by Lauren Horwitch
Remember the days when men had to wear a jacket and tie to work every day? Of course you do—if you’re a fan of Mad Men, the Emmy-winning show set it a Manhattan advertising agency circa 1962. Since the actors on the show—Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, Bryan Batt, and Robert Morse—are perhaps the last guys this side of Wall Street saddled with a monkey suit, we asked them to dress casually for our photo shoot and, frankly, they looked relieved to let their hair down (or at least to leave the Brylcreem out of it). To help them get into a groovy mood, we also set up a poker table in the middle of the Sterling Cooper set. “It is remarkable how much we can do in L.A., how much we can fake it,” says twice Emmy-nominated Hamm, whom Tina Fey dubbed “the handsomest living human.” As Hamm throws a subtle, over-the-shoulder smile at the camera, you realize that was actually an understatement. (Oops, so much for journalistic objectivity.)
But let’s get real: the world has gone mad over Mad Men, so why shouldn’t we? The show won the best-drama Emmy after its first season, and it received 16 nominations—the most of any drama—for its second. Now that the third season is set to premiere Aug. 16 on AMC, the actors are getting a taste of true stardom. Most of them spent their pre-Mad Men careers on stage, in relatively obscurity, or both. So much for obscurity. “The fans of the show are very intelligent, very savvy. They’re not the same people who follow Paris Hilton,” Batt says. “I just got stopped at the Atlanta airport by these young college kids. I’m not used to it.”
Of course, Hamm gets stopped more than the rest. “It’s been bizarre. I’m the same person that I was three or four years ago. I haven’t changed but the circumstances around me have changed,” he says. “It’s happened to everyone on the show. When we all started this, nobody was a big deal; there was no diva thing. I think that’s been helpful to keep everyone on a relatively even keel.”
The guys do really seem to like each other—at least when there’s a camera around. When the photographer instructs the guys to get close and comfortable, Kartheiser shakes Batt’s shoulders and peeks at his cards. Batt grins and hands his costar a dish of mixed nuts. The photographer interrupts to ask Tony-winning Broadway veteran Morse to lean just a little behind Hamm. “I’m always a little behind Mr. Hamm,” Morse laughs and slaps the show’s cover boy lightly on the knee. At one point, Slattery sniffs at a few of the open liquor bottles to see if the booze is real and seems a little disappointed that it isn’t. (So much for the show’s vaunted obsessive attention to period detail.) Behind Slattery, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner tells an unprintable Kim Jong Il joke that gets his cast roaring. As the photo assistants hand the guys “drinks” in delicate shot glasses, Hamm starts a competition to see who can do the worst Irish brogue. The camera clicks away. “It’s the nicest cast,” says Batt. “We genuinely like to hang out with each other off the set.”
Their careers are pretty nice now, too. Hamm will be seen on the big screen next year in Howl alongside James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jeff Daniels, followed by The Town written and directed by Ben Affleck and Zack Snyder’s next action blockbuster, Sucker Punch. Slattery recently wrapped production on Iron Man 2 in which he plays Tony Stark/Iron Man’s father. But the New York-based actor is anxious to get back on stage. “[Man Men] has changed my life in Emmy nominations and that kind of stuff. But workwise it’s still a hustle,” says Slattery, who was so laid back about the Emmys last year that he was out surfing when the nominations were announced. “I get offered stuff that I don’t want to do, but to get the good stuff, you still have to go after it.”
It turns out that the Mad Men are up for talking about most anything except the plot of the show’s third season, one of Hollywood’s most carefully guarded secrets. We know a few things: some people get fired, two others get a promotion, the extramarital affairs get more shocking, and Don Draper digs even further into his past. But we got that on our own, not from these guys. Morse says that everyone asks, but he can’t even tell his wife what will happen. Suddenly, Slattery leans in ready to divulge a secret or two. “Well, it’s 1976,” he teases. “I hope it goes that far. I want to see these guys in platform shoes and chests full of medallions.” That Hamm could probably pull that look off, too.