Throughout Mad Men’s seventh and final season, we have shared portions of an extensive interview Jon Hamm gave with reporters on the series’ press day in NYC. In Part 1 he discussed parting ways with the enigmatic Don Draper. Part 2 focused on Matthew Weiner’s sense of spirituality pervading the series and Don’s most important relationships. In Part 3 below, Hamm talks Netflix and character-focused television. Enjoy.
Where did you shoot the ad that’s in the [NYC] subway stations, where you’re in car and there’s a light behind you? [see pic above]
We shot that in a sound stage in Los Angeles. And back in the old days, before Photoshop, if you looked in the rearview mirror—the one on the side—you could see the giant lights and things that were reflected in it—so you had to scribble those out. Frank Ockenfels, who shot every one of our ad campaigns except for the first one—which was graphic, not a photograph—is a phenomenally talented photographer. If you look, it’s sort of like the first thing but the reverse. The very first poster of the show was a man sitting on a sofa with his hand out…and if you look now, the camera’s come around and it’s the person from the front looking with his hand the other way.
Is it any different working on a Netflix show, in comparison to cable television? Many creators have said there’s more artistic freedom.
It’s probably a better question for Tina [Fey] and Robert [Carlock]. I’m assuming you’re talking about “Kimmy Schmidt.” They’re doing a wonderful thing there. You have to understand, when I signed on to do Kimmy Schmidt, which I would have done anyway because it’s so funny and those guys are awesome, it was an NBC show. It kind of flipped at some point in the process, and I’m glad. Because everyone can see all of them now. They didn’t have to wonder if this week they were going to get the right lead in and the numbers… there are so many other variables that determine the magic number of people who watch that determines if your show gets watched. And that’s not the case on Netflix, which is delightful if you’re wanting 13 episodes of something to be seen. So when Tina and Robert told me it was going to be on Netflix I was like, that’s great, right? And they said yeah, we’re really, really excited. And it’s nothing against NBC, it’s just that it’s simply because they can get their shows seen by more people. The whole thing, not just two, and then “we didn’t get the numbers.”
A lot of other shows that have ended recently—“Dexter,” “Breaking Bad,” “Sopranos”—there’s some cataclysmic outside thing going on, which we figure is going to be resolved in the end. But with Mad Men, except with Don’s identity problem perhaps, there isn’t that. It’s all character stuff. Is that more of a challenge to do a show that doesn’t have this?
I would think so. That’s been the big, honestly, pleasant surprise of my experience with the show: People have been still on board even though there isn’t this big genre or procedural element to the show. It’s not about who’s going to die, or who’s going to get whacked, or what’s the big mystery that’s going to be revealed, or is the bad guy going to get caught, or is the good guy going to get killed. It’s not that show, and the fact that the landscape is rich enough and broad enough and competitive enough and accessible enough to accommodate both of those kinds of shows, and all of the ones in between, that’s living in tall cotton if you like TV—and I love TV. There are five vampire shows on right now. If you like vampires, you’re living large. There are more zombie shows than you can shake a stick at. That’s great.
Literally, there’s something for everyone. Usually when people say that they mean something for everyone except me, because I want to watch what I want to watch, but in this case I think it really is true… You can dial in your exact level of what you want to watch. It’s like back in the old days when there used to be a bookstore. You could go and pull out some book because you thought it looked interesting, and now we have that except it’s on TV. And you can just go through the whole thing, and spin in, on demand, push a button and go, “I like that guy,” or “I like that actress,” or “I like that time period” or genre, and “I’m going to see it.” “The Fall,” “Broadchurch,” “Fargo…” There are so many boundary-pushing shows. “Bloodline,” “True Detective,” “Top of the Lake.” That’s five different shows on five different networks that are doing completely, out-of-the-box storytelling, in a genre that we all I think pretty much thought was done, had reached its limits.
This is a tough question to ask, and I know it’s a general question and one you’ve probably heard a million times, but is there, over the years, a favorite scene for you?
There’s no favorite scene… I can’t point to one scene… no favorite episode. I’ve talked at length about an episode called “The Suitcase” that was a really, really, I thought, exquisite hour of television. I think the pilot’s really good for a pilot. It’s a lot to get out in 48 minutes. It works. “Gypsy and the Hobo,” another great episode… there are a lot of great episodes of the show. I’ve gotten to say a lot of very funny, very fun things on the show. And it’s a really specific and beautiful thing when you are paired with a writer who is so talented like Matthew, who for good and bad will stay true to character for all of us. It’s a pleasure to say the words. And for the amount of work I have to do on the show, be there for hours, and this and that, it doesn’t feel like work. I know a lot of people can understand that—“No shit, idiot, you put on other people’s clothes and wear makeup for a living.” But it can be hard work sometimes. And I very rarely felt that way on this.