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With Season 3 now at an end, Jon Hamm, the man behind Don Draper, discusses how he approaches his character, what it was like confessing to Betty, and what other part on the show he'd love to play.
Q: How do you feel about Don as an actor and do you feel differently about him as a viewer? -- Blue Runner
A: It's hard for me to separate the two, because I'm obviously much closer to the character than most of the viewers. And also I'm very protective of the character. A lot of people, especially this season, are very frustrated and angry with Don and his choices and his decisions. But something to understand about the guy is he's significantly damaged. This is a guy that is not well-equipped for being emotionally available, or being mature or giving in a relationship. So it's a challenge to make him sympathetic because he does make so many difficult decisions. But again, they are motivated by how the guy was raised. I do think he loves his family very much. I think he's hard time expressing -- or at least maintaining -- that and still be true to himself. It's a difficult line to walk. What I enjoy about him as an actor is walking that line. And that's what makes it difficult to watch as a viewer. You're by turns transfixed and repulsed by this guy.
Q: Do you find it especially challenging to portray a character who holds a lot of his feelings back and does not express what he is thinking very openly? -- goodstuff
A: I think it's certainly more challenging than if everything was all out there, right up front. There's a lot that has to be taken as subtext and as a leap of faith. You hope the audience gets what you're putting out there because it's not spelled out explicitly. It's challenging but in a good way: It's no fun where you're just a bad guy and everybody knows you're a bad guy. You're just playing one note. This way, you get different parts to play. The show is so well-written, you get so much mileage out of these characters.
Q: What is your process in creating the character of Don Draper? -- Dadwasanadman
A: I had talked to Matt [Weiner] about his backstory. So I had known a lot about what was going on with Don before it was revealed to the audience. It was definitely how I chose to play this guy. This is a guy who is living a dual existence and we made the very conscious decision to play that. Don at the office is different than Don in Ossining. The Don of Season 1 different from the Don of Season 3. I think that's all part of playing this guy, a person who is growing and changing. And the world is changing around him as well. His relationships are changing. That's how people are in the world.
Q: Do you consider Don Draper and Dick Whitman to be separate characters when it comes to how you portray them? -- Peggy Sue
A: I wouldn't say it like that. They are two aspects of the same person. They are obviously two different people on the planet, but one person has taken both of their identities. One was created by a person who is looking to create a different identity for himself, and the other is the identity he was born to. That's a pretty American thing and a pretty common thing.
Q: Did you have any idea that the "Don confesses to Betty" scene would happen this season or were you totally surprised when you read the script? What was it like for you and January Jones to film those scenes?-- janeeyre
A: I didn't have any idea specifically. Matt's pretty tight about what's going to happen. But I knew that I would happen eventually. I thought it was handled appropriately. I think at a certain point, Don is tired of running and hiding and decides to -- is forced into -- [confessing], but instead of running away from it, meets it head on and has to deal with the consequences of that.
It's difficult to film any kind emotional scene because you have to film it over and over and over again. January was wonderful and very present. It's a tricky scene: It's a difficult, emotional, heavy moment, and obviously fraught with the baggage of two-and-half seasons of buildup. So you want to give it the weight it's due. I don't know how people took it, I don't know if they bought it or not, but it feel good to shoot it on the day. It felt very real and emotional and I hope people felt the emotional impact of it. I hope the scene worked.
Q: What about Don do you think connects with so many people? -- Oscar Scott
A: I don't know. For the longest time, people liked him because he was cool and unflappable and smart and all that stuff. Now that all of that has gone away, I think people are re-evaluating whether they really like Don or can identify with Don. I think people are not as on board [with him] as they were on one point. Which I think is an interesting shift in people's perception.
Q: As a man who plays a character with so many secrets what secrets can you share? -- the60billiondollarman
A: [Laughs] Well If I shared them, they certainly wouldn't be secrets. Everyone has a part of their life they want to keep private, that doesn't necessarily mean locked in a shoebox in a locked drawer of your desk, but especially living life as a quasi-public figure, you certainly want to keep part of your life private.
Q: If you were not playing Don Draper, what other role on the show would you want to play?-- Jnine
A: That's easy. Roger in a heartbeat. He gets all the best lines.
Q: What goes through your head when you have to act out a serious scene with John Slattery? How do you keep a straight face? -- Melodie [from Facebook]
A: [Laughs] John is a professional. We have a good time together. It's often funny and fun, but we also have a good time when we're not laughing and kidding around because he's a very talented actor. We're able to get through it some how.
Q: What actors of this or prior generations do you admire? Are there classic roles you'd like to take on (film or stage)? -- Judy S
A: I like a lot of leading men guys. I've been watching a lot of older movies and really like William Holden, James Garner, Robert Mitchum... folks like that from that generation. But I also like guys like Jeff Bridges -- there so many people out there that are so talented, it's hard to name a few.
I don't know if it's so much roles, but I do like certain writers and certain filmmakers that would be wonderful to work with. Everybody can probably guess who those people are. My opinion is you want to surround yourself with talented people whose work you respect and enjoy. We've been really lucky on Mad Men to have that across the board.