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In 2007, actor Jon Hamm took on his most famous character to date, playing philandering ad executive Don Draper in the American Movie Classics show Mad Men.
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John Hamm was born March 10, 1971, in St. Louis, Missouri. For years, Hamm struggled to find work as an actor. He made his television and film debuts in 2000. He appeared on the television drama Providence from 2000 to 2001. In 2007, he took on his most famous character to date, playing philandering ad executive Don Draper in the American Movie Classics show Mad Men.
"I suddenly had no parents. It was like I had no mooring."
"We were three generations living under one roof, which is difficult in the best of circumstances."
Born Jonathan Daniel Hamm on March 10, 1971, in St. Louis, Missouri. His father, Dan, had two daughters from his first marriage. His family owned a successful trucking company for generations in St. Louis, but the business declined as Jon grew up. His parents divorced when he was only 2 years old. Living with his mother, Deborah, he "tried a lot of different things—violin, soccer, creative writing," Hamm told In Style magazine. "My mother celebrated learning." He saw his father on the weekends.
At the age of 10, Hamm lost his mother to colon cancer, which had spread throughout her body. After her death, Hamm moved to his grandmother's house with his father . "We were three generations living under one roof, which is difficult in the best of circumstances," Hamm told GQ. He found sanctuary from his difficult home life at the progressive John Burroughs Preparatory School. Some of his friends' mothers also felt moved to look after him.
An athlete and performer, Hamm was a linebacker on his school's football team, and had the leading role in a production of Godspell. He decided to go to the University of Texas, turning down offers to play football at several Ivy League colleges. His time at University of Texas turned out to be brief, however, due to some personal hardships. First, his grandmother died. Shortly after, his father became ill. After struggling with his sickness, Dan Hamm died during Jon's sophomore year of college. "I suddenly had no parents," Hamm told W. "It was like I had no mooring." Choosing to finish school at the University of Missouri, Hamm looked for work to help support himself, and got a job at a local day-care center. "I basically went out and pitched myself saying, 'Here's the deal. I was always a latchkey kid, so I was coming home or going to day care, and there were never any guys around,'" he explained to the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Hamm also became very active in the university's theater program. One of his professors, Jim Miller, said that Hamm "was the most intellectual actor I have had in 30 years of teaching," according to an article in the university's alumni magazine, Mizzou. He spent two summers performing in the school's repertory company, starring as Cliff in Cabaret and Leon Colgosz in a production of Stephen Sondheim's musical, Assassins.
In 1993, Hamm earned a bachelor's degree in English from the university. He then landed a job as a teacher at his old school, John Burroughs. For two years, Hamm taught drama there, teaching students such as Anna Kendrick, who later became a popular film actress.
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