The seminal drama series Mad Men aired during the resurgence of the Golden Age of Television, an expression used to amalgamate some of the most beloved dramas of all time which include The Sopranos, The Wire and Breaking Bad. A similarity that these shows share is the exploration of finely written characters whose actions and beliefs encompass the idea of moral ambiguity. Donald Draper, who begins Mad Men as the Director of the Creative Department at Manhattan ad agency, Sterling Cooper, is an enigmatic ad man with a mysterious past and a stomach full of Old Fashioneds.
From the introductory moment we see this brooding, stoic figure appear scribbling notes on a cocktail napkin to the spectacularly epic conclusion of his character, the heart, soul and sophistication of #DonDraper all derive from the stunning performance given by Jon Hamm for all seven seasons.
The character of Don Draper was conjured up by series creator Matthew Weiner, who also happened to be a producer and writer on HBO's groundbreaking series, The Sopranos. With his vast experience of working on such an influential show with equally complicated characters, it isn't hard to believe he would want to depict similarly flawed characters within his own series.
While discussing the idea of an "anti-hero" in 2014, Weiner stated the following in an interview with The Atlantic:
"[if] the hero is squeaky clean and perfect, you’re going to be interested in the villain."
When you think of Don Draper, the words "squeaky clean" and "perfect" are worlds apart from who he is, yet as every slow burning episode progresses, you find yourself continually mesmerized by his philandering and brilliant mind.
Jon Hamm's Journey To Become Don Draper
Prior to his work on Mad Men, #JonHamm made brief appearances in a number of well-known #TV shows including Ally McBeal, CSI: Miami, Charmed and Numb3rs. One of his most notable roles was portraying Peyton Sanders in an episode of Gilmore Girls - Side note: fans of both shows likely felt a jolt of excitement when Alexis Bledel appeared in three episodes of Mad Men in season 5.
While he appeared in numerous shows and minor film roles, there wasn't a particular role that showcased the immense talent he has, until his breakthrough role in Mad Men came knocking... And by "knocking" I mean he had to beat out more than 80 candidates vying for the role and move past Weiner and director Alan Taylor's initial belief that he was too handsome.
Hamm's performance as Don possesses a special trait only a handful of actors can say they have: the inhuman ability at utterly and completely captivating his audience.
Regardless of who he is paired alongside with, the audience's attention is laser focused and hanging on every word that comes out of Don's mouth and the subtle mannerisms that Hamm brings to the role. He embodies every vital component of Don – the heartache, happiness and dramatic elements that are crucial to the success of the character. The show's die-hard fanbase stuck with the series not only because of its spectacular writing or the myriad of other aspects we could spend hours praising. They stuck with it because they felt a fervent connection with its characters who serve as the connective tissue to the heart of the show which is ultimately telling the story of Don Draper.
The Carousel pitch is one of the most admired and praised scenes of the entire series. Appearing in the final episode of the first season, what we learned about Don throughout the introductory season culminates in this stellar pitch that works as not only a magnificent method in selling a Kodak product, but as further insight into a character we spent the previous 12 episodes completely fixated on. The longing for a place where "we know we are loved" that continuously plagues Don provides all that delicious subtext Mad Men is loved for.
When Prestige Comes Calling
The Emmys race during Mad Men's tenure on the air remained insanely tight because of the remarkable talent on TV. The acting heavyweights that were staples in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series included Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire, Kyle Chandler in Friday Night Lights and Kevin Spacey in House Of Cards, just to name a few.
Throughout its seven seasons, Hamm was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor every year the series was on air, finally winning the trophy in 2015 and rightfully receiving a standing ovation from the crowd for his achievement. It was especially cathartic when he won because he was previously nominated a whopping 16 times, seven of those nominations went to Mad Men whereas the remainder were for his comedic guest appearances in 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
The role of Don Draper allowed audiences to realize the immense talent of Jon Hamm. I'm currently on a rewatch of the series and consistently remain in awe with what he brings to the role. The legacy of Mad Men is solidified for generations of TV watchers to come. While it does sting to hear him state that he doesn't want to portray Don Draper again, I ultimately will be able to get over it because I trust in the Hamm potential.
What is your favorite Don moment? Let me know in the comments below!