As the Emmys approach (September 23), Vulture reached out to nominees to pose the question, “What was your favorite episode from the last season of your show?” Today the series kicks off with Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.
The Episode: “The Other Woman”
Our own TV critic called it the “best all-around installment of Mad Men since ‘The Suitcase,’” so it doesn’t surprise us that this is the episode that does Jon Hamm most proud, too. “A lot happens in it,” he tells us. “Every episode starts with a table read. Most of us see the script the day before. There are a few people on the show that kind of sneak around and steal scripts and then read them and disseminate information — the set gossips; those people will go nameless. But when we read [this script] at the table, we were like, Oh boy, there’s a lot going on in this one.”
As a reminder: Joan sleeps with the creepy guy from Jaguar, lands the car account for SCDP, and gets a share in the company; also, Peggy quits. “When it aired, people were sort of outraged by the Joan storyline, like, Oh my God, how could she do that? What is she thinking?” Hamm remembers. “I kind of looked at it and I was like, Wait a minute: Joan’s not a saint, first of all. She’s having an affair with her boss while she’s married. She’s slept with at least one other person in the office. So let’s back off that thing. And she’s also making a very sort of prudent financial decision and very much trading one thing for another. I found the kind of psychological thing of that very interesting.” And the fact that Joan delivered on the indecent proposal despite the fact that Don didn’t want her to do it? That speaks to the fact that “Don’s not as powerful as he was anymore,” Hamm says. “It’s this sort of aging line. He doesn’t command the respect that he used to.”
As for Peggy quitting, he says that was an emotional scene for the characters and actors alike. “Lizzy [Moss] and I are very close friends and we were like, What does this mean for Peggy and Don? What is this?“ he says. “The director [Phil Abraham] came over when we were shooting, he said, ‘Don’t let go of her hand.’” (In case you forgot, after snapping at her and telling her not to bother with two weeks notice, Don holds and kisses Peggy’s hand: tearjerker.) Moss didn’t know that Hamm was given that advice, so the reaction you see from Moss when she tries to pull away from his grip is real. “And Phil’s direction to Elisabeth in that scene was, ‘Be less emotional and really hold it together until you can’t anymore. And then let it go.’ I think it played incredibly well.”