Jon Hamm essays a character very different from Don Draper in the British miniseries “A Young Doctor’s Notebook,” which will finally premiere in the U.S. on Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Ovation.
The “Mad Men” star also served as a producer on the British made-for. The lengths that Hamm went to be do the project indicate a thesp who is thinking about life after “Mad Men” completes its seventh and final season next year (though the series final batch of episodes will not air until 2015).
“Young Doctor’s Notebook,” a dark comedy adapted from Russian playwright Mikhail Bulgakov’s book of the same title, became the highest-rated show in U.K. network Sky Arts’ history when it debuted last December. The cast just wrapped the show’s second season.
Hamm narrates the misadventure of his younger self (played by Daniel Radcliffe), as he stumbles through his first job as a doctor during the Russian Revolution.
Due to his hectic schedule, Hamm was forced to shoot his part in 10 days before returning to the States to film “Mad Men.” Aside from the time constraints, he said the effort to appear believably British was daunting.
While the best part of his profession is tackling drastically different roles, once an actor finds success, people want to box him into that kind of role for the rest of his career, Hamm said last week during a press junket at West Hollywood’s Soho House. But with parts in the comedies “Bridesmaids” and “Friends With Kids”; guest spots on “30 Rock,” “Childrens Hospital” and “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret”; and hosting duties on “Saturday Night Live” and the ESPY Awards, Hamm has definitely fought “against the tide.”
“I wish some engineer would draw me a nice big blueprint for my career. I don’t have one,” he said. “I just kind of see where the day takes me, and I’ve been very, very fortunate in that a lot of very, very powerful, creative, intelligent people have asked me to play in their reindeer games.”
When choosing projects, he looks for “what’s going to be challenging, what’s going to be inspiring?” he said. “Otherwise it’s a job. Otherwise you might as well go be a lead miner. You have to have some sort of creative inspiration to get up and do what we do.”
Like many of Hamm’s characters, the MD of the title in “A Young Doctor’s Notebook” is dark and dysfunctional; his morphine addiction puts Don Draper’s alcoholism to shame.
“No one wants to watch a TV show about the person who makes all the right decisions. That’s a pretty boring hour, half-hour of television,” Hamm said. “Or it’s kind of old school. God, even ‘Make Room for Daddy,’ he didn’t make the right decision all the time. That’s where you get humor and that’s where you get drama and that’s where you get conflict.”
Hamm has been wearing multiple hats lately as actor-producer-director. He produced “A Young Doctor’s Notebook” and “Friends With Kids,” and he produced and directed several episodes of “Mad Men.”
“They had come to me season four and asked if I wanted to direct and I said no,” he said of “Mad Men’s showrunners. “And then I watched (John) Slattery do it and I watched (longtime girlfriend) Jen (Westfeldt) do it on ‘Friends With Kids’ and I watched Ben (Affleck) do it on ‘The Town,’ and I saw how hard it was to be in front and behind at the same time, but I saw that it was possible. So they asked me again to do it in season five, and I said OK, and it was challenging and eye-opening.”
He said he’ll focus solely on his work in front of the camera for the show’s upcoming seventh and final season. In fact, Hamm doesn’t know when or if he’ll ever direct again. With acting in his veins, the multihyphenate star doesn’t plan on giving up his day job any time soon.
“I’m doing the only thing I’ve ever really been that good at,” he said. “Like I’m an OK baseball player. I’m kind of a good cook. I think I’m a pretty good actor and other people have told me that too so I feel like, OK, I’ll keep doing it as long as people don’t want to see me I guess, and then maybe I can direct or produce or whatever.”