Jon Hamm’s Early Struggles with Landing Roles

May 14, 2017

For any actor who thinks that the dream will never happen, consider Jon Hamm. The ridiculously handsome leading man who shot to fame as the boozing, womanizing, free-wheeling ad executive Don Draper on AMC’s Mad Men certainly had his share of struggles along the way.

After moving to Los Angeles from St. Louis in a 1986 Toyota Corolla and 150 dollars in his pocket, Jon ended up on his aunt and uncle’s doorstep. But unfortunately, it was thanksgiving and nobody was home. Legend has it the aspiring actor went to an orphan’s dinner for a much-needed Thanksgiving meal.

Hamm spent years waiting tables, teaching, trying his hand at set design, and auditioning.

“I rode the bus and then when I got near where I needed to go, I would rollerblade,” he confessed on the Conan O’Brien Show. “There’s not a worse look in the world than a dude skating down Highland Avenue to an audition to try and sell soap. Roll in sweaty and stinky, skates on–I’m here!”

And even though he had very few credits to his name–certainly not any legitimate credits–Jon came to be repped by none other than the William Morris Talent Agency. He said, “They took me on because they saw a guy a guy who could work.” Such prestigious representation would be a coup for any up-and-coming thespian, but after three years of not winning a single acting job, the poor guy was summarily dropped.

At that point, Jon gave himself a deadline of sorts. If he didn’t make it by the age of thirty, he resolved to quit the business and move on with his life.

“You either suck that up and find another agent or you go home and say you gave it a shot. But that’s the end of that. The last thing I wanted to be out here was one of those actors who’s 45 years old with a tenuous grasp of their own reality and not really working much. So I gave myself five years. I said if I can’t get it going by the time I’m 30, I’m in the wrong place. And as soon as I said that, it’s like I started working right away.”

Indeed, Jon worked steadily for the next ten years, but a genuine breakout role eluded him. However, after years of bit parts and supporting roles, Jon landed the role of troubled mad man Don Draper at the age of thirty six.

According to Wikipedia, “Hamm’s ‘Mad Men’ castmate Eric Ladin had said that one of the reasons he admires Jon is that while he ‘made it’ later than most actors, Hamm never gave up on acting.”

Good thing he kept himself in the game. Jon Hamm went on to win the Golden Globe award in 2008 for best actor in a drama series, and is currently working on three films: Nostalgia, High Wire Act, and Libby and Malcolm. That’s a pretty busy schedule for someone who once got his car repossessed because he couldn’t pay his many parking tickets.



Acting While on Antidepressants

August 23, 2015

There are many schools of thought and different philosophies as it concerns the question of what makes great acting? But it is universally held that great acting starts with dynamic and sensitive emotions combined with a compelling physical presence. Actors are expected to be highly emotional and psychologically explosive. Indeed, some actors are so impassioned and creatively zealous, they sadly end up addicted to drugs or in an early grave. Think Heath Ledger or Paul Walker or Philip Seymour Hoffman or Brittany Murphy or Cory Monteith or Amanda Bynes–and the list goes on. Could these sensitive souls have benefited from antidepressant drugs? Some of them were likely taking SSRI’s or other medicines to treat depression and anxiety, but then again some of them may not have been. Taking medications is a deeply personal choice and private matter that the public need not know about. 

But what is it like having to act on stage or film while taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety tablets? Well, the answer to this question is as diverse as the individuals who takes these meds; people are not all biochemically identical, and drugs have a wide range of effects on the end user. But generally speaking, most antidepressants are meant to lift one’s mood and stabilize personality. Users commonly “feel better” and are less prone to erratic mood swings. But it is often reported that it can be more difficult to cry, to feel excitement, to relate in an emotional way, or even to feel extremes in normal experience. As a result, an actor’s ability to wear his or her proverbial “heart on your sleeve” for the benefit of audiences everywhere could be compromised.

This is certainly not to say that someone who is clinically depressed should not take medications that are available and possibly necessary to one’s happiness and survival; but, it is important to know what you are taking, and to understand the benefits and side effects of these powerful pharmaceuticals. Clearly, taking care of mental and emotional health is a priority. It is only to highlight that for actors, as their emotions are at the core of their work, have an added consideration in this regard.

If you’re thinking about taking antidepressants for depression or anxiety, make sure to consult your doctor concerning quantity and dose, and be sure to mention you’re an actor! And keep in mind, you’re in good company. Some actors have come forward to share their experiences with antidepressants. According to reports, for instance, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm battled chronic depression after his father passed; he found that a structured environment, therapy, and antidepressants were key to pulling out of this challenging time. The outrageously expressive Jim Carrey once shared his history with depression and being on Prozac to help him pull through the hard time. And actress Lorraine Bracco, the psychiatrist from The Sopranos, has spoken openly about her battle with depression and how antidepressants and talk therapy helped her overcome it. And the list goes on and on.