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Jon Hamm '89

July 10, 2017

Jon Hamm '89 was featured in the 7.10.17 People. "Jon Hamm sounds like he's calling from inside a washing machine. Amid heavy rainstorms in Atlanta, he's being driven from the set of his upcoming comedy Tag to the airport for a 24-hour trip to the London premier of his new heist thriller Baby Driver. 'I'm sorry. I hope you can hear me through this,' he says as a flash-flood warning blares on his phone. 'If you don't hear from me in the near future, that means I probably ended up in a ditch.' He survived the ride — and, so far, the deluge of a schedule that has him filming and promoting at least a half-dozen movies and TV gigs this year. 'It's a good problem to have,' he says. 'You can sleep when you're dead, I suppose.' The man formerly known as Don Draper is now well into the next chapter of his post-Mad Men career — and figuring out just what it means to be Jon Hamm, A-lister. 'The best actors are the ones who don't forget that it's meant to be enjoyable,' says Hamm, 46, who had relished roles from Baby Driver's smooth criminal to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's hilariously demented kidnapper. Still, the thoughtful, privacy-minded actor struggles with what he calls the 'disruption' of fame. 'It's a bell  that can't be unrung,' he says. 'Your humanity is subsumed into a brand of sorts.' He has also weathered some personal upheaval since Mad Men wrapped in 2015: That year he revealed he had sought treatment for alcohol addiction, and five months later he and his girlfriend of 18 years, actress-writer Jennifer Westfeldt, announced their split. 'Like all things that are disruptive, you can either manage it effectively, or sometimes it gets the better of you,' Hamm says of stardom. 'And I think that can happen at any age.' Still, it helps to be a grown-up when fame hits, and Hamm was 36 when he landed his career-making Mad Men role. Before that the St. Louis native (who was raised by his dad, a trucking company manager, after he lost his mom to cancer when he was 10) struggled to find his footing as an actor. 'It wasn't necessarily a lightning bolt for me,' he says of his chosen career. 'At a certain point I realized it was a thing I had done more than any other.' Hamm made ends meet by working in restaurants and teaching at St. Louis's John Burroughs High School, where one student was his future Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt costar Ellie Kemper. While Hamm has successfully shaken up his image with his comedic roles (besides Kimmy, see also 30 Rock, Bridesmaids and Saturday Night Live), his villainous part in Baby Driver is another surprising turn. 'I've certainly played my fair share of dark characters, but this gut is a straight-up murderer,' say Hamm. 'Playing the baddie is a very different thing, and it was fun.' The high-speed driving was a bonus. 'You obviously don't get a chance to do that in real life,' he says. 'it's part of why people get into acting, to play pretend at a very high level.' Meanwhile he's making peace with the parts of life that are less fun — like dating as a public figure ('It's really hard,' he told Instyle. 'It sucks') and being followed by photographers and camera phones. 'We live in a post-sensitivity, post-privacy media landscape now,' he laments. 'The only way I can be Zen about it is to disengage from it.' He stays away from social media save for one private Instagram account 'that I use to follow beautiful places and baby animals and things that make me feel joy,' he says. 'I'm incredibly grateful for and happy with the career that I've worked for. It's my job to find the balance.'"