Jon Hamm attended the London press junket Tuesday for Good Omens, a six-episode Amazon adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 novel of the same name, about a middle manager-esque angel and demon teaming up to try to prevent the apocalypse. In the show, Hamm plays a kind-of smarmy dickhead version of the Archangel Gabriel.
Seeing Jon Hamm in person, I was hoping for some sign that the handsome rich guy is secretly a vain moron, or at least something other than the hip everyman he always appears. I’m thus devastated to report that in our brief interaction, Jon Hamm was more or less as advertised — aspirationally handsome with greying stubble, a compelling conversationalist, genuine or doing a good impression of it, and, worst of all, not even that short. He’s the kind of personality who makes being friends with a celebrity seem both worthwhile and attainable. Like if they’d only cast Jon Hamm as Vinny Chase in Entourage maybe Entourage wouldn’t have sucked so bad.
Seated next to 27-year-old Puerto Rican actress Adria Arjona, who plays a good witch in the show, the conversation took Hamm from politics to bingeable television (would you believe his new show, Good Omens, is both politically relevant AND highly bingeable?!), drawing a distinction between binge TV and appointment TV (which Jon Hamm says are both great, just great).
“I’m of both minds,” Hamm said. “Like for Handmaid’s Tale, it’s like [at this point Hamm clapped his hands, John Madden style] Wednesday? Can’t wait. When’s it drop? Bang. Game of Thrones? [hand clap] Sunday night, man. Barry? Can’t wait. Let’s go. My ass is gonna be part of this couch by ten o’clock. And then certain other things I will [Hamm snaps his fingers, apparently to indicate binging]. Like Fleabag, I devoured. There’s a show on Netflix. I Think You Should Leave, a sketch show, that Tim Robinson did, that I think is hilarious. I watched that all the way through. Then I watched it again all the way through.”
True, Handmaid’s Tale and Fleabag are other Amazon shows, but Game of Thrones, Barry, I Think You Should Leave? Those are all the shows I watch! Dammit, Jon Hamm, are celebrities secretly just like us? I never got around to asking Hamm which TV shows he thought sucked, but I’m going to assume Entourage.
Later, Hamm revealed his inspiration for his character in Good Omens, a sort of pedantic, micro-managing version of the archangel Gabriel who is the bane of Michael Sheen’s Aziraphale. Hamm said he’d based the character on a particularly obnoxious boss he’d had at a restaurant.
“He would try to help,” Hamm explained. “You know, ‘let me show you how to do it,’ and he would be so wrong, but so confident. ‘This is how you do it.’ And you’d be thinking ‘that is not right, what you’re doing is incorrect,’ and yet you’d have to sit there and go ‘thanks, oh, thanks man, oh, so great, thank you so much for the lesson.’ But it’d be like just leave, just go away and let me do my job and I’ll do it fine. So I think I was doing a version of that. I think we’ve all had a version of that boss.”
Bringing up his past as a waiter before his breakout role as Don Draper is a staple of Jon Hamm press appearances. In 2017, the now 48-year-old actor told WealthSimple magazine that he’d recently passed the milestone of having been an actor for more years of his life than he was a waiter. Hamm grew up in St. Louis. His mother died when he was 10, his father when he was in college. He dropped out of the University of Texas shortly after and moved to LA at age 25, where he bartended at rich people’s parties, Party Down-style, apparently garnering many admirers (the actress Kelly Lynch described her young daughter dreamily drawing Hamm’s portrait as he made cocktails for flirtatious older women). Hamm later worked as a set decorator on “Skinemax soft-core titty movies” and at one point appeared on a dating show with a disastrous, early Friends Chandler Bing haircut (he didn’t get picked).
These days, he credits Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels, “early adopters of my ability to be comedic onscreen,” for helping him to avoid getting typecast as the serious guy.
“They were tremendously kind in inviting me over to the other side of the aisle, so to speak,” Hamm said.
“I got famous for playing a serious, brooding sort of guy. And so a lot of people, that’s how they see you. What did you get famous as?” Hamm asked his co-star, Adria Arjona, by way of an aside.
“I’m not there yet, baby,” she smiled.
“Oh right,” Hamm said, breezily moving on.