The eighth time turned out to be the charm for Jon Hamm. After racking up 16 Emmy noms — including three this year alone — Hamm finally won his first, for playing troubled ad man Don Draper on AMC’s “Mad Men.”
Hamm accepted his award with levity, crawling onto the stage to accept his trophy.
“There has been a terrible mistake, clearly,” he said onstage. “Thank you for that. This is impossible. It’s impossible to be named with all of those extraordinary gentlemen. It’s impossible to be standing here, up here. It’s impossible to have done this show with this incredible cast, these incredible people, these incredible writers, our incredible crew.”
The submitted episode that helped him bag the elusive prize was the show’s series finale, “Person to Person,” in which Don shares emotional phone calls with daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka), ex-wife Betty (January Jones) and professional protege Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), experiences an emotional breakthrough in a California group therapy session and ultimately finds peace with himself (and apparently creates one of the landmark TV ads of all time).
Hamm’s long losing streak kicked off in 2008, when he was nominated for “Mad Men’s” first season and the show took home six trophies in categories ranging from outstanding drama series to main title design. A strange phenomenon set in that year: despite the Emmy love showered on “Mad Men” over the years, none of its actors ever garnered an Emmy.
“There’s so many incredible people and incredible work that has been recognized over my own I can’t hold a grudge at all,” Hamm said to journalists in the press room. “Bryan [Cranston]’s incredible work on a show and Jeff [Daniels] and Kyle [Chandler] and Damian [Lewis]. It’s not like they gave it to some guy off the street. That’s not anything against ‘Billy on the Street,’ by the way.”
But Hamm’s bad luck with Emmy extended beyond the lead actor category. He was also nominated three times as a guest actor on NBC’s “30 Rock” without a win, and lost in the same category again this year for Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
“Tina Fey gave me an award tonight,” Hamm said backstage. “She also gave me a job and another job. These are people I incredibly respect.”
In 2012, Hamm officially became a producer on “Mad Men,” which made him eligible to win if the show took home the top drama prize. But that turned out to be the very same year the series abruptly stopped winning Emmys altogether. (It had won outstanding drama in its four prior bids, tying the category record.)
Until tonight, Hamm was the most-nominated drama lead to never win an Emmy. Even in victory he trails the three other men who scored eight noms in the category in the past: Raymond Burr (who won twice for “Perry Mason”), Peter Falk (three times for “Columbo”) and Dennis Franz (four times for “NYPD Blue”).
“Playing a character for that long is a blessing and a curse,” Hamm told journalists backstage. “It’s a dream job in many ways and it doesn’t come without a cost. It’s a lot of mental and emotional baggage that gets torn through you and weighs on you after awhile. I’ve always said it’s not like I’m a lead miner. It’s not like this is the hardest job in the world. But it’s not like anyone can do it either.”