We can't picture anyone else as the complicated Don Draper. "He auditioned a bunch, and part of that was because he was unknown and the network was nervous about putting the weight of the series on an unknown," recalls Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. "But right away he had a real intelligence about the material, which was complicated. In some of the scenes, none of the actors we saw got them except him."
He’s not afraid to take chances. This year alone Hamm’s hosted Saturday Night Live twice; reprised his role as Liz Lemon’s comically hot, hook-handed ex-beau on 30 Rock; played a by-the-book FBI agent in The Town; and joined Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, and the cast of Glee on stage at the Emmys for the inspired "Born to Run" opening number.
As gorgeous and talented as he is, he's got an Everyman quality that's appealing. "There aren't that many people like him, and I feel very lucky that I found him," says Weiner. "Four seasons in, and everyone on that show behaves like a human being because Jon is not a prima donna and because Jon works so hard."
"This season alone Jon had to gauge Don's alcoholic decline over many episodes," says Weiner. "And drunk is very dangerous for an actor — it can really be a mess. In the episode The Suitcase, where he’s getting drunker and drunker, we shot it out of sequence, and I looked at it and I was just so impressed. He starts off with a couple of drinks and just works his way to the moment after he's had the fight with Duck and thrown up and is getting ready to make a difficult phone call. Jon physically took care of all that himself. You can't write that."
He's earned his spot at the table. "I think it's great that success has happened to him at a time in his life when, after working so hard, he can really appreciate it," says Weiner.
"In the finale this season," says Weiner, "when Don comes in and tells everybody in the office that he’s marrying Megan, he has that smile on his face! When’s the last time you saw that guy smile?"
"I have such a sense of pride, especially having fought for him
to get the lead role on the show," says Weiner. "It's a sense of vindication. Everyone else who finds him and discovers him, I feel like, 'See! I told you!' It's a vindication of my taste, in a weird way."
He’s a consummate entertainer. "If you define an entertainer as somebody who can master any form — singing, dancing, acting, drama, comedy, sketch — then he is that person," says Weiner. "He can do it all."
He keeps giving us fun stuff to talk about. "Do you know how flattering it is to see him go out there and make fun of Don Draper [on Conan and SNL]? I love it," says Weiner.
He doesn't act like he knows he's all that. In Hamm's own words: "My Eternal Pessimist comes out whenever things get as good as they have been, and I will say that 2010 was the best year I will ever have."