The “Mad Men” Season 6 premiere is less than three weeks away on AMC, and that means we’re tantalizingly close to discovering what’s happened to Don Draper and company since we saw them last.
During a recent press day for the show in Los Angeles, Jon Hamm sat down for a roundtable discussion about what’s happened to Don so far and what’s ahead (although he remained tight-lipped about any possible spoilers). Here are five highlights of that discussion.
His reaction to the Season 6 premiere script, including Don’s lack of dialogue in the opening minutes…
“Number one, I was glad I didn’t have a lot of lines. I didn’t have a lot to memorize. It was interesting for me. We left off Season 5 with the question ‘Are you alone?’ It’s a different question than ‘Are you single?’ It’s a different question than ‘Are you lonely?’ And it’s a different question than ‘Are you with anyone?’ It’s ‘Are you alone?’ What does that mean? The reason we don’t get an answer to that is because there’s a lot of different meanings to that.
“We open [Season 6] with a man sitting in paradise reading about hell. And I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition. We see it in the key art, and as the season progresses you’ll see a lot of dualities and two sides of this person. We also ended last season with Don leaving Megan in the spotlight and retreating to the shadow. I think that’s significant. [Also] where we’re at in the ’60s and where we’re at in the culture at large — not just United States culture but world culture — it’s such a turbulent time. I think that that all serves to add depth to this story and to this man’s journey. How is he going to navigate these increasingly choppy waters?”
His take on what the Season 6 key art means for the season ahead…
“The central motif of it obviously is these two versions of this one man crossing. Which one are we supposed to be following? One of them is with somebody and one of them is not. I think that shouldn’t be lost on people. One of them has a briefcase in his hand, one of them doesn’t. It’s a very rich image. There’s a one way sign, there’s a stop sign, there’s a lot of things. Those aren’t mistakes. Matt [Weiner] was very involved in the choosing of this particular image and finding the artist he wanted. He wanted this specific style of art.
“It’s so different also from our normal stylistic kind of cues which are very graphic and very sparse. This is chaotic and different and in may ways kind of suggests the world we’re moving into [on the show]. Bright colors and crazy tones and a lot going on.”
How Don’s biggest regrets may come into play this season…
“With a couple of the big events in Don’s life that have ended badly or opposite the way he wanted them to end — I’m thinking specifically of his brother’s suicide, Lane’s suicide and Joan’s decision last season — Don had the capacity to change those things and tried. He gave his brother money and said ‘Take this money. This will help. Go live your life. I can’t be a part of it but do that.’ And the brother went the other way and ended his life. That sat very heavily on Don.
“With Joan’s situation: ‘Joan, you don’t have to do this. I will win this account. Please don’t do this. I told everybody that we’re not OK with this.’ Unbeknownst to him it had already happened, but he had the best intentions. He finds out later that it didn’t matter. That sat very heavily on him.
“And then with Lane, he finds that Lane is [embezzling]. [Don] initially covers for him with Cooper and says ‘No, no, no, it was me. I f—ed something up, don’t worry about it.’ [He] confronts Lane and says, ‘Here’s your way out. You can’t be here but there’s a way out of this, trust me. It’s easy to start over. I’ve done it a million times. You will be fine.’ And Lane doesn’t take his advice. I think it does resonate in [Don’s] life that he in a lot of situations is very good at convincing people to do what he wants and in these three particular life-altering situations he couldn’t. That’s an interesting observation I think.”
His thoughts on directing episodes while also starring [Hamm directed the third hour of this season airing April 14]…
“Directing had been brought up to me at the end of Season 3. I said, ‘No, thank you.’ Between then and now I saw John Slattery [act and direct] very capably [on ‘Mad Men’], I saw Ben Affleck do it also very capably [on ‘The Town’] and I saw Jennifer Westfeldt do it also very capably [on ‘Friends with Kids’]. So I thought, ‘OK I have now seen a couple of examples of this in action and I think I might be a little bit more prepared for the responsibilities of this.’ And I did it last season. And I did it again this season.
“I had a lot more to do in my episode this season as an actor. It was sort of a degree of difficulty more challenging in that respect. You are completely of two minds on set. It’s a very very difficult mindset to stay in. You’re watching one thing as a director and especially if you’re in the scene you’re watching one thing as an actor. I remember doing scenes with Ben on ‘The Town’ where I would be like ‘Wow, you are totally watching me as a director right now and not as an actor.’ It’s a very interesting switch to be able to flip. He’s very good at it and justifiably lauded for his talent.”
His wishes for Don…
“I wish for him to find peace and or balance and or happiness. I think Don’s life has been one out of balance for quite some time. Not to get too ‘Life of Pi’ on anyone here — which was an excellent film by the way, if you haven’t seen it please do — we find out more in Season 6 about why Don is how he is. And why Don does what he does. His house is built on a weak foundation. He’s a fundamentally damaged and broken guy. I would advise him to fix that foundation. And then work on the house. Don’t work on the house first. Work on the foundation first. I hope that was cryptic enough.”