If you’re trying to find out about the new season of Mad Men, the TV ads won’t help much. One teaser has the boys of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce discuss the preposterous notion of anti-smoking campaigns. Other spots don’t even have any dialogue.
Of course the plot details are meant to be a secret, and Jon Hamm did a good job keeping series creator Matthew Weiner’s secrets. At a cocktail reception for the Television Critics Association, Hamm joked about possible spoilers for the show’s fifth season. Mad Men returns Sunday.
Q: What can you say about the new season?
Jon Hamm: One of the things that Matt and I talked about when we started the kind of process to get back going on this season was basically what happens to a creative person when they’ve been doing the same thing for a long time? You can draw whatever parallels you want on the wideness of that parallel. But Don makes his money and makes his livelihood being creative, being ahead of the curve and finding out what makes people tick and all that stuff. And what happens when you get older? There’s another generation of people coming up right behind you who are outdoing you and outthinking you. What happens to a career? I think we try to hit on a lot of those. Don is capable. We’re not living in a world, it’s not The Simpsons where everybody stays the same age 20 years in. People age and we try to depict that realistically. We also try to depict their situations realistically and how that shifts. I think there’s a lot of interesting television honestly.
Q: It seemed he was philosophical about the failure of his marriage and then he abandoned that. How does that affect this season?
JH: Well, I don't know if asking someone to marry you is abandoning your philosophy. But we saw what Don went through that season too and it was a significantly difficult change. I’ve never been in a marriage that’s fallen apart and I don't know what the psychological detritus is or what the aftershocks are, but it seemed to me like it was pretty realistically portrayed. And I think the first or second episode of season four, Cara Buono’s character comes in and says, “Guys like you are usually married within a year.” And he sort of scoffs at her. What she says is that no one wants to seem like they’re a statistic, but I guess in many ways we all are. So I think we definitely hit on that theme in season five.
Q: What do you think about Don’s relationship with alcohol?
JH: I think he has a dangerous relationship with alcohol, that I think a lot of creative people have. Fill in the blank with your alcohol or whatever. It’s a depressant and yet it uninhibits you. There’s a very fine line. Don’s certainly crossed that line at times. So I think hopefully he is maturing and is aware, as they say the first sign of having a problem is admitting you have a problem [sic] something like that but I’m not familiar with the whole letter of that. It’s an issue. I think that we saw that issue become larger than he is and people around him kind of say, “You gotta take it easy.” Anybody who’s ever had that conversation with somebody or been the subject of that conversation, that’s when you realize oh wait a minute, maybe this is getting a little bigger than me out out of control or whatever it is. I think Don recognized that and backed away with the ledge so to speak.
Q: What can you tell us about the two hour premiere?
JH: It all takes place on ice. We do ice skating. There are several musical numbers. There’s a Santa suit. The Muppets make an appearance which is really weird. We were supposed to come out right when that movie came out but we missed it. So it’s going to seem weird.
Q: Especially since they didn’t exist until the ‘70s.
Q: Have you thought about what comes next after Mad Men?
JH: I haven’t really. I was saying to somebody else earlier, I really like my day job. And I’m happy that we’re going to do it for a few more years. I’ll let whatever happens next happen next. I’m not a very good predictor about what comes down the way and I’m not very good at being tremendously ambitious either so I kind of drift along and see what happens.
Q: So you love acting.
JH: I do. That I do.
Q: So you’ll continue to do it.
JH: I think so, as long as they’ll have me.
Q: What do you think of all the talk about Bridesmaids 2?
JH: Yeah, I know nothing about that. Every time I open up my mouth about that I get in trouble so I really don’t know. Again, I was a very small part of that very big picture but I’m sure someone’s having a conversation about it somewhere. It certainly does not involve me.
Q: Is there a lighter tone to this season of Mad Men or is it even more serious?
JH: I would suggest that it probably couldn’t get much darker than season four and I’ll leave it at that.
Q: How does Don parent versus the other fathers of the era?
JH: That’s an interesting question. I was just outside that generation growing up as a kid. I grew up in the ‘70s but I had older cousins and older folks and older sisters actually who would’ve been around Sally’s age. So I was close enough to it to kinda see it. It very much takes people aback when they see how people were treated back then which is not how they’re treated now. And I think whatever pendulum swings, I don’t have kids but a lot of my friends do, has swung way in the opposite direction to where kids are so entitled and so handled and so coddled that I think in the middle somewhere is probably the sweet spot. But I don’t have kids so I fortunately don’t have to make those decisions. I think Don is a good dad sometimes because I think most people are good parents sometimes. I don’t think everybody’s a good parent all the time.
Q: He’s easier than Betty on them. One thing he liked is a woman who loves them.
JH: I think that’s first of all a great observation but I think the dynamic in a marriage on who’s the good cop and who’s the bad cop is very tricky. I think mothers were expected to do certain things and fathers were expected to do certain things back in the day and those roles were pretty well defined. I’ve had long conversations with my aunt in fact whose father was in World War II and grandfather. She would tell me stories from around the dinner table that you’re like, “Wow, I’m glad I was not at that dinner table. That sounded like a very tense dining environment.”