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The workings of a mad man ; Offbeat comedy-drama A Young Doctor's Notebook returns this month for a second series. Its star, Mad Men's Jon Hamm,...

November 16, 2013


The workings of a mad man ; Offbeat comedy-drama A Young Doctor's Notebook returns this month for a second series. Its star, Mad Men's Jon Hamm, tells SUSAN GRIFFIN about waltzing with Daniel Radcliffe, his love of British TV and pining for a pint while filming in London

It's the end of another long day on set and Jon Hamm sounds a little croaky. But while the hours might be proving arduous for the actor, his schedule is nothing compared to that of his co-star Daniel Radcliffe.

Dan's on the West End doing eight shows a week, so that's a far bigger challenge than it is for me, says 42-year-old Hamm.

Following a successful first series, Radcliffe and Mad Men star Hamm are reuniting for a four-part follow-up to A Young Doctor's Notebook, which was based on the experiences of the writer Mikhail Bulgakov as a newly-qualified medic during the Russian Revolution.

Radcliffe and Hamm star as the younger and older versions of the same man. Surreally, they sometimes interact, most memorably in the bath tub during series one.

We figured we didn't need to revisit the well on that one, says Hamm, laughing. Once you have that image in your head, it's seared there.

Instead, in A Young Doctor's Notebook & Other Stories, the pair find themselves waltzing.

Dan's by far the more talented dancer - he's been on Broadway. The last time I had to do any dancing was at high school, and it was as embarrassing then as it is now, says Hamm, who is also executive producer on the series.

But it was very funny and a perfect example of the tone of the show; irreverent, funny, sad, macabre. And gory, of course. Yes, there will be plenty of entrails and biblically inefficient surgical extractions.

The new series begins in 1918 as the Civil War rages throughout Russia, although it has not yet reached the Young Doctor's remote little hospital in Mureyvo, where life meanders along.

Fast-forward to 1935 and the Old Doctor is in Moscow, being discharged from the institution he was sent to at the end of series one. Cured from his morphine addiction, he is feeling bright and upbeat.

He's basically gone through withdrawal and detoxification, although detox was a little more sinister in the early 20th century, quips Hamm.

The Older Doctor then returns to his memories of 1918 where, in contrast to series one, he's no longer sneering towards his younger self - though he is concerned, as his morphine addiction looks set to spiral out of control.

He might attempt to dissuade his younger self from heading down the wrong path, but it's a fruitless task, says Hamm.

You can't talk your younger self out of anything, he explains. That's part of the fun we have, with a lot of time jumping. But it's a general theme of the show; if you could talk your younger self out of the mistakes you made in the past, what would you say and how would you say it? Having been brought up on the likes Monty Python, Hamm thought the strange and unique nature of the comedy-drama would appeal to British audiences.

I've been a fan of whatever British television I could get my hands on since as far back as I can remember, says the American star.

Hamm is staying in central London for the duration of the shoot, and admits he's feeling more at home than ever.

He's even been tempted to pop into a nearby pub for a drink. He didn't go in the end, but no doubt the workers would have been shocked to see Don Draper, the charismatic ad executive he plays in Sixties-set Mad Men, walk through the door of their local watering hole.

The role has earned him an army of ardent fans as well as five Emmy and five Golden Globe nominations, including one win, but it very nearly didn't happen.

He moved to Hollywood with aspirations of making it as an actor but spent the majority of his twenties subsidising bit parts by waiting tables and teaching, and even had a stint as a set dresser on a soft porn production.

He gave himself a deadline: make a living out of acting by the age of 30 or pack up and go home.

Almost immediately, work started to pick up.

There was a 'blink and you miss it' part in Clint Eastwood's Space Cowboys, the indie movie Kissing Jessica Stein and recurring roles in TV series Providence and The Division. Then in 2007, Hamm was cast as Draper.

When Mad Men became successful, I was offered every role with a tie, hat and coat, but I've veered sharply the other way, Hamm says.

One of the reasons Hamm believes Harry Potter star Radcliffe signed up to A Young Doctor's Notebook was because he was known as one thing.

He's made really incredible artistic choices to try and separate himself from that, and just as Dan's never been one to not challenge himself, I've done the same thing, he notes.

? A Young Doctor's Notebook & Other Stories begins on Sky Atlantic on Thursday.

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