His resulting meteoric rise was well-earned after a decade of odd jobs and minor roles in Hollywood. Therein, perhaps, lies his appeal – a massively successful star who’s wiser, older, and more experienced than most. Here’s everything you need to know about the life and career of Jon Hamm.
He Had a Difficult Childhood
Jonathan Daniel Hamm was born on March 10, 1971, in St. Louis, Missouri. While others his age had typical childhoods, Jon grew up experiencing tremendous loss early on. His parents separated when he was two years old. Jon lived with his mother until he was 10 before she tragically passed away.
A devastated Jon moved in with his father and grandmother. He barely had time to grieve the loss of his mother when his grandmother died shortly after. Jon’s father, his only surviving parental figure, also died while he was in his first year at the University of Texas.
A Young Jon Tries to Cope With Loss
Overwhelmed and unable to cope with the loss, Jon dropped out of the University of Texas and moved back home to Missouri. Once there, he enrolled again in a scholarship program he had previously won to study English at the University of Missouri.
Despite everything, Jon pressed on with his studies and graduated with a bachelor's degree in English in 1993. After graduating, he began teaching drama at John Burroughs School in St. Louis.
On Struggling With Depression
Jon struggled to cope after his father passed away and sank into depression. His two older sisters persuaded him to get professional help. Jon was too young to understand what depression meant or that he needed help. Talking about feelings was an unfamiliar concept for a young boy in the Midwest.
His sisters insisted, however. So he went and spoke to a therapist, and it helped. Jon later shared that talking to a shrink gave him a third-party, honest perspective about what he was going through.
His Uni Days Were Wild
Jon Hamm isn’t the kind who courts controversy. But the seemingly perfect actor had a wild streak when he was younger. While studying at the University of Texas in 1990, Jon reportedly participated in a terrible hazing incident. He was part of a fraternity with a notorious reputation for bullying.
During this particular incident, a member of the fraternity beat a man. The fraternity shut down after the incident. Jon was arrested and received probation, but the charges against him were dropped a few years later.
He Follows His Love for Acting
It was fitting that Jon had found a career in drama after graduation. Acting had been a passion for him since the first grade when the school chose him for the role of Winnie-The-Pooh. His next big part came at age 16 when he played Judas in “Godspell.”
Jon performed in several stage productions while at university. The budding actor also performed with a theater company during the summers and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In 1995, he quit his teaching job and moved to Hollywood to pursue an acting career.
The Life of a Struggling Actor
Jon had no concrete plans but was determined to make it in Hollywood. He set a deadline for himself and vowed to move back to Missouri if his acting career did not take off by the time he turned 30. Thankfully, he never fell back on this plan.
Jon’s tremendous acting talent landed him representation at the prestigious William Morris Talent Agency. But the road there was tough. He moved into a house with four aspiring actors and waited tables at restaurants to make ends meet while attending auditions. He also dabbled in the theater during this period.
His Friendship With Paul Rudd
Jon first met Paul Rudd through a mutual friend. The friend in question was Paul’s roommate in college. Jon and Paul first hung out at home, playing board games together. Surprisingly, the two did not get along initially. Both men allegedly liked the same girl.
But their friendship took off years later when Jon moved to Los Angeles at age 25. The two reconnected and have remained good friends ever since.
His Agency Drops Him
Jon had a hard time finding acting jobs since he looked older than his age. He landed zero acting gigs, despite representation by the William Morris Agency. After failing to get acting work for three years, the agency dropped him as a client in 1998.
Unfazed, Jon continued working as a waiter and even designed the set for an adult film during this time. He thought about the deadline he had set for himself. More than ever, it was his time to decide if he was about to quit or to fully commit.
How He Met Jennifer Westfeldt
Jon was working as a set designer for an adult film – yes, that’s a job – when Jennifer Westfeldt invited him to act in a play she was working on in New York City. The two were acquaintances then. An exhausted and demotivated Jon was relieved to get the call since he had been working 12-hour days.
He reportedly borrowed money for a ticket to NYC and crashed on a friend’s couch for six weeks. The play, “Lipstick,” would become the foundation for the movie “Kissing Jessica Stein,” and the start of Jon and Jennifer’s 20-year relationship.
His Talent Finally Gains Recognition
Things began looking up for Jon in 2000 when he bagged a role in NBC’s “Providence.” The actor was initially offered a one-episode contract which eventually became 19. Such was his talent. His role as firefighter Burt Ridley brought him some much-needed financial stability.
He was finally able to quit waiting tables. Shortly after, he landed a role in “Hughleys” (2000) and made his film debut in “Space Cowboys” (2001).
The New Actor to Watch
Jon’s smashing debut made waves in the industry. Everyone who was someone in Hollywood stood up and noticed the talented newcomer. He would soon become famous for his incredibly nuanced acting. His magnetism lent itself beautifully to complex characters, making them immensely likable.
In 2001, he landed a starring role in the indie comedy “Kissing Jessica Stein.” Having made his mark as a serious actor, he spent the next few years playing Nate Basso in the cop show “The Division,” until the series got canned in 2004.
He Lands Numerous Small Roles
In 2002, Jon landed a cameo role in “We Were Soldiers.” The actor may not have had much screen time as Captain Matt Dillon, but it would soon go down as one of his best movies. Directed by Mel Gibson, the movie grossed $115 million worldwide.
Still, the film failed to create much of an impact — despite the Gibson name and virtually no competition from other movies at the time. Jon’s next appearances were on the military drama “The Unit” (2006) and the dramedy “What About Brian” (2006).
The Cameo King
Jon continued appearing in other minor roles during this period. He appeared in shows like “CSI Miami” (2002), “The Sarah Silverman Program” (2007), and “Related Numb3rs” (2005). To many observers, it was inexplicable how Jon continued getting passed up for big roles despite his incredible talent.
Not one to be defeated, he remained determined. No part was too small or insignificant for him — a vital approach that would soon lead him to big things.
The Role of a Lifetime
Jon’s persistence paid off when he was chosen to play the suave Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Little did he know that the character and the show would change his life. He upped the ante as Don Draper — the talented ad executive and serial philanderer with a dubious past.
“Mad Men“ premiered in 2007, instantly becoming a pop culture phenomenon. He became synonymous with Don Draper. Fans loved him and critics raved about his acting. “Mad Men” and Jon Hamm made TV history.
The Long Road to Becoming Don Draper
In an interview, Jon recalled how he had read the script and fell in love with it. Still, he never imagined they would cast him — someone without a proven track record. The creators even thought Jon was too good-looking for the role!
After each audition, Jon would painstakingly explain what he could bring to the show and his vision for Don Draper. What sealed the deal was his emotional connection to the character. Like Jon, Don lost his parents at an early age. Jon said he used the pain to embody the influential ad man battling his inner demons.
Jon Hamm the Certified Hottie
There’s no denying the actor is ruggedly handsome. In 2007, Salon.com named Jon Hamm the Sexiest Man Living, followed by a string of similar recognition in the years ahead. The actor was among People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive in 2008.
Entertainment Weekly named him as one of their 2008 Entertainers of the Year. Jon would receive the same honor from EW two years later in 2010. In September 2010, the actor also won GQ’s “International Man” award.
Jon Does Not Smoke in Real Life
As the charming, high-flying ad executive in “Mad Men,” Jon’s character smoked like a chimney. Smoking cigarettes was the norm and even considered fashionable and aspirational in the 60s.
In real life, Jon quit smoking when he was 24. Since his role as Don Draper required him to smoke, Jon used herbal cigarettes that did not contain any traces of nicotine or tobacco.
Why He Didn't Keep Any Mad Men Props
It’s common knowledge that Jon never kept any souvenirs from the sets of “Mad Men.” During an interview with Variety, Jon shared the real reason why he had no props from the show – especially the iconic Don Draper hat. Most of the clothes were rentals!
Keepsakes – regardless of how sentimental – would amount to stealing. After every use, the crew returned Don Draper’s hat and virtually the entire cast’s wardrobe to the clothing companies.
The Elusive Emmy Award
In 2008, Jon won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Drama for his role in “Mad Men.” The actor also received a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
In 2015, Jon finally received his first Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. “Mad Men” had wrapped up in May of that year. The Emmy was a sweet way to cap the success and legacy of an iconic show.
Life After "Mad Men"
Jon’s next role was in the science fiction movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008) — a remake of the 1951 classic. The film had audiences divided, people either loved or loathed it. Despite the mixed reviews, the movie performed well commercially, earning approximately $230 million worldwide.
That same year, Jon made his Saturday Night Live debut. On October 25, Jon hosted season 34, episode 6, where he performed numerous sketches. He returned to host the show a second time in October 2010.
He's Happy Fame Came Late
In an interview with a publication, Jon shared that he was happy fame came to him later in life. He was 36 when he landed the role of Don Draper in “Mad Men” – an uncommon and even impossible feat in Hollywood unless you were exceptionally talented.
He said that he was actually aiming for the middle and that he had no idea his career will ever become this big.
A Fantasy Football Fan
Jon and Paul Rudd may not have worked together yet (we can only hope), but their friendship has a solid foundation – a shared love for sports, particularly fantasy football. Jon invited Paul into his league and hooked him on to fantasy football.
Paul has admitted that Jon usually gets the better of him and most other players. The actor is known to be super competitive in the league.
Jon Hamm in "30 Rock"
In 2009, Hamm guest-starred in the popular NBC sitcom “30 Rock” (2006), much to the delight of fans. He played the role of doctor Drew Baird – Liz Lemon’s (Tina Fey) neighbor and love interest on the show.
Although he appeared in the sitcom for just three episodes, Jon won plenty of praise and accolades for his stellar performance. He got three Emmy award nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.
His friendship With Tina Fey
Jon’s appearance on "30 Rock" was extra special due to his friendship with Tina Fey. The two actors instantly hit it off while filming and soon became friends.
At a party together, she reportedly joked with her family about how Jon did nothing for her and that she preferred John Slattery. Of course, Jon heard everything! Tina maintained she was “team Slatts” and did not like him like that.
Voice Roles and Other Appearances
Jon’s first major leading role after “Mad Men” came with the indie film “Stolen” (2009), where he played a cop whose son had been missing for over eight years. In 2010, he had a minor voice role in “Shrek Forever After.”
Jon voiced the role of Brogan, an ogre who looks like Shrek – only bigger, taller, and more muscular. The film became one of Jon’s biggest hits.
Why Hamm Enjoyed Starring in "The Town"
In 2010, he played the role of an FBI agent in the crime drama “The Town” alongside Ben Affleck. The actor was thrilled about the part.
Since the show wrapped, Jon had been offered numerous roles similar to the one he had in "Mad Men" – playing ad guys for films set in the 1960s. “The Town” was one of the first scripts with a different vibe than what he was accustomed to. The film received positive reviews overall, earning $144 million worldwide.
On His Part in “The Town”
Jon was thrilled about playing an FBI agent in “The Town,” partly because of the character’s straight and narrow moral compass. Unlike Don Draper, who specializes in grey areas, Special Agent Adam Frawley operated in black and white.
There are bad people, and his job is to stop and catch them. Embodying the character was a delightful change for Jon. He shared how it felt nice to play a character without emotional or moral dilemmas.
He Appears in Indie and Animated Films
In 2010, Jon joined the cast of the indie film “Howl,” an adaptation of the story that inspired Allen Ginsberg’s eponymous poem from his 1956 collection. He played the role of defense attorney Jake Ehrlich in the film alongside James Franco, Mary Louise-Parker, and David Strathairn.
Fun fact: Jon’s character, Ehrlich, was also the inspiration behind TV’s most beloved detective, Perry Mason. That same year, Jon also made a guest appearance on “The Simpsons” as an FBI supervisor.
How He Picks Roles
Observers noted that Jon seemed to be taking on more comedy roles after “Mad Men.” Was he tired after portraying the broody Don Draper for almost 10 years? Jon did not dismiss the possibility. In an interview, he shared that moving away from Don Draper’s shadow was part of his strategy to pick new roles.
But mostly, it was because Jon had eclectic tastes. Before finalizing a role, he would ask himself whether he would want to see this movie. And that’s how he went about choosing his roles.
On Not Landing Big Roles Early on
Jon came close to landing several roles with William Morris. Unbelievably, not one panned out. In an interview with The Guardian, Jon looked back on his early career and said he would get hung up on small things during auditions.
For instance, they made actors sign a contract before walking into the final audition – a piece of paper with details of the five-figure money he would get paid if he landed the role. For a struggling actor with no money, the entire process was unnerving. His anxiety took over, and he would blow the actual audition.
Advertisements and Endorsements
In 2010, Jon became the new voice of Mercedes-Benz, replacing actor Richard Thomas. He kickstarted his association with a commercial for the S400 hybrid campaign. Mercedes-Benz was just the tip of the iceberg, and more commercials and endorsements would follow.
Three years later, American Airlines featured a voice-over by Jon for a television commercial called “Change is in the Air.” In “Mad Men,” Don Draper often aspired to win iconic accounts such as American Airlines. It seemed as if his life (both on-screen and off) had come full circle.
He Continues Shining in Small Roles
Jon’s next appearance was in the Zack Snyder fantasy film “Sucker Punch” (2011) as the doctor and High Roller. He also landed a supporting role in “Bridesmaids” as Annie Walker’s (Kristen Wiig) jerk of a boyfriend.
Although Jon went uncredited for the role, his character played a significant part in moving the movie’s storyline. Despite the low production budget ($32.5 million), “Bridesmaids” performed exceedingly well at the box office – earning a whopping $169 million in the United States alone.
He Plays Himself
Fans next saw Jon in a recurring role on “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” (2010). Director David Cross’s sitcom may have been about bad decisions, but casting Jon for the sitcom was not one of them. The show’s creators did not release details on Jon’s character.
Even when the series aired, Jon’s character was listed simply as “Dave’s employee” in the credits. Later, the world discovered that the inspiration for the role was Jon Hamm himself. The character was a fictionalized version of Jon after his run on “Mad Men.”
The Search for Inspiring Work Continues
In 2013, he hosted the 21st ESPY Awards – an initiative by the ABC network to recognize team and individual athletic achievements in a year.
His association with sports continued a year later when he appeared in the acclaimed “Million Dollar Man” (2014) as a sports agent, J.B. Bernstein. Jon also starred in "A Young Doctor’s Notebook” from 2012 to 2013. He starred alongside Daniel Radcliffe as the older version of Daniel’s character.
2015 Was a Busy Year for Him
The actor landed numerous roles in 2015. He portrayed the character of Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne on the comedy show “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” He also bagged a role in “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” that year.
However, his most successful project in 2015 was the animated film and blockbuster hit “Minions.” Jon voiced the character of Herb Overkill – a diabolical supervillain and inventor. He and his wife enlist the minions to steal Queen Elizabeth II’s crown.
Jon Was Ellie Kemper's 8th Grade Teacher
Speaking of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Jon Hamm and Ellie Kemper (Kimmy) had met years before the show. When Jon was teaching acting to eighth graders in his old high school, one of his students was none other than Ellie Kemper.
Fate brought them together again as peers in Hollywood. Jon plays the crazed man who kidnaps Ellie as a child and keeps her in an underground bunker for 20 years.
Struggles With Substances
In 2015, the actor revealed that he struggled with alcohol and went to rehab just before the final season of “Mad Men.” His spokesperson confirmed that Jon had completed an in-patient 30-day treatment for alcoholism in New Canaan, Connecticut.
When a publication asked him if embodying a dark character may have contributed to the addiction, he did not rule out the possibility. Jon never wanted to take Don Draper home, but life sometimes turned out differently.
He Has Vitiligo
During an interview with British GQ in 2015, Jon shared that he developed vitiligo while filming “Mad Men.” How did he get it? He developed the condition due to stress, believe it or not. The exhausting hours and pressure caused white spots to form on his hands.
Jon first noticed the white splotches when he got the role in “Mad Men.” Thanks to makeup, many people don't know about his condition.
He Has Never Been Married
The actor has never tied the knot. It seems inconceivable that someone as famous (and good-looking) as Jon has never been married. He was in a long-term relationship with actor Jennifer Westfeldt for almost two decades, from 1997 to 2015.
The pair never felt the need to tie the knot and confirm their relationship with a piece of paper. Jon believed marriage made sense only when people were ready to have children.
His Exceptional Acting Elevates Any Film
In 2016, Jon was featured in the comedy “Keeping Up With the Joneses” as Tim Jones. The Greg Mottola film had a stellar cast with big names like Zach Galifianakis and Gal Gadot. The film was originally slated for a 2015 release but experienced a seven-month delay.
The following year, the actor appeared in “Marjorie Prime,” a science fiction film that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Jon wowed critics and audiences alike with his haunting portrayal of a holographic Walter, the protagonist’s (Lois Smith) late husband.
He Goes Villain in "Baby Driver" and Does Not Disappoint
The actor subsequently appeared in the comedy crime film “Baby Driver” (2017) directed by Edgar Wright. Jon intrigued audiences from the get-go with a (temporary) neck tattoo that read “Hers.”
The tattoo was central to his character, an armed robber named Buddy who makes terrible choices. The “her” in question was his partner-in-crime Darling (Eiza González). The film also starred Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, and Ansel Elgort.
He Stars in "Aardvark"
In 2017, Jon charmed audiences again with his role in the drama “Aardvark.” Directed by debut filmmaker Brian Shoaf, the movie starred Jenny Slate as Emily, a mental health professional who falls in love with a patient’s possibly schizophrenic brother, played by Jon.
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017 to lukewarm reviews about its content and form. Jon’s acting stole the show and seemingly offered direction, emotion, and logic to an otherwise undecided script.
On His Zen Approach to Money
Career breakthroughs and fame may have come late for Jon Hamm, but he is worth a whopping $45 million today. Despite his many achievements, Jon has managed to keep his priorities straight. In a 2017 interview with Wealthsimple, the Emmy-winning star shared that money has never been a driving force. Money, for him, is a means to an end – to eat, pay the bills, and rent.
Growing up, his family was never rich, but he had wealthy friends. They didn’t seem any happier. His pragmatic approach comes from years of struggle and working hard-yet-fulfilling blue-collar jobs.
From Archangel to Political Diplomat
Jon’s next appearance was in the political thriller “Beirut” (2018). He played the role of Mason Skiles, who feels compelled to return to Beirut to save a colleague from a group responsible for the murder of his family.
Besides Jon, the film featured a star-studded cast including Rosamund Pike, Larry Pine, Dean Norris, Mark Pellegrino, and Shea Whigham. The following year, Jon took on the role of the Archangel Gabriel in the BBC-Amazon television adaption of “Good Omens” – the celebrated novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Jon's Alleged Romance With Lindsay Shookus
After his split with Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon was never romantically linked to anyone for several years. At least, not publicly. However, rumors about a new lady love in his life began making the rounds in 2019.
His new romantic interest was allegedly Saturday Night Live producer Lindsay Shookus. Sources said the two were spotted attending a play together. All signs pointed to the pair dating. Neither Jon nor Lindsay have confirmed the rumors. Their reps say the two are just friends.
He Stars in "Top Gun: Maverick"
2022 saw the release of the much-anticipated “Top Gun: Maverick,” which, like the 1986 “Top Gun,” was an outstanding commercial and critical success. The film understandably made and re-made the careers of everyone involved.
Jon was memorable as Commander Beau “Cyclone” Simpson. While his character’s job is to get in the way of Tom Cruise’s Maverick, he soon realizes that rule books should not apply to everything. It’s one of the highest-grossing films Jon has been in so far.
Jon in the Fletch Series
Jon reunited with director Greg Mottola and "Mad Men" co-star John Slattery for another collaboration in 2022. The result was “Confess, Fletch” – the third installment of the Fletch series and the only one without Chevy Chase as the protagonist.
Based on the 1976 novel of the same name, the film featured Lorenza Izzo, Kyle MacLachlan, Marcia Gay Harden, and Roy Wood Jr. Released in a limited theatrical run and on-demand premium video, “Confess, Fletch” received positive reviews overall. Critics loved Jon’s acting and comedic timing.
A New Lady Love
For someone whose onscreen characters are mostly cocky, Jon’s personal life is relatively low-key. Jon and his new lady, Anna Osceola, have no social media presence, which helps the couple keep their relationship private. He has always maintained that he's not into posting about his life online for everyone to see.
He sees no point in it other than immediate gratification. But one thing the actor is open to telling the world about is his love for Anna. In a September 2022 interview with Howard Stern, Jon said they are “very much in love.”
And Some More Commercials
Hamm is a regular fixture in the advertisement world. He appeared in numerous ad campaigns and commercials for H&R Block income tax services. The actor is also a familiar face in ads across the border. Viewers in Canada know him as the face of SkipTheDishes.
In January 2022, Apple signed him on for an AppleTV+ ad called “Everyone but Jon Hamm.” The campaign featured some of the streaming service’s biggest celebrities who were a part of original Apple productions.
Jon is among the few celebrities universally adored. He's never featured in tabloids. You won’t find any hate sites or Reddit threads dedicated to Jon – a phenomenon that extends to the entire cast of “Mad Men.”
The actor remains wary of being a modern celebrity. During an interview, he shared how technology had made fame a tricky business. Celebrities – both young and old – can no longer do stupid things.