Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm Biography

Television Producer, Producer (1971–)
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American actor Jon Hamm is best known for his Emmy-winning role as philandering ad executive Don Draper on AMC's 'Mad Men.'

Who Is Jon Hamm?

Born on March 10, 1971, in St. Louis, Missouri, Hamm overcame the loss of both parents before finishing college to become a successful actor. Early screen work included a role on the television drama Providence, but it was his performance as philandering ad executive Don Draper on AMC's Mad Men that propelled him to fame and led to two Golden Globes and an Emmy win. Hamm has since made prominent contributions to films like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Bridesmaids, Million Dollar Arm and Baby Driver.

Early Life

Jonathan Daniel Hamm was born 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.

After his parents divorced when he was only 2 years old, Hamm lived with his mother, Deborah, and "tried a lot of different things—violin, soccer, creative writing," he 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, and he 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 the school was brief, however, due to 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 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.

Interest in Theater

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 Ellie Kemper, who later became a film and television actress. He also made friends with up-and-coming actor Paul Rudd while living in St. Louis. Rudd described Hamm as "one of those unfair guys who are good looking, really funny and good at everything," according to GQ magazine.

In 1995, Hamm decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Packing up everything he owned, he drove to his aunt and uncle's house in West Los Angeles. He stayed with them until he got his own apartment, which he shared with a series of roommates.

Films and TV Shows

'Space Cowboys,' 'Providence,' 'Kissing Jessica Stein'

For years, Hamm struggled to find work as an actor. He made his television and film debuts in 2000, with bit parts in the comedy series The Hughleys and the adventure flick Space Cowboys. Landing a recurring role, Hamm appeared on the television drama Providence from 2000 to 2001. Also around this time, Hamm got a part on the Los Angeles stage in Lipschtick, written by Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen. It was turned into the 2001 independent film Kissing Jessica Stein, in which Hamm also appeared. Off-screen he developed a relationship with Westfeldt, and the two eventually moved in together. 

'The Division,' 'The Unit'

In 2002, Hamm had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it part in Mel Gibson's military drama We Were Soldiers. He also began his two-year run on the police drama The Division, playing Inspector Nate Russo opposite Bonnie Bedelia and Nancy McKeon. After its cancellation, Hamm made guest appearances on such shows as Charmed, CSI: Miami, and Numb3rs. He also landed recurring roles on the military drama The Unit and the dramatic comedy What About Brian.

Breakthrough Role as Don Draper on 'Mad Men'

In 2007, Hamm took on his most famous character to date, playing philandering ad executive Don Draper on AMC's Mad Men, after auditioning seven times for the role. Set in the 1960s, Mad Men explored the lives of the employees of a top New York City ad agency. The cast also featured January Jones as his wife Betty and John Slattery as his boss Roger Sterling. Elisabeth Moss played Peggy, a secretary-turned-copywriter on the show. 

The Don-Peggy relationship was challenging for Hamm, especially when he had to be hard on someone who "looks about nine years old. It's like kicking a puppy," he told Daily Variety. But for Hamm, the character provided an opportunity to stretch as an actor. "Don, in a lot of ways, can be kind of mean, and that's not my go-to thing. ... He's kind of mean to a purpose, but it was a little tough," he explained to the publication.

While promoting the show's fifth season in 2012, Hamm got caught up in a media frenzy for his comments about reality TV stars in an interview. "Whether it's Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated," he told Elle UK. "Being ... [an] idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you're rewarded significantly." Kardashian responded by calling Hamm "careless" for saying she was "stupid," and the actor subsequently said he was surprised by the media attention over his remarks. He told The Hollywood Reporter that "we live in a world now where every word is micro-parsed and sometimes taken out of context, sometimes misunderstood."

Over its run, Mad Men garnered stellar reviews and won several awards, including the 2011 Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. Hamm personally won Golden Globes in 2008 and 2016, and received numerous Emmy Award nominations for his work as Don Draper, winning in 2015.

'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' 'Stolen,' 'Howl'

Stepping away from the finely tailored vintage suits, Hamm appeared in the 2008 science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves. He also had roles in the crime drama Stolen (2009) and the Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl (2010). Showing his comedic talents, Hamm enjoyed a recurring role on the hit sitcom 30 Rock beginning in 2009, playing the handsome, but not very bright, neighbor of Tina Fey's Liz Lemon.

'Friends With Kids,' 'Bridesmaids'

Seeking greater control over his career, Hamm established a production company, Points West Pictures, with Westfeldt in 2009. The pair co-starred in her 2012 film Friends With Kids, which also featured Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Hamm had also appeared in the 2011 hit comedy Bridesmaids with Wiig, as her cruel love interest.

'The Million Dollar Arm,' 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'

In 2014, Hamm starred in the heartwarming sports movie The Million Dollar Arm. The film is based on a true story about a sports agent who recruits several Indian cricket players and tries to transform them into major league baseball pitchers. The following year, he had a chance to work with his former drama student Kemper in her Netflix comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for which he earned another Emmy nod in 2015.

'Minions,' 'Keeping Up With the Jonses'

Following a voice role for the animated feature Minions (2015), Hamm starred with Gal Gadot as a secret-agent couple who arouse the suspicions of their neighbors in Keeping Up With the Jonses (2016). On the small screen, he had a recurring role in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, and delivered more voice work for the web series The Amazing Gayl Pile.

'Baby Driver,' 'Lucy in the Sky,' 'Richard Jewell'

Showing no signs of slowing down, Hamm enjoyed a prominent role in the 2017 heist flick Baby Driver, and starred in Beirut, Tag and Bad Times at the El Royale in 2018. The following year, he appeared in the true-story-based films Lucy in the Sky, as an astronaut, and Richard Jewell, as an FBI agent.

Personal

Hamm and his longtime girlfriend Westfeldt split in 2015, after 18 years together. He has since been linked to actress Dakota Johnson and Saturday Night Live producer Lindsay Shookus.

Shortly before the debut of the final Mad Men season in April 2015, Hamm revealed that he had undergone rehabilitation for alcohol abuse. He talked about this crisis with Australia's TV Week magazine, noting, "Life throws a lot at you sometimes and you have to deal with it as much as you can." The actor also said he was very appreciative of all of the support he received from family and friends after the news of his stay in rehab broke.

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