Exclusive: Jon Hamm Talks ‘Tag’Posted by Wilson Morales
June 13, 2018
Coming out this week from Warner Bros. Pictures is the upcoming comedy Tag, starring Ed Helms (“The Hangover”), Hannibal Buress (“Neighbors”), Jeremy Renner (“The Avengers”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”), Jake Johnson (“New Girl”), Isla Fisher (“Now You See Me”), Annabelle Wallis (“Peaky Blinders”), Brian Dennehy (“First Blood”), and Leslie Bibb (“Iron Man”).
Directed by Jeff Tomsic from a script by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, the film hits theaters on June 15.
One month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running in a no-holds-barred game of tag they’ve been playing since the first grade—risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take each other down with the battle cry “You’re It!” This year, the game coincides with the wedding of their only undefeated player (Renner), which should finally make him an easy target. But he knows they’re coming…and he’s ready. Based on a true story, Tag shows how far some guys will go to be the last man standing.
For Jon Hamm, who is best known for his Emmy Award winning role as Don Draper on the award winning AMC television drama series, Mad Men, as well as his dramatic appearances in The Town, Millin Dollar Arm, Baby Driver and more recently Beirut, this represents one of the comedic films he’s done in some time.
Hamm recently spoke exclusively with Blackfilm.com about his experiences working on ‘Tag.’
What was the attraction into saying, “Yes, I’ll do it?”
Jon Hamm: I read the article that the movie’s based on, and I just found the whole thing so absurd, and hilarious, and joyful that I was really kind of enamored of it immediately. Just the idea of grown-ass men with full time careers, and families, and life stuff, and kind of setting it all aside so they can torment each other for a month out of every year was great to me. Then when I read the script and realized, oh, this is really a story about the healing power of friendship, and connection, and rekindling that kind of youthful, playful energy, and just how positive the message was, I just thought, “Oh, this is a nice thing to be a part of, and it’ll be a nice group.”
And then I realized who else was in the movie, and I was like, “Oh, I definitely want to be in this thing.” I had worked with Jeremy before. I had worked with Isla before. I knew Ed a little bit socially, and Hannibal and Jake as well, and then I was a massive fan of Annabelle Wallace’s on Peaky Blinders, and I was just like, “This is great. This will be so fun,” and it turned out to be such a fun experience.
How would you best describe your character? Are you the straight-laced guy, the no fun guy, or in the middle of both?
Jon Hamm: I wouldn’t say I’m the no fun guy. I think all of these guys are fun guys. I think I’m the guy that’s kind of, you know, a little more corporate, a little more buttoned up, but the great part of the film is that you see all of these guys just lose all of that because they just fall head first into this crazy game that they love playing, this crazy tradition that they have.
People find trips to get together because they don’t want to do it when it’s at a funeral, or whatever. So what have you done with your friends to get together who you haven’t seen in awhile?
Jon Hamm: I have a very tight knit group of friends that I’ve known probably since I was 12 years old. We all went to school together back in St. Louis, and I’m still very close with them. In fact, I got an email from one of my friends today on a big thread with all of us on it wishing our friend’s younger brother happy birthday. But if we’re all back in St. Louis
The most recent thing I did to get all our friends together was the hockey team Blues had a game at the Winter Classic, the outdoor game in January a few years back, and I emailed, texted, whatever, all my friends and said, “Clear the decks. We’re all going.” And we all did. We had a great time. We won the game. We went out to my friend’s little brother’s restaurant. He opened the restaurant for us and cooked us all pizzas, and we ate pizzas, and then we ended up going back to my friend’s mom’s house. His mom walked in and started crying. She’s like, “This takes me back 20 years. This is so sweet.” We all kind of looked around, we’re like, “Oh, yeah. We kind of all are sitting in the exact same position.” It was such a sweet, kind of lovely reunion.
I think a lot of people in their childhood played tag, and you just don’t remember when you stopped. Can you?
Jon Hamm: Yeah. That’s the funny thing. There’s a line in the movie that says it. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing,” and I think that that’s a real important message of the film. We kind of have fun with it, but there’s a real sense of life’s too short. Try to have some fun while you’re at it, and just kind of real, physical interaction, face to face interaction in our increasingly digital and screen filled, social media filled world … Invaluable to kind of rekindle that joy, and that youth, and that lost kind of sense of play.
Now, you mentioned some of the cast you knew and some people you were just starting to know. What is it you did together as a group to establish more of a better chemistry on set? Did you go out and have dinner, play games?
Jon Hamm: Oh, yeah. Because the majority of the film is heavily ensemble based, we all were kind of on many of the same schedule, so we’d all be at work at the same time, or shooting five, six people in a scene. They would call cut, and it wasn’t like we’d all run back to our trailers. We would all just kind of sit and hang out, and try to bust each other up. That’s what creates a chemistry with a cast, and that’s what makes people have fun, and makes work fun. And some of us live very close to each other in Atlanta, so we’d pick a spot and we’d all meet for dinner or something, or whoever didn’t have to get up early that day, the next day, whatever. There’s so much fun things to do, so many great restaurants in Atlanta, obviously, so we had a blast.
For most of your career, at least recently, people know you as this dramatic actor. Obviously Mad Men, and earlier this year you had done Beirut, and your performance was well received for The Town. So for a movie like this, which is a comedy film, is that something you’d like to do to show how different your range is as an actor?
Jon Hamm: Well, yeah. I’m fortunate enough to have credibility on both sides of the aisle in that respect because of Mad Men and things like Beirut, and Million Dollar Arm, and The Town and whatnot. I’ve got the ability people can see me in a dramatic light, but I’ve also hosted Saturday Night Live three times. I’ve been on 30 Rock. I’m a regular of Kimmy Schmidt. I’ve done my fair share of comic stuff, too, so I’m lucky in that respect. I got in early before people’s image of me solidified as just one thing.
But, for example, Jeremy Renner, who’s in our film, is rightly so considered one of our greatest dramatic talents out there. Twice nominated for an Academy Award, and I’ve obviously worked with him before, but I always knew Jeremy as a funny guy. He just doesn’t get the opportunity to do it that much. But he’s a wildly, wildly funny guy.
You had a film in theaters this year that many folks probably didn’t see or hear about. What goes into saying yes to the roles you take?
Jon Hamm: You know, it’s interesting. A lot. I think the movie you’re talking about is Nostalgia. I made that movie a few years back, and smaller movies, sometimes they take a little while to find their way into the light because they don’t have big studios behind them, and they don’t have big distribution deals, and they don’t have all of the stuff that goes into exhibiting a film these days. But what goes into it, the people involved, and the story that gets told. If ideally both of those things are things that I’m excited by, it’s a cool idea for a story, or a really wonderful script, or a group of people that I really want to work with. In the case of Nostalgia, Mark Pellington, who directed it, I’ve been a fan of for years, and I got to work with Ellen Burstyn, and Catherine Keener, and James Le Gros, people whose work I’ve admired for decades. So I said, “Sure, let’s do that.” And Alex Ross Perry wrote a really interesting script about loss, and grief, and what do we hold onto.
And in the case of Beirut, Tony Gilroy, one of our greatest writers out there, I was like, “Let’s make this movie, man.” This is a movie that they don’t make anymore. It’s like a ’70s political thriller. This is exciting. And then Rosamund Pike signed on, whose work I’ve respected for years, and who I knew a little bit through Edgar Wright, and I figured, “Let’s do that. That’ll be a fun adventure,” and it turned out to be a great film.
Wilson Morales: Between the TV shows you’ve done and the films you’re doing, what keeps you humble? What do you do to be quiet and you can say, “Okay, no one’s going to really recognize me, and I can just be myself?”
Jon Hamm: Well, that’s where that group of friends comes in handy. When you’ve got people who’ve known you since you were 12, they’ve seen you at some embarrassing moments in your life, no doubt. So that’s the kind of thing that’ll really kind of ground you, and that’s what friends are for. I don’t really go out a lot. I don’t really go make the scene all that much, so I don’t have anything really to prove, and I’m old enough now where it just seems kind of lame. But I love hanging out with my friends and those close to me. Like I said, it really enriches you, and it taps into that true essence of what makes you you and that’s important.