Since 2007, Jon Hamm had been putting on an acting clinic with his subdued, measured performance as Don Draper, the dashing ad man with a past he can’t run away from. The Mad Men actor drew raves and a slew of award nominations, including eight straight nominations for the Best Actor in a Drama Series Emmy (including this year’s nod).
Unfortunately for Hamm, he ran into a wall called Bryan Cranston.
See, while Hamm was busy being awesome, Cranston was out there being just as awesome. Cranston won Best Actor four out of the first seven years Hamm was nominated, with Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Damian Lewis (Homeland), and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) slipping in the other years. With Cranston stealing the show year in and year out, Hamm seemingly never had a chance.
This year, his eighth consecutive nomination, Newsweek is saying he’s the favorite. They wrote:
Since we first met Donald Draper, fittingly, sitting alone in a crowd of people (which, not uncoincidentally, is also how the series ended), Mad Men has won four Emmys for Outstanding Dramatic Series. It will win a record-breaking fifth on Sunday night … The problem here is that Mad Men, even though it was an outstanding ensemble piece (it’s funny how far down the roster you must travel before you find a character that is only two-dimensional—even Mrs. Blankenship had some wit), does not win five Emmys in eight years without Hamm, the soul of the show.
And they couldn’t be more on target.
Mind you, it’s not like I can complain about Cranston winning all those Emmys. No one should. He’s earned them. It’s thanks to his remarkably deep performance that Breaking Bad is a show worth examining. Even the legendary Anthony Hopkins called it “the best acting I have ever seen – ever.”
I can’t quibble with that … and besides, who am I to argue with Anthony frickin’ Hopkins?
Hamm deserves his due, too, though, and I sure as hell hope he gets it. The layers of pain, inner torment, arrogance, insecurity, and childishness he manages to get across with little more than his eyes is somewhat impressive on your first viewing, and damn near mind-blowing on subsequent viewings. Draper is a complex character, and that’s thanks to Hamm’s work.
It’s too bad Mad Men never got good ratings. Perhaps if it did, Hamm’s seven-season, eight-year long performance would be more widely seen as the tour de force it was.
Crossing my fingers and hoping to see him go home with an Emmy on Sunday.
In the meantime, I have a lot more to say about Hamm, Don Draper, and Mad Men in general in Celebrating Mad Men, which is available in paperback and for Kindle. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. You should get it.