Hamm stars opposite Daniel Radcliffe in the black comedy series debuting Wednesday night (Oct. 2) on Ovation. Fans of wizardry and 1960s advertising may remember that epic moment when Harry Potter and Don Draper took a bath together in the trailer for the first season of “A Young Doctor’s Notebook” before it premiered in the UK.
“The show is basically kind of a memory play of my character remembering his younger self [as Radcliffe’s character],” Hamm tells Zap2it. “However, my character has a fairly serious … morphine addiction, so the memory is not always correct. I’m kind of interceding into Dan’s life — my younger self’s life — quite a bit, including one time when he’s taking a bath, I appear. It was fun. It was funny, and thank God it was warm.”
Based on a collection of short stories by Russian playwright Mikhail Bulgakov, “A Young Doctor’s Notebook” takes a humorous — and, fair warning: gory — journey through the memory banks of an opiate-addicted British doctor who kept a journal of his time working in a remote Russian village during the early 20th century.
Hamm first signed on as a producer and immediately had Radcliffe in mind for the starring role. Whether Hamm perfects a believable mimicry of Radcliffe’s British accent as the older incarnation of his character will be up to the audience to decide.
“I’m not very good at accents,” Hamm says. “But I did earnestly try. … There were a lot of people in charge of making sure I didn’t sound wrong. So, hopefully I did a good enough job.”
Hamm says he got a little bit of advice from his “Mad Men” co-star Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson), who was Emmy-nominated for her role in 2013’s “Top of the Lake,” which Hamm says required Moss to employ “this crazy Australian, New Zealand accent.” Hamm, like Moss, was the only American on his cast, and jokes, “I hope I didn’t embarrass myself or the commonwealth.”
“Mad Men” fans who are jonesing for a fix of Hamm in a period piece, may be in for a surprise when they tune in to Ovation. “It’s different, and that’s why I wanted to do it,” says Hamm. “My day job, I love. … But it’s fun to do other things. In Hollywood, they tend to want you to do the same thing over and and over again, until people get sick of it. And then they say, ‘OK, what’s the next thing?’ I’m of a different approach in life, especially as an actor. The whole point is to do different things. And if you’re capable, and willing and able to take risks, sometimes you’re rewarded. And that’s what this was — this was a wonderful reward.”
As for whether the TV Academy might decide to reward Hamm based upon this clear departure, and finally give him a much-deserved Emmy after eight nominations, he’s not holding exactly his breath. “I think Emmys are clearly overrated,” Hamm says playfully. “No, look … I’m thrilled at the attention that I’ve gotten from the Television Academy, and they’ve been incredibly supportive of, not only my career, but our show [“Mad Men”]. And, I don’t know … I don’t think anybody does a job so they can win an Emmy. I think any award is gravy on the meal that is the actual work.”
The first season of “A Young Doctor’s Notebook” was so successful in the the UK that Hamm returned to London this summer to shoot Season 2. Ovation has yet to pick up the second series, but Hamm fans can hold out hope the network will bring the show the kind of stateside attention PBS has brought its fellow import, “Downton Abbey.”
Despite “Notebook” being, as Hamm says, “funny, but very dark,” he believes there will be some cross-over fans from “Downton.” “It is a very British show,” he points out, but adds, “‘Downton Abbey’ is a lush, multi-million dollar — like I wish we had a third of the ‘Downton Abbey’ budget, but we’re doing OK. With what we have, we’ve made a really beautiful piece of television that exists in its own, kind of strange world. And that’s the world I like to live in — the weirdo, kind of … a little bit more challenging to decipher world. Nothing against ‘Downton Abbey,’ which I love. But I like our world too.”
Perhaps this is a show for “Mad Men” fans after all.
“A Young Doctor’s Notebook” airs on Ovation Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT.