Hamm said that he and “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner talked about the ending “for a long time,” and that the show runner was fixated on the finale ending with Draper’s eyes closed and a smile on his face.
Here’s Hamm’s interpretation of that moment, and the Coca-Cola ad that followed:
“My take is that, the next day, he wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realises who he is. And who he is, is an advertising man. And so, this thing comes to him. There’s a way to see it in a completely cynical way, and say, ‘Wow, that’s awful.’ But I think that for Don, it represents some kind of understanding and comfort in this incredibly unquiet, uncomfortable life that he has led. There was a little bit of a crumb dropped earlier in the season when Ted says there are three women in every man’s life, and Don says, ‘You’ve been sitting on that for a while, huh?’ There are, not coincidentally, three person to person phone calls that Don makes in this episode, to three women who are important to him for different reasons. You see the slow degeneration of his relationships with those women over the course of those phone calls.”
The emotional phone call Don has with Peggy was a challenge to shoot. Hamm explains:
“[With January Jones and Kiernan Shipka], we shot those on set. So you can actually have the person sitting right off camera, reading the lines to you. [For Elisabeth Moss], we were three and a half hours up the [California] coast, on the edge of a cliff. When he hangs up with Peggy, that was an incredibly difficult scene to shoot. We were in the middle of nowhere, and they were going to just have someone else read the lines, off-screen, for me. Elisabeth wasn’t there, but both Elisabeth and I suggested that it might be better if we could have an actual connection on the phone. So she was on the other end of the phone. I’m sure there are other takes of that scene where I’m much more emotional, and Matthew chose to use the ones that are a little more confused and restrained. He’s completely bereft, and because of that, he is then open to hearing this information and this story from this stranger.”
Hamm believes how we leave the characters in the finale is not necessarily how their lives will turn out:
“The world doesn’t blow up right after the Coke commercial ends. No one is suggesting that Stan and Peggy live happily ever after, or that Joan’s business is a rousing success, or that Roger and Marie come back from Paris together. None of it is done. Matt had said at one point, ‘I just want my characters to be a little more happy than they were in the beginning,’ and I think that’s pretty much true. But these aren’t the last moments of any of these characters’ lives, including Betty. She doesn’t have much time left, but damn if she’s not going to spend it the way she wants to spend it.”
Hamm said at a Television Academy event last weekend that after playing Don Draper he’s going to “fade into nothingness and no one will remember me.” Does he really believe that?
I think every actor thinks that when they end a job. You only hope that something else comes along. Do I think I will fade into obscurity? Hopefully not yet. But probably at some point, I will. Because that’s the nature of all things flesh. That’s how it works. It’s a hell of a thing, to end something like this. Is my melancholy seeping through enough? [laughs] In a much more healthy sense, we all put this show to bed quite some time ago, and said our goodbyes and cried our tears. Everybody’s moved on. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s next things. As I said to someone, I’ll see you on ‘The Love Boat.’ And if you print that, somebody, somewhere, is going to pitch that.
Read Hamm’s full interview with The New York Times here.
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