Jon Hamm’s Return to Austin
HAMM IN HIS CONDO. PHOTOS BY DEENAH VOLLMER
On hiatus from Mad Men, Jon Hamm came to Austin last week—not for South By Southwest, but to shoot a music video for the French rock-and-roll band Herman Dune’s new single, “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know,” directed by Toben Seymour. We saw Hamm cuddling an adorable blue puppet (a yeti named Baby Blue) and riding in a white convertible in Austin’s Enchanted Forest, while in the trees behind him, Herman Dune played a secret show of old songs and new ones from their forthcoming album “Strange Moosic.” We caught up with Hamm in his condo on his last day in Texas.
DEENAH VOLLMER: How’s the music video shoot going?
JON HAMM: We finished the video last night around 11:00. We finished by driving with the puppet in the convertible through Austin. It was really fun. I think it’s going to be a really cool video.
VOLLMER: So tell me about how you came to be a part of the Herman Dune music video?
HAMM: I guess it came to me through FunnyOrDie, who I guess is producing it. I had done some stuff with folks over at FunnyOrDie and it just sort of came to me. They said, “Would you want to do this?” I listened to the song, and I looked at the concept, and it seemed kind of cool, and I had no idea South by Southwest was even going on. I just thought, “Cool, I would go down and spend a couple days in Texas and shoot this.” The fact that this was also South By was doubly pleasant.
HAMM SHOOTING THE MUSIC VIDEO.
VOLLMER: Have you done any South By things?
HAMM: My South by Southwest experience has basically been “Welcome to the ’80s.” I saw Duran Duran and I saw The Bangles last night, so it was very back-to-the-’80s for me, which I guess is appropriate.
VOLLMER: You went to college in Austin, right?
HAMM: I went for three semesters down at UT in the late ’80s and early ’90s—back to the well, as it were.
VOLLMER: Have you been in any music videos before?
HAMM: No, I don’t think so. A couple buddies of mine out in LA had a band, and I think we all helped them out and did one music video for them, that never went anywhere. This is the first real-deal one.
VOLLMER: Has it felt different from doing TV?
HAMM: No, the schedule is a little different, and it’s making a three-minute thing, so it’s a little different in that respect, but no, it’s the same.
VOLLMER: You’re co-starring with a puppet. Is it the cutest puppet you’ve ever worked with?
HAMM: It’s pretty cute, yes. I have not worked with a lot of puppets, but this one I would suggest is the cutest. It’s pretty adorable.
VOLLMER: Can you tell me what the concept for the video is?
HAMM: It’s a little story about a lost yeti, a lost little snowman creature, abominable snowman, who is blue and sad because he is lost; and he gets picked up by me, and I decide to try to cheer him up by taking him to a rock-and-roll show in Austin, Texas, which I think works.
VOLLMER: Cool. What did you think of the Herman Dune set that they played the other night?
HAMM: Yeah, it was great. Those guys are really talented, and they put out a lot of sound for two dudes and a guitar and a rudimentary percussion kit. They’re very creative, and they’re very artistic, and they have cool songs. It’s nice. They’re French, so singing in another language has got to be tricky, but they pull it off.
VOLLMER: Yeah, I agree. You do a lot of work in both comedy and drama, and I really love your roles as Don Draper and also in 30 Rock. Do you think those two characters represented different sides of yourself, and which one do you relate with more?
HAMM: Sure. I think everyone has a serious and a funny side to them. I’ve been very lucky in my career to be able to explore both and to do both of them with people I really like to work with, who also happen to be very good at what they do, whether it’s working with Tina or Lorne Michaels and everyone at SNL or Ben Affleck or Matt Weiner, who writes Mad Men, and people on my show there. I’ve been very lucky to get to do both sides of it at a level that I can be consistently challenged by and also proud of. Do I relate to one side more than the other? I don’t think so. I think it’s probably a pretty good split.
VOLLMER: What about one character over the other?
HAMM: Between the delightfully moronic clueless imbecile or the tortured dark soul? I think probably the tortured dark soul, non-specifically.
VOLLMER: Do you ever feel like you live in the bubble that your 30 Rock character lives in?
HAMM: I don’t. I’m painfully aware of my surroundings at all times.
VOLLMER: I can see that you like dogs a lot. Can you tell me about the dog you have right now?
HAMM: My dog’s name is Cora. She’s very sweet. She’s a rescue mutt, just a mix of shepherd and probably coyote, I have no idea. I’ve been surrounded by dogs my whole life. I got a golden retriever a year after I was born. And that was kind of nice. We had an apartment in LA, and we got a dog, and we realized we needed more space for this dog. We ended up buying a house for our dog, but it’s been great. They’re great animals. I think pets are great. They’re better than kids, that’s for sure. Some kids, I should say.
VOLLMER: Can you imagine living without a dog?
HAMM: Not now. Just because it’s such a nice feeling to come home and see that little tail wagging. They make you feel good, and it’s nice to have something you come home to. I remember when I was working on another TV show and my girlfriend was doing Broadway, and we were separated by the whole country, and I had to fly back and forth every couple weeks, it was nice to come home to the dog. She’s always happy and just happy to see me. It’s nice.
VOLLMER: Is it hard when you have to be away from her for a while?
HAMM: Yeah, it’s tricky. We were just shooting this movie in New York City, Jen and I, and we didn’t see her for a couple weeks at a time and we really, really missed her. They’re part of your life. You don’t want to spend time away from them if you don’t have to.
VOLLMER: What is this movie that you’re shooting?
HAMM: We just shot it. It’s in post-production now, in editing. It’s called Friends With Kids. Jen wrote it and stars in it with our friend Adam Scott and then myself and Kristen Wiig. Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Ed Burns and Megan Fox round out the cast. We raised the money ourselves. We shot it in New York over the winter. It was a brutal, cold winter in New York. It was really rough, three giant snowstorms. The movie’s about what happens to your relationships and your friends once everybody starts having kids. Sometimes it makes them better, and sometimes it makes them falter. It just always makes them different. That’s what it’s about. Ideally, it’s going to be funny and it’s going to be heartbreaking and all that stuff. She’s a pretty good screenwriter.
VOLLMER: Your girlfriend?
HAMM: Yeah. Her track record proves it. And she’s a wonderful actress. I think it’s going to be a good movie.
VOLLMER: Does the idea come from a personal place of watching your friends have kids?
HAMM: Yeah, I think when you hit our age—and by our age I mean my age, 40—and you don’t have kids, especially if you have couple friends… People go through different stages of their lives at different times. If you’re out of sync with your friend group, that gets exploded once everyone starts having kids because they just have to deal with different stuff that you don’t really relate to. That’s kind of what the movie is about.
VOLLMER: Do you think you guys will have kids?
HAMM: I don’t know. Maybe. If it’s in the cards, then sure. It’s something that we’ve decided not to do for a long time, but who knows.
VOLLMER: As long as you have a dog.
HAMM: [laughs] As long as you have a dog.
VOLLMER: How much longer are you going to be in Austin?
HAMM: Actually, I leave tonight.
HAMM: Yes. I’m getting in a car in a half an hour and heading to the airport.
VOLLMER: This is the end.
HAMM: This is the end.
VOLLMER: Are you going back to LA?
HAMM: Yes, back to LA.
VOLLMER: What are you going to do when you get back?
HAMM: I don’t really have much to do. A couple friends of mine are doing some shows in LA that I’ll probably pitch in, help out with. My friend Paul F. Tompkins does a show at Largo that’s his monthly thing, and I think it’s his ninth anniversary of doing that. I’m going to do that on Saturday, and then I don’t have much planned. See some friends, have some dinners, and snuggle with the dog.
VOLLMER: It must be nice not to be so busy right now.
HAMM: It is. It’s nice especially since I don’t have a schedule and we don’t know when we’re going back to Mad Men. Once that starts going, it gets busy and hard, and it’s nice to be able to chill out a little bit.
VOLLMER: Is it difficult not knowing when Mad Men is going to start up again?
HAMM: It is, but it seems like that every year, so we’re used to it by now, just being in a nebulous place that we don’t know anything. So, it’s okay.
VOLLMER: Cool—thank you for having us in your apartment.
HAMM: Absolutely. It’s pretty swanky. [Hamm is being sarcastic.]
VOLLMER: I know. You’ve got that park across the street.
HAMM: I’m telling you, yes. It’s very cute.
VOLLMER: Has Austin changed since you lived here?
HAMM: Well, it has. There’s no two ways about it. Last time I was here was in 1993, and it’s significantly different. There’s way more tall buildings and way more people. So that’s good, I guess. Change isn’t always bad. When I was here as a 20-year-old, it all felt different. It was the ’80s. Shit, everything was different. There was way less ironic facial hair.