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Jon Hamm's Hollywood Breakthrough Nearly Happened Years Before Mad Men

When it comes to discussing the golden age of television, no conversation is complete without bringing up Mad Men. The AMC series transported viewers to 1960s Manhattan, where men smoke and drank at work while women vied for a chance to be taken more seriously in the workplace. It's the kind of show where you'd be hard-pressed to find a bad episode, and "The Suitcase" alone more than ensures the series will always have a place within the pantheon of exceptional television. No small part of the show's success had to do with the phenomenal performance Jon Hamm gave as the smooth, suave Don Draper. He carried the series, portraying Draper as a hard-drinking, adulterous ad executive who has more than his fair share of dark secrets in his past.

Well before Hamm landed the role of a lifetime, though, he was just another struggling actor with small appearances on the likes of The Big Date and Ally McBeal. When Mad Men came around, he just happened to luck out and land a part that allowed him to show off his acting chops, while launching him into superstardom. 

Don Draper is one of those roles where it's hard to imagine anyone but Hamm playing the part. However, as the actor recently revealed on the Rolling Stone podcast, Too Long; Didn't Watch, he may not have accepted it, had he landed a very different role earlier in his career. 

Jon Hamm auditioned to play Sandy Cohen on The O.C.

In an alternate reality, audiences may have associated Jon Hamm with the sunny beaches of California instead of the massive skyscrapers of New York. When discussing how he (hypothetically) could have auditioned for the part of Rufus Humphrey on Gossip Girl had he not already been cast as Don Draper, Hamm also revealed how he once attempted to play a dad on a different hit 2000s show: namely, Sandy Cohen on The O.C.

Hamm talked about the audition process and how he knew he didn't have a shot at the role when Peter Gallagher walked in (and ultimately landed the part). As he describes it, "I was probably 31 or 32 [...] I remember walking in and going, 'Is that Peter Gallagher? Why am I here?' I love Peter Gallagher, but I was just like, 'Dang!'"  Apparently, Hamm didn't always have luck landing whatever role he wanted, back then, as he goes on to talk about often falling through the cracks when he initially started trying to become an actor, saying, "I never looked young enough to be in high school [...] I missed out on all of the Dawson's Creek and all the early WB shows. So then they were like, 'Come play one of the dads,' but I wasn't old enough to be that, either. I had to wait around a long time."

Hamm's story is a great lesson in perseverance and how, sometimes, you just have to wait for the right opportunity at the right time. We're guessing Hamm isn't at all salty about losing out on The O.C. gig, seeing as how he's done exceptionally well for himself. 

His next big project, Top Gun: Maverick, is set to be released on July 2, 2021.