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The Town – How Jon Hamm chooses film roles

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The Town - Jon Hamm
FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) © 2010 Warner Bros

This year Jon Hamm received his third consecutive Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Don Draper in the critically acclaimed drama Mad Men. The show explores the social mores of a Madison Avenue ad agency in the 1960s.

With only the limited time during his hiatus to make a movie, Hamm chose his new film very carefully. Set in Boston, he portrays FBI Special Agent Frawley in The Town, a crime drama starring Ben Affleck, who also wrote and directed it. Frawley is on the trail of a group of bank robbers, led by Doug MacRay (Affleck), who longs to get away from his criminal life and the town.

You are in a successful TV series, what do you look for when you go do a movie?

The Town - Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver
FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) and Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver) © 2010 Warner Bros

I don’t have any sort of calculus to choosing film roles. I just responded to the story of this and really wanted to play the character. I’d read a very, very early version of this script, another director and another package was attached to it, and I didn’t really necessarily respond to the story then.

Once Ben signed on I became much more interested. I’m a massive fan of his first film, and a massive fan of this one. I just try to pick parts that somehow inspire me creatively and I want to work with people whose work I respect and admire. And both of those boxes were checked for this project.

Can you tell us a little about your character, Agent Frawley?

The Town - Jon Hamm
FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) runs with fellow FBI agents © 2010 Warner Bros

He is an outsider. But although he is not from Boston, he has a lot of experience with these types of crimes and has been there awhile, so he knows all the players.

(He knows who the perpetrators are, but hasn’t be able to nail them) which creates an interesting dynamic between my character and Ben’s character. A fundamental element of a good heist movie is the interplay between the good guys and the bad guys. Who’s going to win? But here, the line between the good guys and the bad guys is less defined because you can empathize with both.

How did you do research for the character?

The Town - Jon Hamm and Rebecca Hall
FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) and Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) © 2010 Warner Bros

Researching the character, it was a tremendous advantage to be able to hang out and talk to several of the law enforcement officials in Boston, at the Federal level, at the State level, and at the local level. What they do is a tremendous achievement. It’s a collaborative effort between all three levels of law enforcement and they do amazing work.

There are a lot of robberies in Boston and a lot of them get solved because of these guys’ hard work. So it was nice to see from the inside how clear their objective is. Their job is to stop bad people from doing bad things. They are very clear on that.

Can you talk a little about working with the FBI consultant Thomas B Devlin?

The Town - Producer Graham King and Jon Hamm
Producer Graham King and FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) on location during the filming © 2010 Warner Bros, Photo by Claire Folger

He was the go-to guy for any question we had. It was extremely helpful to have him around. It was also amusing because a few of the guys we had working as extras or in bit parts were gentlemen Mr. Devlin had arrested in their previous careers. So it was always fun to see who Tom had a previous ‘relationship’ with.

How has Mad Men changed your life?

My life has changed significantly since the success of Mad Men. It’s been a very exciting ride and a very strange time, but I get to work with some tremendous people, and opportunities come a little easier now that the profile has gotten a little broader. I’m just very fortunate and very happy.