Mad time for Hamm

Actor Jon Hamm went into rehabilitation, broke up with his long-time partner and made several movies after the show that made him famous ended

Jon Hamm will next be seen in High Wire Act, a yet-to-be- released thriller.
Jon Hamm will next be seen in High Wire Act, a yet-to-be- released thriller.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Actor Jon Hamm was supposed to meet a journalist at the edge of Central Park at 11am and take a walk.

Then came the rain. So the location was switched to Pearl Studios, a suite of rehearsal rooms in Midtown where actors and dancers audition for Broadway shows, touring companies and cruise-ship work.

A few minutes past 11 came a text from Hamm, whose politeness may owe something to his Missouri upbringing: "I'm one very congested crosstown block away. Sorry!!"

If you still picture Don Draper when you think of Hamm, it may strike you as odd to see him emerge from a Nissan NV200 yellow cab, which has a boxy look very much at odds with the elegant mid-century universe of Mad Men (2007-2015).

Since completing his work on the show that made him famous, he has gone through changes in his personal life while trying to get a movie career going.

In 2015, he spent a month in treatment for alcohol addiction at a rehabilitation facility. Some months after that, he and his partner of 18 years, writer, director and actor Jennifer Westfeldt, announced that they had broken up.

The movies came out one after another: Million-Dollar Arm (2014), in which Hamm plays a sports agent who grows a heart, thanks to a saucy medical resident (Lake Bell); Keeping Up With The Joneses (2016), an action comedy starring Zach Galifianakis in which he and a pre-Wonder Woman Gal Gadot portray spies; and Baby Driver, a crime fantasy in which he appears as a somewhat deranged third banana.

"I always say I make the movies where people go, 'Hey, I never saw it, but when I finally did, I really liked it,'" Hamm said. "People saw Baby Driver, though. I was pleased with that."

His most recent film, the melancholy Marjorie Prime, is a wellreviewed adaptation of a Jordan Harrison play directed by Michael Almereyda that includes a muchbuzzed-about performance by Lois Smith.

"I watched Michael Almereyda's movies and I read the script and I thought: I like his movies, I like this script, let's put this chocolate and peanut butter together and see if we can get a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup," Hamm said.

"I didn't know what the movie would end up being and then I watched it right before Sundance and I was moved."

The final scene, with its focus on a character's relationship with a dog, is affecting without being sentimental.

"Don't even talk to me," Hamm said. "I just lost my dog yesterday."

He was talking about Cora, a shepherd mix he had got with Westfeldt in the early years of their relationship.

"Cora was the best," he said. "I was scheduled to fly in at 8 o'clock in the morning and she passed away right before I got there. It's been a real hard 24 hours for both me and Jen."

A long pause. "She was 17. She brought a lot of love and a lot of good times to me and other people and Jen, and she'll always have a real sweet place in my heart.

"I could go on for three hours about Cora and I won't because I'll just be a mess."

He took a sip of coffee. "I'm a big dog fan. They're the best. They make life better, although they're hard to deal with. But complications in life are actually what make it fun. If it wasn't raining today, you know, whatever, I'm glad it rained.

"And the more people you meet - I've had the incredible fortune to meet amazing people, sometimes out of dumb luck, but mostly out of being famous for 10 minutes on a TV show. I could listen to Lorne Michaels (television producer) tell stories for a hundred years. And he wouldn't run out. Mike Nichols (director). Diane Sawyer (journalist). Marlo Thomas (actress). Patti LuPone (actress). Meryl Streep (actress). And then friends of mine, also."

In this category, he mentioned Jon Stewart and Hannibal Buress, whom he had seen perform the night before as part of Dave Chappelle's run of shows at Radio City Music Hall. He also noted his Mad Men colleagues Elisabeth Moss ("Lizzie") and John Slattery ("Slatty"), directors Greg Mottola and Edgar Wright, and Rosamund Pike ("Roz"), his co-star in High Wire Act, a yet-to-be-released thriller written by Tony Gilroy.

"Like, how are we friends?" he said. "How did I get here? I'm from Nowheresville, Missouri. But it was instilled in me from an early age: Why not you? Just because you're x-y-z from Nowheresville doesn't mean you're nothing."

He said he has high hopes for the success of High Wire Act, although he described it as "the kind of movie they don't really make anymore because it's not based on a comic book or a theme-park ride."

Even Michael Clayton, a 2007 film also written by Gilroy, is not the kind of thing that gets made much anymore.

"I remember walking out of Michael Clayton and being like: 'I want to be in that movie,'" Hamm said.

It may be a good sign that he met Gilroy to discuss the script at Cafe Luxembourg, the same Upper West Side restaurant where Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, took Hamm for a celebratory dinner after he got the part of Don Draper.

Does he still feel as driven as he was back then?

"If anything, even more so," he said.

Before leaving, he said, "I hope I wasn't too melancholy or sad", and showed a picture on his phone: Cora. "She was a good one," he said. "She was a real good one."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2017, with the headline 'Mad time for Hamm'. Subscribe