Stars Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss recently chatted with Metro about Mad Men, it's influence on pop culture today, and how to cope with being a celebrity.
Mad Men has received critical acclaim across the globe. How do you explain its incredible success?
Elisabeth Moss: I think it all started with amazing writing and the show’s concept that proved to be very seductive. It then became a more deep and subtle story about the characters themselves. At first, you begin to focus on the differences between the show and real life and then you realize that there are a lot of similarities. We're very lucky to have such a great and loyal audience.
Jon Hamm: It was tricky to have the show set in a very specific place and time, i.e. New York City in the Sixties, especially when you try to reach an international audience because the worry is how are people going to identify with that. In France or Scandinavia, people don’t necessary know about the idiosyncrasies of 1960s New York. The reason the show works is because it is about people. The characters are not defined by the time or space but by their personality and the relationships they have with one another. I think that is what’s keeping people glued to the show.
Still, everyone continues to be fascinated by life and culture from the sixties. Mad Men even seems to have influenced fashion this year…
Jon Hamm: The Sixties was a very rich and grand time period, not only in America, but also worldwide; in politics, literature or cinema, there were a lot of dynamic things happening. I think it’s interesting that today’s fashion is inspired by the retro style concept. But fashion moves in cycles. We're fortunate that the premiere of our show has coincided with one of these cycles. It’s a great compliment to our show to think that the first season of Mad Men could have been an inspiration to fashion. I must say that both men and women had a very sexy look back then. Paying attention to your style is a good thing. We damn sure moved far away from that in the Eighties and the Nineties.
Are you happy with the evolution of your characters on the show?
Jon Hamm: Tremendously. It's been a dream role for me. It's a very natural progression. All the characters move through this world and their lives in a very realistic way – but in a very dramatic manner, too. We hope we are making a show that’s fulfilling and entertaining to watch. Our job is to make this world live. I enjoy watching the other actors to see what they do when I’m not on the set. I'm a big fan of Mad Men. We're lucky to have such an incredible cast.
Elisabeth Moss: I feel lucky, too, because [my character] Peggy could have easily remained Don's secretary. It would have still been a great part, but now she has grown so much more interesting than that. As a young actress, it is a great opportunity to have built a character like her, with, of course, the help of the writing team.
How do you cope with celebrity? Jon, the press refers to you as the new George Clooney. Do you find that annoying or pleasing?
Jon Hamm: I think they referred to Elisabeth when they said the new ‘George Clooney’!
Elisabeth Moss: Oh yes, and I take this as a compliment!
Jon Hamm: But seriously, I handle it as well as I can. Celebrity is a very subjective thing. The media can tear you down as fast as they can build you up. Everything can vanish so easily that I don't give too much importance to the idea of celebrity. It has obviously given us a lot of opportunity to do other things, like star in movies. This is the good side of having fame. Certainly the paparazzi and the tabloids are the bad side.
What common traits you do share with the characters you play?
Elisabeth Moss: As an actor, you can't help but bring a part of yourself into the character, even if I’m very different from Peggy in real life. Still, there is a lot of me in her. She always has lots of hope in the future, she’s upbeat and positive, but sometimes that's not the best thing to be. She can also be naïve about certain things.
Jon Hamm: I don't have a tremendous amount of common traits with Don Draper. But I do believe there are similarities between our characters in the show. Peggy and Don both have a lot of ambition. They have a desire to excel, and go above and beyond. In my life I have the desire to succeed and to achieve. That would be the closest thing I have in common with Don. But at the end of the day, when I get home, I’m happy to leave Don on set.