What Jon Hamm Would Tell His Young Actor Self: “Just Work Harder”

jon-hamm-a-young-doctors-notebookJon Hamm has rocked television viewers for the last six seasons as Don Draper on AMC’s Mad Men. Now he’s continuing with another challenging character as a morphine-addicted middle-aged man looking back on his 24-year-old self, played by Daniel Radcliffe, in Season 2 of the British TV series, A Young Doctor’s Notebook.

Hamm looked back at his own life at 24 with The Observer.

He shared what he would tell his young self, “I’d be telling him, just work harder. I had been doing plays back then. At 24, I’d just come to Los Angeles. When you think of yourself in your 20s you tend to obscure some of the worst memories and inflate some of the good parts. If I think back to my first couple of months as a professional actor, I cringe: I was such an idiot. In film and television there are so many customs that you don’t know about. You just blunder in.”

Even though Hamm had a few missteps early in his career, he certainly knew that acting was where he belonged.

“It really started at high school, when one of my teachers, who is still a good friend, took me on one side and said: ‘You are really good at this.’ I still have problems with compliments. But that was the first one, and I kept hearing that as I carried on.” the AMC star revealed. “I never really heard it in any other arena, no one ever said you are a really good writer, or you are good at math. And, as you say, I later found myself unrooted. I had no immediate family, no wife, no particular place to live, so I thought I might as well give this life a try. I’ve learned a few things, but one is: you are only 24 once. You have to hustle a bit to get where you want to be.”

Hamm, who lost his dad at the age of 20, has felt that hole of not having his father around as an adult. That sadness is a part of who he is personally, but it is not something he accesses as an actor.

He explained, “I’m not that methody. I am very cognizant that I am playing a character. Don Draper is a pretty dismal, despicable guy, so why I would want to take him home with me I don’t know… It’s a strange thing. People tell me they look up to Don, like they look up to Tony Soprano or Walter White [in Breaking Bad]. People have these weird fascinations with people who in reality you would not want to be for a second. There seems to be that vicarious thrill. Maybe it is the fact of doing everything wrong and getting away with it.”

Mad Men returns to AMC in Spring 2014. Season 2 of A Young Doctor’s Notebook can be seen on the U.K.’s Sky network. Season 1 ran on the Ovation network for U.S. viewers.

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