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Jon Hamm Wasn't Supposed To Star In The Series That Launched His Career

It sounds like something out of bad fiction that Jon Hamm, the handsome and talented star of "Mad Men" and "Baby Driver," was once told by the head of one network that he'd never make it as a TV star, but it's true (via The Hollywood Reporter). The actor did struggle when he first moved to Los Angeles, including a string of failed screen tests during one pilot season. Hamm told an interviewer that when he read for the pilot of "Mad Men," "I couldn't have had less heat on me. Nobody knew who I was. The casting directors didn't know who I was. I wasn't on anybody's list" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Hamm was an unknown quality, yet he was also an intelligent actor with cinematic good looks and a dark, wounded charisma. Creator Matt Weiner correctly intuited that like the character he'd play, Don Draper, Hamm had largely grown up without parents, and this helped him win the role (via Rolling Stone). The actor would play the alcoholic, tortured Don Draper for seven seasons, eventually winning a Best Actor Emmy for his astonishing performance in 2015.

However, Jon Hamm was definitely not the first choice for the role.

Thomas Jane was offered the part of Don Draper

The "Mad Men" producers and parent network AMC would have preferred a TV or movie star for the role of Don Draper originally. Certainly Hamm's credits in "Providence" and "The Unit" weren't enough to solidify him as a safe bet. To that end, AMC's first choice for the series was actor Thomas Jane, best known at that point for 2004's "The Punisher" and "The Mist" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Jon Hamm claimed however that when Jane was offered the lead role, his representatives told AMC "Thomas Jane doesn't do television." Ironically enough, within two years Thomas Jane would star as Ray Drecker, a struggling high school coach who turns to sex work to support himself, in 2009's HBO series "Hung."

It's strange to even picture "Mad Men" with Thomas Jane as the enigmatic Don Draper compared to Hamm. If Jane had taken the part, he probably would have been fine, but the series may not have worked nearly as well.

The truth is that Draper's mystery is simply more convincing with a lesser known actor as the lead. If he was played by a bigger star, it's harder to see the character as a blank slate. Viewers would have been thinking about Jane's other roles instead of wondering about who Don Draper is. As seven seasons of brilliant television indicate, Hamm was the right choice for the part.