John Hamm reveals he wasn’t first choice to play ‘Mad Men’ lead Don Draper

Actor says 'Hung' star Thomas Jane was in the frame before him

John Hamm has admitted he wasn’t first choice to play Mad Men lead Don Draper.

Watching the way he effortlessly sinks whisky after whisky and puffs on cartons Lucky Strikes, it’s difficult to imagine any other actor in the role, but as Hamm reveals, he was nowhere near the top of broadcaster AMC‘s list.

“I started, literally, on the very, very bottom,” he said on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. “I couldn’t have had less heat on me.”

Prior to being cast in the Sixties-set hit, Hamm had only a few credits to his name; CSI Miami, Providence and What About Brian. After being knocked back by Thomas Jane, who this week admitted to working as a gay prostitute to get by in Hollywood, the casting director called Hamm.

“Nobody knew who I was,” added Hamm, who has been nominated for four Best Actor Emmys for his portrayal of advertising wizard Draper.

“The casting directors didn’t know who I was. I wasn’t on anybody’s lists. The funny thing was, I think they went to Thomas Jane for it, and they were told that Thomas Jane does not do television.”

Jane has since changed his stance on appearing on TV – he’s now the lead in HBO’s []iHung[/i] – but Hamm says he understands why The Punisher star passed on the show as Mad Men looked to be an unlikely hit.

“Why did Mad Menhit the way it hit? If you look at it, in a vacuum, there’s no way that that show should have been successful,” Hamm said.

He added:

It was on a network that no one had heard of for scripted television, they went there to watch reruns of Diehard or whatever. And it’s a very think-y show, which is all not necessarily high up on our current cultural needs.

Since being cast in the award-winning drama, which returns next year for a fifth series, Hamm has appeared in The Town, Bridesmaids, The A-Team and will feature in the next series of Anglo-American production The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret.