Jon Hamm on dealing with grief and being a weird uncle

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As actor Jon Hamm joins Charlie Brooker’s cult series Black Mirror, he talks to Stylist about Twitter, life lessons and losing his parents at a young age

Jon Hamm’s voice may be as velvet smooth as his sweet-talking, womanising mad men character Don Draper, but that might just be the only thing the two have in common. When stylist asks which three words his friends would use to describe him, he says, “not Don Draper”. When asked for an alternative, he says, “Loyal, friendly and polite. You know, i’m from the mid-West, that’s what we do.”

Charming, warm and thoughtful, the 43-year-old st Louis-born actor chats to us from his home in Los Feliz in La. Unlike Don Draper, Hamm is easy to talk to, laughs a lot and is surprisingly open about the life-changing effects of losing his parents far too young. He is also refreshingly candid about what’s important to him now he’s in his 40s. “It’s the oldest cliché in the book but I don’t sweat the small stuff any more,” he says. “Without wanting to sound like a new-age guru, I just want to live a life, be happy, help people and contribute something to the world.”

Having recently finished a stint in London filming the upcoming Christmas special of Charlie Brooker’s twisted social-commentary series Black Mirror, Stylist talks to the Hollywood star about technology, candy crush and the benefits of a jetpack.

Black Mirror has an episode where you can block people in real life. If you could, who or what would you block?
So much! There’s so much clutter in our society now and it only distracts us from important things. Look at the recent elections in the US: so few people turned up to vote because they feel like it’s insignificant when in fact it’s the most significant thing you can do in a democratic society. It’s harder to make your voice heard in an increasingly cluttered media landscape and I think that’s the thing that Charlie Brooker has tapped into. We’ve never been so connected yet it seems like very few of us are actually listening to each other.

Is that why you’re not on social media?
I thought, ‘I’m not paying enough attention to friends and family’ so adding another layer felt counterproductive. that said, I’m probably on the internet too much and I’ve been working my way through the ridiculous time-waster that is Candy Crush. I think I’m on level 280, which is just absurd.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?
I tell my friends who are actors to just stay at it. Half of life is showing up, working hard and being prepared.

You have two sisters – are you close to them? 
I was 10 when my mum died and 20 when my father passed away so my sisters were my support network; I lived with my older sister for a year while we figured out what was going on. They are from my father’s first marriage and are seven and 11 years older than me. They live in St. Louis and have grown-up kids and one has a grandkid now so I’m the weird uncle who lives on the West Coast.

How did dealing with that grief shape who you are?
It certainly made me an independent person very young. When you lose a parent, or both parents, there’s an abandonment situation that inevitably sinks into your being. So I was wrestling with that as well as getting up every morning and going about my day. I made sure I had a schedule I had to follow. [When my father died] I came home for a term, enrolled in a local college and got a job at a restaurant, which made me get up every morning and stick to a routine. there’s no shortcut through grief and it’s hard to learn that lesson young because when you’re presented with the actual concept of forever, it’s very hard. It gets better but it never goes away.


Did anyone fill the parental gap?
I had a lot of surrogate parents, most of them being my friends’ mums and dads, and there are three women in particular who still maintain a very familial relationship with me to this day. I had another friend whose parents let me stay in their basement for a year after college when I had no place and no money. They were kind to me and they did it out of the goodness of their heart; they weren’t doing it for a promise of anything other than that they saw this lost soul.

If you could create any technology, what would it be?
It would be nice to be able to fly anywhere with a jetpack. We were promised them in the sixties and it never really come to fruition – but i’m holding out.

So if you could fly anywhere right now, where would you go?
I gather it’s very pretty in London around Christmas…

Black Mirror: White Christmas airs on Chanel 4 at 9pm on Tuesday, 16th December

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Stylist Team