Jon Hamm Talks 'Mad Men's' Return, With Muppets On Ice In 1984?

March 20th, 2012 5:00pm EDT

Mad Men If you’re trying to find out about the new season of Mad Men, the TV ads won’t help much. One teaser has the boys of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce discuss the preposterous notion of anti-smoking campaigns. Other spots don’t even have any dialogue.

Of course the plot details are meant to be a secret, and Jon Hamm did a good job keeping series creator Matthew Weiner’s secrets. At a cocktail reception for the Television Critics Association, Hamm joked about possible spoilers for the show’s fifth season. Mad Men returns Sunday.

Q: What can you say about the new season?

Jon Hamm: One of the things that Matt and I talked about when we started the kind of process to get back going on this season was basically what happens to a creative person when they’ve been doing the same thing for a long time? You can draw whatever parallels you want on the wideness of that parallel. But Don makes his money and makes his livelihood being creative, being ahead of the curve and finding out what makes people tick and all that stuff. And what happens when you get older? There’s another generation of people coming up right behind you who are outdoing you and outthinking you. What happens to a career? I think we try to hit on a lot of those. Don is capable. We’re not living in a world, it’s not The Simpsons where everybody stays the same age 20 years in. People age and we try to depict that realistically. We also try to depict their situations realistically and how that shifts. I think there’s a lot of interesting television honestly.

Q: It seemed he was philosophical about the failure of his marriage and then he abandoned that. How does that affect this season?

JH: Well, I don't know if asking someone to marry you is abandoning your philosophy. But we saw what Don went through that season too and it was a significantly difficult change. I’ve never been in a marriage that’s fallen apart and I don't know what the psychological detritus is or what the aftershocks are, but it seemed to me like it was pretty realistically portrayed. And I think the first or second episode of season four, Cara Buono’s character comes in and says, “Guys like you are usually married within a year.” And he sort of scoffs at her. What she says is that no one wants to seem like they’re a statistic, but I guess in many ways we all are. So I think we definitely hit on that theme in season five.

Q: What do you think about Don’s relationship with alcohol?

JH: I think he has a dangerous relationship with alcohol, that I think a lot of creative people have. Fill in the blank with your alcohol or whatever. It’s a depressant and yet it uninhibits you. There’s a very fine line. Don’s certainly crossed that line at times. So I think hopefully he is maturing and is aware, as they say the first sign of having a problem is admitting you have a problem [sic] something like that but I’m not familiar with the whole letter of that. It’s an issue. I think that we saw that issue become larger than he is and people around him kind of say, “You gotta take it easy.” Anybody who’s ever had that conversation with somebody or been the subject of that conversation, that’s when you realize oh wait a minute, maybe this is getting a little bigger than me out out of control or whatever it is. I think Don recognized that and backed away with the ledge so to speak.

Q: What can you tell us about the two hour premiere?

JH: It all takes place on ice. We do ice skating. There are several musical numbers. There’s a Santa suit. The Muppets make an appearance which is really weird. We were supposed to come out right when that movie came out but we missed it. So it’s going to seem weird.

Q: Especially since they didn’t exist until the ‘70s.

JH: Yeah.

Q: Have you thought about what comes next after Mad Men?

JH: I haven’t really. I was saying to somebody else earlier, I really like my day job. And I’m happy that we’re going to do it for a few more years. I’ll let whatever happens next happen next. I’m not a very good predictor about what comes down the way and I’m not very good at being tremendously ambitious either so I kind of drift along and see what happens.

Q: So you love acting.

JH: I do. That I do.

Q: So you’ll continue to do it.

JH: I think so, as long as they’ll have me.

Q: What do you think of all the talk about Bridesmaids 2?

JH: Yeah, I know nothing about that. Every time I open up my mouth about that I get in trouble so I really don’t know. Again, I was a very small part of that very big picture but I’m sure someone’s having a conversation about it somewhere. It certainly does not involve me.

Q: Is there a lighter tone to this season of Mad Men or is it even more serious?

JH: I would suggest that it probably couldn’t get much darker than season four and I’ll leave it at that.

Q: How does Don parent versus the other fathers of the era?

JH: That’s an interesting question. I was just outside that generation growing up as a kid. I grew up in the ‘70s but I had older cousins and older folks and older sisters actually who would’ve been around Sally’s age. So I was close enough to it to kinda see it. It very much takes people aback when they see how people were treated back then which is not how they’re treated now. And I think whatever pendulum swings, I don’t have kids but a lot of my friends do, has swung way in the opposite direction to where kids are so entitled and so handled and so coddled that I think in the middle somewhere is probably the sweet spot. But I don’t have kids so I fortunately don’t have to make those decisions. I think Don is a good dad sometimes because I think most people are good parents sometimes. I don’t think everybody’s a good parent all the time.

Q: He’s easier than Betty on them. One thing he liked is a woman who loves them.

JH: I think that’s first of all a great observation but I think the dynamic in a marriage on who’s the good cop and who’s the bad cop is very tricky. I think mothers were expected to do certain things and fathers were expected to do certain things back in the day and those roles were pretty well defined. I’ve had long conversations with my aunt in fact whose father was in World War II and grandfather. She would tell me stories from around the dinner table that you’re like, “Wow, I’m glad I was not at that dinner table. That sounded like a very tense dining environment.”

Q: Why do Peggy and Don work so well together?

JH: I think in the world of the show, we’re introduced to everybody but we kind of see the office through Peggy’s eyes in the pilot. She’s the new girl. It’s her first day. And with all of the attendant craziness in everyone’s experience of the first day on the job is holy sh*t, what am I doing? It’s impossible, I’ll never learn it. And we’ve watched over 50-some odd episodes of television her grow and her become more confident. And we’ve watched Don alternately shepherd her and correct her and not be very nice to her but also be incredibly, profoundly nice to her. I love the episode that you referenced and I think it’s a wonderful piece of writing. Elizabeth is so phenomenally talented as an actress that she’s able to convey all of those emotions in a very, very tricky dance that is being friends with your boss, kind of.

Q: Has she replaced Anna?

JH: I don't think anyone will replace Anna in Don’s life. But I think Peggy is very important to Don. And I think he saw, like the end of season three when the firm blows up and they start all over again, he says, ‘If you leave I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to hire you back.’ I think that sums up the relationship that Don and Peggy have.

Q: Have you already gotten married when season five starts? How does it change your relationship with Peggy?

JH: We’ll see. It’s certainly something that is explored in season five and we’ll see. Nothing has happened yet so we don’t really know. I’ll be as honest as I can and kind of restate what I just said, but Peggy and Don are very close and Peggy has opinions, and Don has opinions. I think we saw both of those being expressed.

Q: Will you get married this season?

JH: Well, I’m engaged at the end of this last one. You can wave it as much as you want. I’m not going to answer the question.

Q: What was that look at the end of last season?

JH: I was thinking about something, wasn’t he? I was thinking about something.

Q: What is his headspace going into season five?

JH: He certainly seemed happy at the end of season four. I think that what we watched with what Don went through at the end of season four, to see him seem happy was refreshing or was, I was certainly thankful having gone through all the stuff that I had to go through to play that. And it was nice. Whether that continues, I think Don has a problem with maintaining the status quo, whether it’s good or bad. It’s part of what his character is. He’s always moving. He does not feel comfortable resting. That’s a thing we talk about a lot in this.

Q: Betty seemed upset you were engaged again.

JH: I think you’re right. I think that whatever happens in a marriage, and again I have never been involved in a relationship that’s gone kerfluey after a long time, certainly marriage with the attendant drama that that creates, but I think that anyone that’s been in a relationship for a long time, there’s always going to be something there. And it was a beautiful scene that Matt wrote where you kind of feel like are they going to get back together? What’s happening? It’s Betty who’s being the introspective one and the reflective one and Don is like, “Okay, here’s the keys, gotta go.” And that was the last we saw of that house that we had seen and it was a very sad scene to shoot in many ways. January was so lovely and talented and conveyed so much with so little, it was really quite heartbreaking for someone who we’re kind of used to seeing be incredibly cold, incredibly shallow, incredibly vindictive. To see her heart break a little bit was I think kind of, I’m not going to say nice, but from a story point of view was interesting.

Q: What year do we start in?

JH: 1984.

Q: Did having so much time in between seasons give you a fresh perspective on Don?

JH: Yeah, I think a long layoff is a blessing and a curse. It was nice to have the opportunity, the time to go do something else. My girlfriend and I produced a movie and it’s coming out and we’re really excited. It’s called Friends with Kids and it’s out March 9th and we made it and we made it in time. We sold it out of Toronto and we were thrilled to be able to get a chance to do it. That’s what a long hiatus affords you is time to do that kind of thing. Producing a film is very hard but it was an incredibly exciting experience. It stars Jen, myself, Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Eddie Burns and Megan Fox. We made it so that’s nice to have. It’s nice to have the opportunity and the time honestly to go do something. But it’s a bummer because I like my day job. I keep saying it that way but it really does feel like it.

Q: But it was still there waiting for you.

JH: And it was still there. This is also the thing, having now the benefit of knowing that we have a day job going into the future, that’s as an actor, I’ve very rarely been in that position, when you have something in the future that you know will be there. It doesn’t happen very often.

Q: Were you nervous during the contract negotiations?

JH: No, I knew they’d figure it out. I knew neither one of them, neither Lionsgate nor AMC would, and they were the ones by the way who were fighting.

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