?
Yes. Always. Because Don Draper is already dead. He watched Don Draper die and took his life. I think that’s foremost in somebody’s mind when they see that happen. Like, what’s it really going to be like, and it’s probably terrifying.
Come back to Cablefax.com next week for part 3.