It’s a white heterosexual man’s world in the AMC series Mad Men, set in 1960s Manhattan. But that world is somehow less oppressive with a handsome star like Jon Hamm calling the shots. He won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Emmy for his leading role as hard-drinking, chain-smoking, skirt-chasing advertising exec Don Draper. Here, the 37-year-old former prep school drama teacher explains why he’s just mad about men like costar Bryan Batt, Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, and especially Keanu Reeves.
The Advocate: I hear you’ve had a long day of back-to-back interviews, but hopefully this will be your gayest one ever.
Jon Hamm: I don’t know. We’ll see. I’ve had some pretty gay interviews before, my friend.
Congratulations on your Emmy nomination. But what’s an Emmy when you’ve won the title of Salon.com’s Sexiest Man Living?
[Laughs] I would suggest that those are two very different feelings. There’s been a crazy amount of completely unexpected publicity and attention for the whole ride. It’s interesting that it all started happening after the first season of Mad Men aired. Nobody really watched it, but the tastemakers and the right people saw it. Fortunately we live in a world now where you can get it on demand or on iTunes or on DVD, so the snowball effect happened, and I couldn’t be happier.
How would you create a Mad Men ad campaign geared specifically to the gay community?
Well, it’s a very high-drama show, and it’s very stylish. Three things that the gay community responds to are attitude, sexiness, and style. We’re a prime property for a big gay following—I love it.
We’re an easy sell, Jon — just show us some skin.
[Laughs] I don’t know about that. I don’t know if you want me anywhere near any kind of skin thing — that’s a nightmare.
You could enlist the help of Bryan Batt, who plays Salvatore, the closeted ad man.
Yeah, what an amazing and complex role, and it gets even better and deeper in season 2. It’s not a joke, a stereotype, or a sort of queeny, campy whatever. He’s just a real guy. He’s actually based on a real guy who was closeted throughout the ’60s and worked in the advertising industry. As a gay man, Bryan does a wonderful job with it, but I’d take that part in a heartbeat — gay, straight, or indifferent.
What would happen if Salvatore came out?
I think it would be devastating to him, career-wise and culturally, as an Italian man with an Italian family. This is before Stonewall, even. And we’re not talking about the Midwest; this is New York, the cultural capital of the world, and it was still a very closeted time, so I think it would be tremendously challenging for him to come out. Now, in 10 more years, in 1972? Then it’s a different story.
Your character, Don, is kind of a slut. Any chance of he and Salvatore hooking up on the sly?
[Laughs] I don’t think Don swings that way, but in 10 more years, who knows? The swingin’ ’70s.
With 0 being exclusively straight and 6 exclusively gay, where does Don fall on the Kinsey scale?
Well, I don’t think anybody’s a pure 0. He’s a heterosexual man, but I think sexuality runs along a continuum. The big thing now is the man crush — I love this new phrase, which tries to butch up the idea as much as possible. But guys like guys all the time. They don’t necessarily want to have sex with them, but they have relationships with male friends. No one’s a 0 and no one’s a 6; I’m pretty sure of that.
Who’s your man crush?
Man, Matt Weiner, who wrote this goddamn thing… [John] Slattery, who’s fuckin’ genius on it… I have tons of men who have inspired me in my life.