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Edie Falco On Sobriety, The Sopranos, And Nurse Jackie's Self-Medication

Falco plays ER nurse Jackie Peyton, who is competent at her high-stress job but struggles with addiction. Falco was nominated for an Emmy for her role on Nurse Jackie, which is in its sixth season

30:40

Other segments from the episode on August 28, 2014

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 28, 2014: Interview with Edie Falco; Interview with John Hamm.

Transcript

August 28, 2014

Guests: Falco, Draper

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR, I'm Terry Gross. This week, we've been featuring a series of Emmy award related interviews. We heard this year's host Seth Meyers, we heard from several of this year's winners. Today, we hear from a couple of this year's nominees. Later, we'll hear from Jon Hamm, who's been nominated for 13 Emmys over the years. Up first, Edie Falco - this year she was nominated for her role in Showtime's "Nurse Jackie" in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series. She won an Emmy for the same role in 2010 and she's won three Emmys for her performance on "The Sopranos" as Carmela Soprano - Tony's wife. In "Nurse Jackie," Falco plays an ER nurse who's addicted to pills.

In season five, she got sober and started going to 12-step meetings. But she saved one pill, and right before going to the party celebrating one year of sobriety, she took it. In the sixth season, which ran earlier this year, Jackie was back on pills and back to hiding her addiction. When I spoke to her in April, we started with a scene from the premiere of season six. Although Jackie was back on drugs, she was still going to her twelve-step meetings, pretending to be sober. Here she is at a restaurant with one of the women from the meeting, played by Julie White, who likes to speak her mind even if it means being rude to another member of the group.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NURSE JACKIE")

EDIE FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) I know it's supposed to help, but I (beep) hate the program.

JULIE WHITE: (As Antoinette) Me, too. It's all of that 12-step God talk. It just drives me up a tree, which is why I kind of pick and choose - a little of the big book, some therapy, dash of Oprah. I mean, it's taken me a long time and a few slips to find my path. How about you?

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) Well, the day of my one-year anniversary, they got me a nice cake. I took a pill.

JULIE WHITE: (As Antoinette) Ooh. My first relapse I went on a three-month bender. It was so much work, all the lying and hiding.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) Trying to catch the next high.

WHITE: (As Antoinette) Oh, explaining to my husband where the money went.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) Trying to cover the high instead of just relaxing into it.

WHITE: (As Antoinette) That was the worst.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) You want to tell these people just get away from me so I can enjoy this.

WHITE: (As Antoinette) I took a lot of bubble baths with a bottle of whiskey.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) Sounds nice.

WHITE: (As Antoinette) It was so nice, which is why that was just my first relapse.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITE: (As Antoinette) Keep going to meetings, work the steps. You've got a sponsor?

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) I'm not very good with authority.

WHITE: (As Antoinette) OK, I am very good with people who are not good with authority.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) OK.

GROSS: That's a scene from the new season of "Nurse Jackie." Edie Falco, welcome back to FRESH AIR. It's such a pleasure to have you back on the show.

FALCO: A pleasure to be here.

GROSS: So I'm kind of sorry that Jackie's back on drugs. It's like a nice plot twist, but I hate to see that happen to her.

FALCO: Yes.

GROSS: How do you feel about her relapse?

FALCO: Not unlike the way I feel about anybody's relapse, even though she's pretend. You know, it does, I think, pretty accurately mirror the experience in real life of when someone that you know is not able to stay on board. It's heartbreaking and makes you feel helpless and all that stuff. So I think it's pretty, pretty accurate.

GROSS: Do you feel like you understand why she would have chosen the first anniversary of her sobriety to start using again?

FALCO: Absolutely. The mind of a – of an addict is so seemingly irrational to an outsider, but there are all kinds of things at play that are not easily understood. But, you know, she's about to hit a huge milestone. And if the interior work isn't done, like the why she uses drugs in the first place – from my vantage point, she was not making her priority to remain sober - and so it will slip away

GROSS: I want to get another scene in here. And this is from the previous season of "Nurse Jackie," toward the - it's like the next to the last episode of the previous season. And at this point, her teenage daughter, who is going through a difficult phase, has started using pills. So in this scene, Jackie's ex-husband has brought their teenage daughter to the hospital to, like, leave her with Jackie. And along with the daughter, he's brought the pills that he's found that his daughter is using. And he's, like, shocked to find this. And of course Jackie is outraged that her daughter has started using pills. But the daughter is acting all innocent and saying oh, no, these aren't my pills, these are my mother's pills, she's using again. And at this point, Jackie has not started using pills again. They're not hers.

FALCO: Right.

GROSS: So she takes her daughter in the hospital for mother-daughter blood tests to prove who's really using, you know, who's really taking these pills. And they're having a fight as they're having these blood tests, and also in the room is nurse Zoey and Jackie's ex-husband.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NURSE JACKIE")

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) Where’d you get the drugs?

RUBY JERINS: (As Grace Peyton) It's not that hard to get Adderrall.

MERRITT WEVER: (As Zoey Barkow) I think you need to make her feel like she can tell you the truth.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) Zoey, please. Who got it for you?

RUBY JERINS: (As Grace Peyton) Nobody got them for me. I got them from a girl at school.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) You were taking drugs at school?

JERINS: (As Grace Peyton) I was studying at Danny's and we tried it, and I got an A on my test - that's it.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) OK, so you were just studying and taking drugs with a boy you lied about not seeing anymore. Really, so that's it?

JERINS: (As Grace Peyton) Yeah, mom, I took something and I still did everything I was supposed to do. You know what that's like, right?

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) OK, she's with me today, all day.

JERINS: (As Grace Peyton) Um, I have school.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) Welcome to Scare the (Beep) Out of You High.

JERINS: (As Grace Peyton) I (beep) hate you.

FALCO: (As Jackie) Grace?

DOMINIC FUMUSA: (As Kevin Peyton) Whoa, we're just swearing at each other now? Enough.

FALCO: (As Jackie Peyton) All right, can you go over and talk to Danny and his parents? Make sure the message is loud and clear - he is to stay away from Grace. We are a zero-tolerance household.

DOMINIC FUMUSA: (As Kevin Peyton) Yeah, yeah that's a good idea.

JERINS: (As Grace Peyton) Oh, are you guys, like, friends now? Awesome. That's – that’s great timing.

GROSS: So that was a scene from the previous season of "Nurse Jackie" with my guest Edie Falco as Jackie, Dominic Fumusa as her ex-husband, Ruby Jerins as her teenage daughter and Merritt Wever as Nurse Zoey. So you and Carmela from "The Sopranos" had similar problems - teenage kids who were rebelling, talking back to you, which I suppose is pretty typical, yeah.

FALCO: I was going to say Jackie, Carmela and every mother I've ever heard of, yeah.

GROSS: (Laughter) Right, and you've both tried - you know, both characters have tried tough love in ways that aren't necessarily very effective.

FALCO: Right.

GROSS: So you have two children, age nine and six. Are you dreading their teenage years based on the series that you've starred in?

FALCO: You know, you can live in denial for a few more years in my case that somehow it'll be different for me. So I'm kind of hanging on for dear life to that at the moment. But if present behavior is any indication, I’m, you know, I'm in for a wallop.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: That's not what I thought you were going to say (laughter).

FALCO: So sorry. No, I have two very, very bright, very willful kids and with me as a mom. So, you know, it's a lot of energy and headstrong individualism in my household.

GROSS: Can you imagine saying any of the things that Jackie or Carmela have said to their teenagers?

FALCO: I would like to say no. But you don’t even know what’s going to come out of your mouth when you feel as helpless as you sometimes do in the face of a, you know, a smart kid.

GROSS: What's an example of something you've said that's really surprised you?

FALCO: Oh gosh, this is going to be terrible, but I'll tell you. My son was - issue with coming into my bed - this is some years ago now. And he kept coming in my bed in the middle of the night when I'm half-asleep. I was working at the time, so I was getting four or five hours of sleep. And he came into my bed, and I think the words if you don't get out of my bed, I will throw you down the stairs.

(LAUGHTER)

FALCO: My son looked at me wide-eyed and went back into bed. And then in the morning, he said did you say last night that you were going to throw me down the stairs? And I was, like, blushing. I said Anderson (ph), I said that to you and I cannot believe I said - it has become now something we joke about. And every once in a while, he's like what, you're going to throw me down the stairs? I'm like Anderson, I am sorry. I'm not responsible for what I say at 3 in the morning when I'm not getting sleep. So anyway yes, it's really insane what happens under dire circumstances - lack of sleep and, you know, kids who want their way. So I'm not proud of that, and I'm, you know, deeply working on it, let's just say.

GROSS: (Laughter) Your parents divorced when you were 14. Were there big fights in your family?

FALCO: There - you know, there were, I guess. It's funny how it's like a big blur, a lot of what happened when I was younger. And it's funny, I didn't even know that I was 14 when that happened. So...

GROSS: Well, I read that. I can't guarantee you that that was accurate, but that's what I read.

FALCO: I think it might - I think I might have been younger. And then they also remarried each other. So I'm not quite sure when these things happened.

GROSS: Oh gosh, really?

FALCO: Yeah, and then they, you know, they split up and got back together any number of times but without the paperwork. So it's a little complicated as to what happened when. But yeah, there were fights.

GROSS: Did you mouth off to them at, like, the teenagers…?

FALCO: You know, I didn't. You know, they may, if asked this question, they make think otherwise, but I don't think I did. I was a really compliant sort of kid. I was a bit of a goody-two-shoes, which annoyed my siblings no end. I was the one who would tattle if I smelled pot smoke coming from the end...

(LAUGHTER)

FALCO: It's like mom, I don't want to say anything, but...

(LAUGHTER)

FALCO: But I did. And so yeah, I got a reputation.

GROSS: There's a long distance between the goody-two-shoes and the characters that you're most famous for, nurse Jackie and Carmela.

FALCO: Well, it's because I didn't go through it then. So I get to live it out now. It's one of the beauties of the thing I do for a living.

GROSS: Does it feel good to...?

FALCO: It feels tremendously good, yeah. To act out in anger and to feel righteous about it and to not have there be any real ramifications is exquisite, yes. I recommend it to anyone who might be interested.

GROSS: The ramifications are all good, I mean, for you. It's great…

FALCO: Yeah, exactly.

GROSS: …Acting performances, yeah.

FALCO: And then, you know, they yell cut and I can give a big hug and kiss to whatever child I'm acting opposite, which I always do.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Really?

FALCO: Because it's mortifying. You know, I'll say, you know I'm not really mean.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: So did you - what's the name of the actor who played Anthony, Jr.?

FALCO: Oh, Robert Iler.

GROSS: Robert Iler, yeah. You had these incredible fights with him because he was the child left at home when Meadow, your daughter, was already on her own and in college. And he was just so lost…

FALCO: Yeah.

GROSS: …You know, just so very lost. And he would have these, like, terrible fights with you. Would you give him a big hug afterwards?

FALCO: Oh my gosh, yes. I just adore that boy so much and he was such a sweet kid. And so yes, I was constantly apologizing for the work I had to do.

GROSS: Your role in "Nurse Jackie" connects with two major things that have happened in your life - you had breast cancer. I'm sure you spent a lot of time in hospitals and also you had an alcohol problem. So you understand the difficulties of sobriety. Did that figure in to your wanting to do the role?

FALCO: I have to say I never really know exactly what makes me want to do a role. It's some sort of wordless place, you know? And I imagine that everything I've ever been through is contributing on some level to the decisions I make. But I'm not privy to them on some level. But the addiction piece, I have to say, is a huge part of my life, not just my own but that of many people I love. And the whole nurse piece, I mean, the breast cancer aside, just all my dealings with nurses, it is such a tremendously selfless way to spend one's life, one that I know I couldn't do. I have a tremendous amount of respect for these people. And it's as close to sainthood as I've seen people get, you know.

GROSS: We'll hear more of my interview with Edie Falco after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

We're concluding our Emmys series with another of this year's nominees, Jon Hamm. He actually had two nominations this year - for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his performance as Don Draper on AMC's "Mad Men" and for his work as a producer on the series. He's received a total of 13 nominations during his career but has yet to win. The series "Mad Men" has won Outstanding Drama Series of four times. It was the first basic cable show to win that award.

"Mad Men" is about the professional and private lives of people in an advertising agency in the 1960s. Don Draper started off epitomizing the creative, troubled, handsome, sexist, cigarette-smoking, liquor-drinking men of the '60s. But then we slowly watch him repeatedly undermine himself and most everyone he cares about. Let's start with a classic "Mad Men" moment from the final episode of the first season. Don Draper's most famous advertising pitch - he's at a meeting with representatives from Kodak, pitching an ad campaign to launch their new slide projector, which is round, like a wheel. In fact, Kodak is calling it The Wheel. Midway through this pitch, Don starts showing slides which happen to be heartwarming old photos of his own family, but his marriage is actually falling apart.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MAD MEN")

JON HAMM: My first job, I was in-house at a fur company with this old pro-copywriter Greek named Teddy. And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is, new creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of Calamine lotion. We also talked about a deeper bond with the product. Nostalgia - it's delicate, but potent.

Sweetheart? (Fan-like noise from device operating as it's switched on).

Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship; it's a time machine. It goes backwards, forewords. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called The Wheel, it's called The Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.

GROSS: The first time I spoke with Jon Hamm, in 2008, he told me that he modeled some of the character Don Draper on his father.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HAMM: My father was sort of a big-deal businessman in St. Louis in this time, in the '50s and '60s. And he was - worked for a company that his grandfather and his father had owned. So I – literally just looking through old photo albums, and I could see - I mean, here was this guy, this man who was the sort of master of his domain and the sort of ease with which he moved through this world. St. Louis is obviously a much smaller pond than Madison Avenue in New York City, but that kind of largesse and ease was a big part of what informed my interpretation of Don.

GROSS: I've got to ask you a question about that. Your character of Don has a way of kind of crossing his legs. It's a kind of power position for him. When he crosses his legs, it's like, I own extra space around me.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: I own all the space around my body. Did your father kind of sit that way?

HAMM: Yeah, he was a big guy. He was about 6'3", and he owned the space he was in. He was a very friendly, very gregarious, very fun, very funny guy, but he also had, you know, a lot of sadness in his life. My father met my mother, who was a secretary, and they got married, but my mother was my father's second wife. His first wife died at a very young age, and my mother, his second wife, also died at a very young age. So this is a man who had a tremendous amount of sadness for being in such a sort of powerful and elevated position in his life. He did have a lot of sadness.

So I didn't have to look too far to find any kind of inspiration for this guy. And you know, my father passed away when I was 20. So it's a drag that he doesn't get a chance to see this because I think he would really enjoy the result.

GROSS: Jon Hamm, recorded in 2008. I spoke to him again in 2010, when "Mad Men" was in its fourth season.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GROSS: Now, you auditioned for the part of Don Draper six times, at least that's what I read. So when you were doing the audition, you had to portray a Don Draper confidence. But because you hadn't landed a really big role before, you were probably, as many actors are, insecure at the time of the audition. You were still a waiter, weren't you?

HAMM: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: Yeah, so you probably didn't have quite the confidence that you had to convey. Or maybe you did. But I'm wondering how confidence came into play during the audition.

HAMM: Well, you have to, I mean, as any actor, you have to - and this is successful, unsuccessful, working, non-working - you have to portray a sense of confidence. And if you have to manufacture it, if you have to fake it, if you have to drum it up from somewhere in your subconscious, you have to do it.

So I was - and I had worked as an actor and was on a television show and had a lot of experience. So I wasn't coming in fresh off the turnip truck, so to speak.

But auditioning is a terrifying process. And it's a really soul-crushing process sometimes because essentially what people are saying is not necessarily that we don't like your acting but we don't like you. And that's hard to take. But I really wanted to do it. And I thought the writing was excellent, as has been borne out, and I wanted to make the best of the opportunity. So I feel like I did represent confidence walking into the room, and the next seven times I had to walk into the room, I tried to be as confident as I could coming back.

GROSS: So you’re very funny at satirizing, you know, Don Draper and perceptions of you. You hosted "Saturday Night Live" a couple of times, and on one of those episodes you did a sketch called "Don Draper's Guide To Picking Up Women." I just want to play some of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And now, "Don Draper's Guide To Picking Up Women."

HAMM: (as Don Draper) Hello, I'm Don Draper and I've been fortunate enough to have affairs with many women. Some say, boy, Don, how do you do it? Well, it's simple. And you can do it, too, if you follow my four easy steps.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMM: (as Don Draper) Step one - when in doubt, remain absolutely silent.

(LAUGHTER)

KRISTEN WIIG: Hi, I'm Jessica.

(LAUGHTER)

WIIG: We're shy, aren't we?

(LAUGHTER)

WIIG: Marry me. I want to have your children.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMM: (as Don Draper) See? Step two - when asked about your past, give vague, open-ended answers.

CASEY WILSON: So Don, tell me about your family. Any brothers and sisters?

HAMM: (as Don Draper) There was a man with bright, shiny shoes. I saw him dancing until the accident.

(LAUGHTER)

WILSON: Oh, how mysterious.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMM: (as Don Draper) Step three - You have great name.

FRED ARMISEN: Hi. I'm Nathaniel Snerpus.

(LAUGHTER)

AMY POEHLER: Well, hello.

HAMM: (as Don Draper) Don Draper.

POEHLER: Let's get me out of this skirt.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMM: (as Don Draper) And finally, step four - look fantastic in a suit. Look fantastic in casual-wear. Look fantastic in anything. Sound good. Smell good. Kiss good. Strut around with supreme confidence. Be uncannily successful at your job. Blow people away every time you say anything. Take six-hour lunches. Disappear for weeks at a time. Lie to everyone about everything.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMM: (as Don Draper) And drink and smoke constantly. Basically, be Don Draper.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This has been "Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women."

GROSS: That's my guest, Jon Hamm, on "Saturday Night Live."

Who wrote that sketch?

HAMM: I don’t know who wrote that one. I'm not sure, honestly. The interesting thing about that, and I haven't heard that clip in quite some time, is that you can hear Matt Weiner laughing in the crowd reactions. He has a very particular laugh.

GROSS: Seriously? Really? He was in the audience?

HAMM: He was in the audience that night. That was the first time I hosted and quite a few of our cast and crew were in attendance. And, yeah, I could pick it out. I could hear it. It's very funny.

GROSS: Were you confident in your dating years?

HAMM: Not particularly. I was sort of a late bloomer and was not really necessarily one of the cool kids and - not really. I mean I was just kind of like the sort of weird kid that didn’t do much of anything, actually.

GROSS: Now...

HAMM: That should be enough to show you how awkward I was when I was dating. I can't even talk about it.

GROSS: Now, earlier in our interview you said that the portrayal of Don Draper is based in part on your father who was a businessman, who was very powerful and important in - was it St. Louis where you grew up?

HAMM: St. Louis, Missouri, yeah.

GROSS: Yeah. So what kind of business was it?

HAMM: Trucking, actually. Trucking and heavy hauling. And it was a family business, three or four generations before me, and started with a block and tackle and a horse and wagon, pulling - pulling stuff up off of barges off the Mississippi and loading it on to wagons and carts and heading it out West. That turned into, you know, over the road, 18-wheeler, rigging and block and tackle for railroads and stuff. And the '60s was kind of the height of over-the-road trucking and interstate commerce and obviously, my dad had to deal a lot with the unions and the teamsters and so there was a lot going on and he was kind of right at the center of it.

GROSS: Did...

HAMM: And what happened...

GROSS: ...Go ahead.

HAMM: Go ahead.

GROSS: No. No. You.

HAMM: Oh. What ended up happening was, you know, container ships and shipping - overseas shipping actually, ended up overtaking over-the-road truck and heavy hauling. So the business sort of dried up and then, as happens, sort of they started to conglomerate. And we ended up getting bought out, I think, in the early '80s and then that was the end of that.

GROSS: Awkward to bring this up, but did he have to deal with the mob also?

HAMM: There were definitely elements of that obviously, when you’re talking about, you know, trucking and teamsters and that kind of thing. There was - there was. At my dad's funeral there were a few guys with pinky rings, to say the least.

GROSS: We'll hear more of the interview I recorded in 2010 with Jon Hamm, after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(MUSIC)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. We're concluding our Emmy Awards series with Jon Hamm, who stars in "Mad Men" as Don Draper. He's received 13 Emmy nominations, including two this year. Let's get back to the conversation we recorded in 2010.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GROSS: So, in our previous interview you said that your father was a salesman who could sell anything to anybody. So it sounds like he wasn’t literally a salesman.

HAMM: Well, by the, you know, like I said, he had sold the business in the early '80s. And after that he, you know, he would've been 47 years old in 1980, so he had plenty of career left to do. So he sold cars, he sold trucks and yeah, he hustled, you know, he had a kid to take care of so he had to make money somehow.

GROSS: Earlier you described your father as a very successful businessman but also very sad.

HAMM: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Do you mean depression or...

HAMM: Well, he had a sad life in a lot of ways. You know, his first wife - his first wife was - he had two daughters with and she died of a brain aneurism very suddenly and very tragically, leaving him to sort of take care of these two little girls and that was difficult for him. He then met and married my mother around about 1969, I suppose, who was much younger than he was and had me in 1971 and then got divorced. And my mother was out of that relationship pretty quick. So then had, you know, three kids and no wife and was ended up sort of back home living with his mom. And then when my mother passed away, when I was 10, I then had to move back in with my dad and my grandmother, his mother. So, yeah, he was a sad guy. You know, he had a lot of I think he probably had a lot of regret in his life. And yeah, it was a - the best way I could describe it is that it was a tricky situation.

GROSS: Were you close at all with your father before your mother died? Had you been seeing him much when you were living with your mother after your parents separated?

HAMM: Yeah. It was a, you know, shared custody so it was a, you know, sort of a every other weekend or something like that, not dissimilar to the Draper children. But, yeah, I loved my dad. I loved spending time with him and, you know, you’re a little kid. You don’t really understand what happens in between adults and adult relationships. You just think like, well, why aren't you guys together? You know, you used to be together. Why aren't you anymore? And the sort of vagaries of adult relationships are lost on little kids. So, yeah, I didn’t really get it and, you know, by the time I was old enough to understand that stuff both of them had passed away, so that's kind of lost to the sands of time, I suppose.

GROSS: Your father died when you were about 20?

HAMM: 20 years old. Yeah.

GROSS: So you were 10 when your mother died. Did you understand death then?

HAMM: Probably not. And again, this is in the Midwest in the early, early '80s. This was not exactly the - there wasn’t a lot of therapy happening back then. I was given a book - literally given a book that said what to do when a parent dies, which I dutifully read. And it didn’t really help. It was sort of like I would really just have my mom back than have to read about other kids that lost their parents. But no, it’s a - it was, you know, it's a tough thing to take at that age. And I don’t think I really got over that for quite some time.

GROSS: A lot of people start off in their path toward adulthood on the path that their parents want them to take, whether that means, you know, going to college when they didn’t want to or, you know, going into business when they prefer to be artist or, you know, whatever. But since you lost your mother when you were young and your father died when you were 20, when you were 20 you no longer had parents to either displease or please. So like, I'm wondering how that affected, if at all, your decision to give acting a shot, which is a very, very risky decision.

HAMM: I'm sure it had some effect. I'm virtually certain - 100 percent -that had both my parents been around, I probably would've done something completely different with my life. But, you know, I think all performers come from a place of sort of self-doubt and pain. And, you know, Ray Romano said once very accurately and hilariously that, if his dad would've spent more time with him he probably would've become an accountant instead of a comedian. So I think that anybody that wants to get up on stage and tell jokes or do plays or sing songs has some sort of, at a fundamental level, desire to be paid attention to - and I am no different.

But my mother, very early on, instilled in me an incredible desire to learn and an incredible curiosity about the world and an incredible joy in achieving things. And so that's probably the - and she also put me in creative writing classes and acting classes when I was a little kid and encouraged me to do - to do stuff. And so that's probably the biggest influence in what got me here.

GROSS: Well, Jon Hamm, thank you so much for talking with us.

HAMM: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.

GROSS: Jon Hamm, recorded in 2010. Final filming for "Mad Men" wrapped earlier this summer. The second half of the final season is scheduled to air next year. And that concludes our Emmy Awards series. Jon Hamm has been nominated for Emmys 13 times but has never won. I'm thinking - next year.

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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42:10

Daughter Of A Numbers Runner Witnessed An Underground Economy In Action

Growing up, Bridgett M. Davis' mother booked and banked bets from their home in Detroit. She writes the role of "the numbers" in the black community in her memoir. Originally broadcast Feb. 4, 2019.

09:20

Back For Season 5, 'Better Call Saul' Keeps The Fun And Narrative Going

Fans of Breaking Bad will love some of the faces that show up this season in Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould's prequel/sequel series. It's already clear this show will be one of the year's best.

42:01

'Dark Towers' Exposes Chaos And Corruption At The Bank That Holds Trump's Secrets

New York Times financial editor David Enrich has been covering the German Deutsche bank for years. In his new book he chronicles why the 150 year old institution began shadowy practices - like laundering money, tax evasion, violating international sanctions, and lending money to Donald Trump after no other Wall Street bank would.

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