The “Mad Men” actor talks British humor, working with the “Harry Potter” star and his future in directing
After it broke ratings records last December on U.K.'s Sky Arts, American audiences can watch “A Young Doctor's Notebook,” the dark comedy produced by and starring “Mad Men's” Jon Hamm and co-starring “Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe, when it debuts Wednesday at 10/9c on Ovation.
“I hadn't seen anything like this,” Hamm told TheWrap and other reporters during an intimate Q&A in Los Angeles.
The series is adapted from the book, “A Country Doctor's Notebook,” a collection of short stories by Soviet writer and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov about his experiences as a newly graduated young doctor in a small village hospital during revolutionary Russia.
Radcliffe plays the young physician, while Hamm plays him at an older age and as an imaginary friend to his younger self.
“I thought it was a rich environment to tell a story,” Hamm added. “There's a lot of stories that take place in hospitals with doctors as the lead, but this was a very different one. There's no secret as to why a lot of TV shows get set in hospitals, because the stakes are high — people will die if you don't do your job right.”
With a second season already wrapped, Hamm talked about what American viewers can expect from the series: British humor, his blockbuster-famous co-star and whether he'll be exploring more opportunities beyond acting in the future.
What attracted you to this project?
The good part of being an actor is to do different things. The weird thing about it is one you have success as one thing, people want you to keep doing that. So you have to kind of fight against the tide to try to do different things. Fortunately, Mr. Radcliffe and myself get to choose the things we get to do. I look at people whose careers I like, whether it's Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, they all make these interesting choices. God bless them, that's why we like them.
What was it like having to use an accent around a predominately British cast?
I tried. I've been an Anglophile my whole life. It's very daunting to walk into a room full of English people as the only American and attempt to do that. And I did not get everything right — I'm not Meryl Streep. But they were supportive. If I did something wrong, they would come up and tell me and I'd do it right the next time. So it was a challenge. And that is, again, what I look for in choosing projects.
Was there any adjustment period for you when it came to British humor?
Not for me. I'm a big fan of not only two of the three writers, whom I am very familiar with, but the English sensibility and comedy and have been for a very long time. I grew up watching ‘The Goodies’ and ‘Monty Python’ and the stuff that's happening now. So, that was the fun part for me. And I don't think that we're that far apart, especially the comedy I gravitate towards to in the States is very similar to the stuff I gravitate to in the U.K.: offbeat, a little oblique and absurd.
What was it like working with Daniel Radcliffe?
He's a tremendously pleasant young man. He's wildly talented and a super hard worker. We just finished shooting the second season, and we shot it while he was doing a full-length play on the West End … It's impressive. He's impressive. He sets a really high bar. I'm used to it on ‘Mad Men.’ I'm used to working hard and setting an example, so I was very pleased with this young actor who doesn't have to work this hard. He can take a few days off if he wants to, but he doesn't because he has a tremendous amount of pride in not only his work but the way he presents himself. That's inspiring.
You produced this series and you've produced and directed on “Mad Men.” Would you direct fulltime after “Mad Men's” run?
I don't think fulltime. I like doing what I do. I like being an actor. But, it definitely was fun to be director, especially on a show that I feel very comfortable with. In fact, they had come to me Season 4 and asked if I wanted to direct and I said, “No.” And then I watched [John] Slattery do it and I watched Jen [Westfeldt] do it on ‘Friends With Kids’ and I watched Ben [Affleck] do it on ‘The Town,” and I saw how hard it was to be in front and behind at the same time, but I saw that it was possible.
So they asked me again to do it in Season 5, and I said OK, and it was challenging and eye-opening. I got a perspective on a show that I thought I knew really well. I got a whole new perspective on it, and I really enjoyed it. So, I did it again on Season 6.
This season, I probably won't because I want to focus on just being an actor. It takes a lot of focus. It wouldn't be something I'd necessarily say I'd never do, because never is a long time. But, it's definitely something that I need to be particularly inspired to do.