Jon Hamm Told to “Act Like You Already Have the Part”

August 28, 2015


In this Off Camera interview with Sam Jones, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm acknowledges the discomforts and challenges actors often face trying to shine when auditioning before a seemingly less-than-welcoming presence in the room. But the actor-director insists, “The big secret of auditions is that, and every young person that’s auditioning should really take this to heart–and I’ve felt it when I directed as well–all you want is for the person to walk through and be great.” As he reflects upon this, Hamm accepts responsibility for the times when he came so close to getting a part but then just falling short. “And then, for whatever reason, I would just tank,” he admits.

And this disappointing scenario of coming close but not landing the part almost happened to Hamm again with the shadowy lead role of Don Draper in Mad Men. The highly acclaimed American 1960’s period drama TV series on AMC was created by Matthew Weiner. Weiner was said to be notoriously selective in regards to all aspects of the show. But indeed some high ups in the casting process were leaning toward other casting choices rather than Hamm for the role of the talented, creative advertising director.

The show initially didn’t have a lot of money attached to it, and Matthew’s vision of attaining the highest quality actor without an established name was at first appealing to production. And Weiner insists from the first audition he knew that Jon Hamm was Don Draper. Production, however, was hoping for an English actor and criticized Hamm for not being sexy enough; they questioned if he was the best guy to base the show upon being that, “Ah, he’s just some guy with a bunch of sh**** credits.” By this point, they were ready to pay big bucks for an established name. But none of these arguments swayed Weiner; he remained adamant that Hamm was in fact the right casting choice. Eventually, Matthew instructed Hamm to walk around the production offices “as if you already have the part.”

This advice basically relieved Jon from feeling like he still had to prove himself, and instead helped him to perceive himself as onboard with production and with the same goal in mind: to make Don Draper as real as possible. Did going along with the belief that he’d already succeeded impact his posture, his tone of voice, the glint in his eyes? Weiner sought to empower Hamm with whatever edge he could: his personal belief in him as well as bolstering Hamm’s self-confidence.

Fortunately for all involved, Hamm didn’t fall by the casting wayside this time around. Mad Men was a clear success going strong for seven seasons. The show has won 15 Emmys and four Golden Globes. Even Hamm’s performance earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Drama, and he won a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actor.

Here’s a shout out to Weiner for taking a chance on a worthy, yet relative unknown!