The 5 essential Jon Hamm roles as the St. Louis actor turns 50

Jon Hamm; Courtesy Sony Pictures 


Moments after the audition, legend has it that “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, who grew up in a Jewish household, turned to someone and said, “that guy wasn’t raised by his parents.”

 What guy was he referring to? A down and almost out actor named Jonathan Daniel Hamm, who would go on to secure the life-changing role of identity-shifting ad man, Don Draper. The St. Louis native would hold that role from the pilot to the end of the series in 2015, collecting eight Emmy nominations on a show that sits in the same iconic space as its AMC Network brother, “Breaking Bad,” and “The Sopranos,” the HBO series. Fun Fact: The Home Box Office cable channel turned down Weiner’s “Mad Men.” 
Hamm turned 50 this week, a time where he sits atop the throne of St. Louis top ambassadors, cheering on the Blues during their 2019 Stanley Cup run and showing up at Wrigley Field for a Cards-Cubs matchup. He’s not shy about his sports team alliances, even attending a Cards-Dodgers game with his pal and Dodger fan, Jason Bateman. Two years ago, fans took pics of the two hanging out behind home plate and playfully throwing jabs at each other as their teams played. Hamm is what we call a good egg, and that extends to the big screen. 
Look, eight Emmy nominations doesn’t require further introspection. He made Draper-an extremely flawed man with a toxic secret who happened to be really good at his job but little else-very relatable and even someone you were rooting for as the series closed its doors. No one else could have played that role half as well as he did, so let’s look at five other notable roles from his Hollywood career-which started out with a very small part in 1997 that the Internet Movie Database calls “gorgeous guy at the bar” in “Ally McBeal.” 

Mason Skiles in “Beirut”

Playing a washed out U.S. diplomat overseas who gets lured back into the job in order to rescue an old friend, Hamm didn’t exactly have to stretch his already established masculine vulnerability, but it was a classic movie star role with a sharp script. When he’s good, Hamm can do what George Clooney can do. At his best, he can stretch further into the darkness of imperfect men very well. 

Buddy in “Baby Driver”

The only true villain role that Hamm has portrayed in his 106 IMDB credits, this bank-robbing gunman didn’t start out as an untrustworthy fella in Edgar Wright’s exhilaratingly old fashioned flick-but he found his way to the badlands eventually. This role gave Hamm a chance to stretch his talents, taking them into a darker spot than usual. A scene at a diner late in the film, with the actor sporting a dapper hairstyle that would have made the “Back to the Future” cast flip, brought out a shade that audiences hadn’t seen yet. By having him be a friend to the protagonist (Ansel Elgort) early on in Wright’s film (even listening to a Ramones song together), Hamm’s malevolence snuck up on you, shocking you with its depravity in that classic diner sequence. It’s one of his most enjoyably sinister turns. More than that, it was a new look for him. 

Agent Adam Frawley in “The Town”

Solid supporting part in arguably Ben Affleck’s most complete film, and that counts the very good “Argo.” Playing the FBI agent who collides with Affeck’s bank-robbing crew and exists for moviegoers to root against (only in the movies), Hamm once again relished the ensemble placement. It’s his preferred blend, even when his name is out front. He’s made it no secret that supporting parts can be more fun and intriguing. He steals scenes with each of the actors, but nothing more chilling than his violent interaction with Jeremy Renner’s Jem. Following a robbery at Fenway Park, Frawley gets into a gun battle with Jem, wounding him enough to set up a final showdown on the streets, just like Renner’s Academy Award-nominated thug wanted. Hamm adds nuance to a role that could have been thankless and routine. 

Bob Callahan in “Tag”

A role that allowed him to embrace his funnier side of his screen persona, Hamm found himself chasing down Renner again, but under much lighter circumstances. Here, the two were part of an adult game of tag, a bunch of friends invigorating their dull lives with a kid’s game. Inspired by a true tale, this was an easy-to-please but very entertaining movie that just passed the time. Hamm didn’t reinvent the wheel, but seeing him get clotheslined had its perks. 

JB Bernstein in “Million Dollar Arm”

A movie that was better than it needed to be (a Tom McCarthy script helped there) thrived on Hamm’s movie star swagger. It took mere seconds for fans to buy him as a player agent attempting the Jerry Maguire Hail Mary, going out on his own and recruiting a pair of cricket players from India to play in Major League Baseball. Lake Bell added a touch of sweetness as JB’s neighbor and love interest-but this was another Hamm special: A guy with issues who isn’t the nicest guy in the world, but one who learns and tries to improve. The unlikely hero trying to make a buck and stay in the game who ends up making history. Check it out just time for the grass turning green and the 2021 season in motion. 
Here’s another fun fact or story. A couple years ago, I was driving for Uber and felt like stopping by OB Clark’s in Brentwood. The Blues had just eliminated the Dallas Stars in the playoffs, and according to a couple trusted sources, Hamm was at the bar celebrating with the team. I had previously heard, during the Game 7 double overtime-winning contest, from my former editor that Hamm said he thought we were related. Yes, there’s a chance that your writer here is related to Hamm. His words: “If you’re a Buffa from St. Louis, we’re related.” I never checked and don’t want to. Thanks for reading and go get some Hamm (the non-kosher handsome kind thankfully) in your life.