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Jon Hamm, Nicholas Galitzine and the Drama Actor Roundtable

Jon Hamm, Nicholas Galitzine and the Drama Actor Roundtable

Jon Hamm spent the better part of the early ’90s avoiding calls from creditors. “The caller ID would come up and if it was an 800 number, it would immediately go to voicemail,” he says, reflecting on his humble beginnings during The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Drama Actor Emmy Roundtable. 

“At a certain point, I had owed my landlord here in L.A. about seven or eight months’ worth of back rent that I somehow talked her into being fine with,” he continues. “Like, ‘Yeah, I’ll get it to you eventually. Of course I’m good for it.’ ” Matt Bomer was in no better shape. In fact, he found himself so far into debt early on in his career that, he recalls, “the creditors found my mom.” Times have changed, of course, and so have the challenges.

On a Sunday afternoon in April, Hamm (now of Fargo and The Morning Show) and Bomer (Fellow Travelers) were joined by Clive Owen (Monsieur Spade, A Murder at the End of the World), David Oyelowo (Lawmen: Bass Reeves), Nicholas Galitzine (Mary & George) and Callum Turner (Masters of the Air) at The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica to discuss the lies they’ve told, the parts that terrify them and the stage direction that truly makes them cringe. 

What was the funniest or strangest feedback you’ve gotten or read about yourself? 

DAVID OYELOWO I once auditioned for a director, who, in the middle of the audition, said, “This isn’t working.” That was pretty bad. 

JON HAMM But also, turns out it was working. And it remains working.

OYELOWO Yes.

HAMM In a similar vein, I had a head of this television network tell my representatives, actually, that Jon Hamm will never be a television star.

NICHOLAS GALITZINE How wrong they were. 

MATT BOMER Name names.

GALITZINE Yeah, spill the tea.

HAMM He’s no longer at the head of that network.

BOMER I know exactly who it is.

OYELOWO Why, did they say the same thing to you?

BOMER Not far from it. (Laughter.)

Does a comment like that sink you or motivate you?

HAMM I think I heard about it much later in the history of things, because it was one of those things where I had auditioned for this person and this network over and over and over again, as one does, and for whatever reason didn’t get the part, and didn’t get the part, and didn’t get the part. It would always come down to the last two, me and the guy who’s going to get it. But it was one of those things. Steve Martin talks about it in his book, but auditioning is the worst. It just stinks, but that’s the only way we’ve got. And there’s so many variables that are completely out of your control, so the ability to let it go is an amazing point in one’s career. And then, of course, that’s when you don’t ever have to audition again.

CALLUM TURNER I like auditioning.

BOMER I do too.

GALITZINE You do not. Really?

CLIVE OWEN Do you?

HAMM God bless you.

OK, why do you like it?

TURNER Because you get into the room, and you get a feel for the director and the people you are going to work with.

HAMM But do you still do that? Everything’s on tape now, isn’t it?

TURNER Yeah, I just auditioned the other day for something; it was nice to go in and to play. There was a crossover for me. I hated auditioning, and then one day I realized that they want you to get the part. They’re on your side — they’re not going to waste their time with you for no reason.

OYELOWO I think it’s the stuff around it. It’s walking into a waiting room and seeing 10 versions of yourself.

And it’s often the same people that you’re auditioning against.

GALITZINE Yeah, over and over, “Good to see you again.”

OYELOWO And sometimes you have that terrible setup where you can hear everyone.

GALITZINE You go, “I should’ve done it like that!”

OYELOWO Or I think, “I’m going to go in there and everyone’s going to be listening to me.” And then it’s going home, and the self-loathing, and the anticipation, and the, “Did I get it? Did I not?” The waiting, and all of that. So, it’s the stuff around auditioning that can be really challenging.

Styled by Felicity Kay. Giorgio Armani pants; Sunspel sweater; Grenson shoes. Grooming by Jamie Taylor.

Photographed by Beau Grealy

Nicholas, your Idea of You co-star Anne Hathaway did say recently that you could have chemistry with a lamp, which could qualify as strange or funny feedback.

GALITZINE It’s true. I’ve been getting a lot of vibes.

TURNER I saw him earlier. The lamp was flickering.

GALITZINE Watch out, it’s very potent. (Laughs.) Honestly, that was an amazing audition experience where I had a very conducive room, and it makes all the difference. You come out of it with like this performance high. 

TURNER Mm-hmm.

GALITZINE It’s less feedback, as much as it was the look of horror on the casting director’s face. But when I went into audition for young Tarzan, there were no lines, and I was told that I had to pretend that I had an orange that someone was trying to steal from me and I had to guard it. And you know when you don’t go for something entirely, and it just seems very feeble and pathetic and wrong? That is a moment that keeps me awake at night. I think about it a lot.

HAMM And you’ll never eat an orange again.

OYELOWO But that chemistry thing is a real thing. If you get to do chemistry reads, which is something I do love doing because there’s an excitement as to, “Is this going to be the person I’m going to get to do this with?” But when it doesn’t work, when the chemistry isn’t there, oh my Lord. Because there’s an alchemy to it, and you can’t quite put your finger on why something works or it doesn’t, and you know within seconds.

And then you see these actresses again. Is that awkward?

OYELOWO Yeah. (Laughter.) I’m thinking of one experience in particular, and I’m not going to mention who it is, but it was so not the right fit. And you can feel it in the room, palpably, to a comedic degree, actually, to the point where it’s a coming-up-in-hives thing. I definitely had that with that experience.

OWEN It’s better to find out then than —

HAMM Week two.

OYELOWO Yeah, which is why you do it.

Looking back at your careers, what felt, at the time, like the biggest risk?

OYELOWO I remember being at a time in my career where I just felt like I wasn’t being challenged enough. I went into my agency, I said this, then the next thing that hit my doormat was a film called Nightingale. It was just me, in a house, having killed my mother. Eighty pages with no one else. And that was as terrified as I’ve ever been, so be careful what you wish for. And, yeah, it was a risk, but it was definitely one that paid off.

TURNER And there’s no way that you can’t be scared, either. It’s such a vulnerable thing.

HAMM For sure.

TURNER Sometimes I’ve laid by myself and stared at my ceiling and thought, “What am I doing?” just before something’s about to come out.

BOMER Oh, yeah.

TURNER It’s real fear. It’s crippling. But then it’s also the thing that pushes you on, it’s the thing that makes you get back out there, because it’s thrilling at the same time. I just don’t want to be laughed at. That’s my fear, really.

It’s interesting to be able to identify what exactly the fear is. Can the rest of you do that?

BOMER Oh, I feel like I don’t want to let folks down.

GALITZINE Yeah, that’s a big one.

OWEN And it doesn’t matter how much you’ve done. Every time you go into a new thing, the potential to fail is hovering around — the potential to not actually do it as well as you hope you can, is always there. It never goes away.

Clive, early in your career, you were on a very popular television show, and at its height, you decided to pivot and take a role in a movie that, I believe, surprised people.

OWEN I got into acting because I wanted to play different parts. And very young, I landed this big TV show called Chancer, which got a lot of heat, and then I started to get offered a lot of stuff like that. Mainstream TV. And even at that very young age, I was very aware that I wanted a long career, but a career that was as varied as possible. And then this writer-director came to me with Close My Eyes, which was about an incestuous relationship with a brother and sister, very delicate, very beautifully written, and I remember at that time thinking, “It’s hugely important I do this because I just don’t want to follow this one thing.” That impetus has been with me ever since. And sometimes it can be a hugely scary, challenging thing, but the worst thing that can happen is you’ll be bad. I’ve been bad before. I’ll be bad again.

Does the team around you try to talk you out of these choices?

OWEN I have never listened to anybody else. Ultimately, you are the one who has to go to work every day. I do what I want to do because that’s what’s going to sustain me through it.

Kiton suit, shirt and sneakers; Jaeger LeCoultre watch. Grooming by John Paul Finn.

Photographed by Beau Grealy

Jon, you experienced something similar during Mad Men, where the industry wanted to keep you in that same lane, right? 

HAMM Oh, every script I got was a cigarette and a hat and a cocktail or something. You go, “OK, I get it. That’s my day job.” That’s why, for me, it was a very conscious decision to lean into the comedic stuff that I wanted to do, whether it was 30 Rock or SNL or fill in the blank, because I knew I had [the dramatic stuff] going. That train had left the station very successfully. But yeah, to Clive’s point, agents and managers can all bat a thousand in the rearview mirror, they can always tell you what they thought after the thing came out and it was good or bad. It’s in the moment that you have to make the decision. And the worst thing that can happen is you suck.

OWEN Also, I think appetite sustains you. 

BOMER Sometimes it means waiting around for something that feeds that hunger as opposed to just keep going from job to job. Honestly, I feel like Fellow Travelers was that for me in a lot of ways, because I’ve been with it for four and a half years now, and I was very cynical about it even seeing the light of day. 

David, how long did it take to get Bass Reeves to air?

OYELOWO Eight years. But to Matt’s point about creating space for those things to come your way, my personality is [such that] I don’t do well with waiting around. Also, as a Black person, there are stories that continue to have resistance to being told. And so, the only way to get them told is to be part of their creation. Selma, for me, was a seven-year journey. A United Kingdom was a seven-year journey. This was an eight-year journey. And on each of those, the feedback was, “This doesn’t have a place in the marketplace.” Bass Reeves was deemed to be something that wasn’t global when we made it. It went on to be the most watched show globally for Paramount+ last year.

How does something like that get presented to you, this idea that, for instance, it “wasn’t global”?

HAMM It’s that received kind of wisdom that becomes the conventional wisdom, which is false and based on nothing.

OYELOWO Yes. And it’s what’s behind the feedback. You get pretty good at going, “Oh, I see what you’re actually saying.” With Selma, for instance, the five directors who were on it in the seven years that I was around the project, they were all being given about 20 to 30 percent less of a budget than the film required. That’s these gatekeepers basically saying, “It’s of a certain value.” You get your feedback by people’s actions more than what they actually say. So, for me, every “no” is a cobblestone to a “yes.”

BOMER Yeah.

OYELOWO And to your point about representatives, at the end of the day, I think as an actor, you’re a corporation, you’re the CEO, and you have people who are there to enhance or aid your vision, but they cannot be the driver for it. 

OWEN Mm-hmm.

OYELOWO Because we all have imposter syndrome, we all have fear of failure, but if this is being driven by my passion and my hard work, then at the end of the day, I’d much rather bet on myself than people who don’t know what it is to put yourself out there in the way that we do.

Styled by Mark Holmes. Paul Smith suit; Zegna sweater; Aldo boots. Grooming by Vonda Morris.

Photographed by Beau Grealy

For all of you, what are the roles where you find yourself saying, “Oh no, not again”? 

GALITZINE I’m very candid about my career, and it’s interesting what you’re saying about not waiting. I think, for me, everything had to move the needle in the direction toward the artistry that I really wanted to make. And especially early on in my career, there were a lot of romantic leads. That being said, I have done a romantic lead recently with Anne Hathaway and I really loved the movie. It’s a lot of fun. I feel very fulfilled within this romantic lead space. And I have much more agency now to be able to do these roles that I’ve not been able to do for the last however many years. It is a good feeling.

What about the rest of you? 

TURNER Right now, anything set between 1930 and 1950 is off the table. I’d like to come back to it, but not for a bit.

GALITZINE Is that something you’ve worked in in the past as well or is this much more with Masters?

TURNER I did Fantastic Beasts, which is set in the ’30s, and then Masters is set in the ’40s, and then The Boys in the Boat was set in the ’50s. So I’m looking for something set in the ’60s. (Laughs.)

GALITZINE What do you think it is?

TURNER I think it’s my hair, man. I just think I’ve got to —

GALITZINE Shave it all off!

TURNER I don’t know. Masters was a gift, it really was. I was working with all those people, and if the situation was the same, I’d go and do it again.

Styled by Ben Schofield. Louis Vuitton jacket, shoes; Axel Arigato jeans; Turner’s own Henley, jewelry. Grooming by Barbara Guillaume.

Photographed by Beau Grealy

But going forward, you’d like a different era?

TURNER Yeah.

BOMER I get that. For me, I needed to just come out from under the cloud of repression with certain characters between Maestro and Fellow Travelers and some other roles I’d done. I feel so blessed, honestly, to have an opportunity to play some of the more nuanced LGBTQ roles at this point, and they are so diverse in how they’re written and how they’re brought to the screen, but if I was going to go in that direction, I needed to play somebody who was a little bit more celebratory of themselves.

TURNER It’s also the director, I think. If Martin Scorsese is like, “I’ve got a film set in 1943 …” 

BOMER (Waves his hand.)

TURNER Yeah, I’m in. Bring it on! 

OWEN “Nah, not doing the ’40s.”

TURNER “Yeah, sorry, Marty. Putting my foot down.” (Laughs.) No, of course not.

What is the stage direction, or perhaps it’s a character description, that you dread seeing?

OYELOWO When a director says to me, “Faster.”

HAMM Or “20 percent faster.”

OYELOWO It feels like we’re directing traffic rather than creating art. 

BOMER The only stage directions Shakespeare gives are “He enters” or “She enters,” and “She exits.” And I think he knew what he was doing. (Laughs.) But anything that’s not essential to the scene, I try to just black out with a Sharpie because there’s so many descriptive things that are un-actable, or not useful or even good to have in your head.

Sure, but there can also be things like, as Jon had on Fargo, “You’re going to be in Calgary, in the dead of winter, and you’re going to have —”

BOMER Well, those are given circumstances. 

TURNER And everyone approaches acting differently. I look at the stage directions, and I’m like, “Why has the writer written that? What does that mean?” And I try to dissect it, maybe I don’t listen to it in the end, but it’ll be in there for a reason, I think.

I was trying to ask about Jon’s prosthetic nipples.

HAMM We all have them, right? We all have prosthetic nipples.

TURNER What’s the nipple story?

HAMM On Fargo, my character had pierced nipples.

BOMER It’s called commitment, Jon. (Laughs.)

HAMM No, my nipples were not pierced, they were prosthetic nipples that were pierced and they were placed over my nipples. And I did not keep them because they looked way too much like pepperoni.

TURNER Did they make a cast of your nipple?

HAMM Yeah.

Styled by Taylor Jacobson. Paul Smith suit, sweater, socks and shoes; Hamm’s own watch, jewelry, glasses. Grooming by Kim Verbeck.

Photographed by Beau Grealy

Wait, did somebody ask if you wanted to keep them?

HAMM Yes. And I said, “No.”

OWEN I saw them in a Hollywood auction.

OYELOWO He has them on right now.

GALITZINE He put in a big bid for them.

HAMM You can say you bought them, Clive, it’s fine. (Laughter.) But to what Callum was saying, the writers have put a lot of thought into these scripts. In that case, Noah [Hawley, the Fargo showrunner] and I had talked about the character, and he wanted him to have this kind of strange, buried, not immediately visible edge, and I was like, “Yeah, that sounds great. Do whatever you want.” And then he wrote that in. 

Another case of be careful what you wish for.

HAMM Yeah, and then you’re in a hot tub in Calgary, naked, with plastic things over your nipples.

Who has an equivalent of being naked in a hot tub with plastic nipples in your careers?

GALITZINE I spent most of Mary & George butt naked, to be honest. I did four sex scenes in one day, and you’re just like, as you’re meeting people, “Hello, nice to meet you. We’re going to be in this position now.”

OWEN Are you doing porn?

GALITZINE Yeah, sir. It’s for my porn project, that’s what we’re all here for, right? (Laughs.) But I kind of love those scenes because you really learn who George is in those moments, how he dominates and manipulates people. So, I actually weirdly feel more comfortable seeing a sex scene in a stage direction than maybe something like, “And he cries.” 

HAMM “A single tear.”

BOMER “While he is dashingly handsome.”

See Also

HAMM Oh, I’ll never get tired of that.

Styled by Warren Alfie Baker. Zegna suit, shirt. Saint Laurent boots. Grooming by Joanna Ford.

Photographed by Beau Grealy

Do the rest of you feel the same way on the intimacy scenes? 

BOMER It depends on how integral it is to the storytelling.

HAMM It’s also gotten so much more adult. The idea of actually putting a person whose job it is to oversee that and make sure everybody is OK is a bit like, “How did we not think of this before?” And then we can have an honest and adult and responsible conversation, and the work is not suffering.

OYELOWO No, weirdly, you can actually push it more.

HAMM Yeah, because everybody’s on the same page.

OYELOWO But also, there’s safety, there’s trust, there’s not that thing where, “Is anything I do going to be misconstrued as inappropriate?” The parameters are set.

A lot of these projects take you to very dark places. Do you have tricks to get yourself out of those worlds at the end of the day?

TURNER My dog, who comes with me to work. Something like Masters was really grueling and draining, and he really helped me a lot, just staying at the hotel and going for a walk on the grounds with him, as a gateway back into, I don’t want to say myself, but …

HAMM Real life.

TURNER Yeah and having something that was normal. I stayed in the accent the whole time, too. I worked with Brett Tyne, the dialect coach, and one of the first meetings we had, she said, “All right, so we’ll go through the script and we’ll make sure you can say all these words.” And I was like, “Well, that’s not what I want to do.” I was like, “We’re going to have to work a lot harder, Brett.” And we did, for two hours a day for two months, and it really helps me just find the person. I do it for everything I do. I did a movie called Tramps, and I went a month earlier to live in Greenpoint, New York, which is now a trendy neighborhood, but it wasn’t a trendy neighborhood. They were like, “Come live in Manhattan.” I said, “No, the character’s from Greenpoint, and he’s Polish, and I’ll go and eat as many pierogies as possible. Hopefully through osmosis, it’ll come into me somehow.” And I don’t know, that’s just my process. I enjoy that. 

HAMM Yeah.

TURNER It’s like you’re a detective. And if you’re lucky enough to go into another subculture, I think, why not? Go for it.

GALITZINE And what you put in is what you get out of it. And everyone is different. I had the really good fortune to work with both Forest Whitaker on The Last King of Scotland, and then Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, and they stayed [in character] the whole time. And you got to see what the price is.

Forest played a Ugandan dictator, which is a tough role to stay in.

OYELOWO On everyone, by the way. 

TURNER He’s phenomenal in that movie.

OYELOWO He is. 

Nicholas and Callum are earlier in their trajectories. I’m hoping the rest of you have some good advice to share — perhaps there’s something you wish you knew about navigating fame and success when you were where they are now?

OWEN I’m not sure about giving anyone advice, but I suppose something that I learned very early on was that it’s all about the timing of your day and your energy. For 20 years, I eat the same thing [on set]. When I’m working, I don’t want interest in good food. And I’m a foodie, but not when I’m working. It needs to be practical and simple. And I sleep every lunchtime. It’s all about the delivering when it’s needed. And when you’re young and a lot of attention comes, you’re being pulled in every direction.

HAMM And you have the energy at that age to do it all.

OWEN Yes, but if you want to be in it for the long haul, you must never forget that the way you use your energy, and the way you pace yourself, is really important.

HAMM The biggest lesson I wish I would have learned earlier was the power of “no.” You’re allowed to say no. At a certain point, as Clive was saying, you’re getting pulled in all these directions. You’re like, “OK, I’ll go over there, and I’ll go over here, and I’ll go over here.” And you can say no, and then everything slows down. Because you’re just doing everything to please everyone. But then you go, “I’m exhausted, and what did I really end up doing?” So, pick and choose the things that you want, and they carry more weight. Lorne Michaels used to tell me, “How can we miss you if you won’t go away?” 

There’s also the fact that Callum’s name is suddenly thrust into the Bond rumor mill, which is something that you spent a good portion of your career addressing, Clive. Any advice there?

OWEN There are worse things to be told than possibly being James Bond, that’s what I’ll say. (Laughs.)

Jon and Matt, you were both on these long-running, career-defining shows. Now, Matt, you’re talking about reviving White Collar — was that an easy yes or did it come with reservations?

BOMER A lot of that is just about the joy of getting to work with that cast again. We were all so close-knit, and we still text at least once a week and we go to dinner all together as a group once a year. When you get a job like that, and everybody can appreciate it because they’re at a point in their career where they’ve been around enough and had enough people tell them no or “You’ll never be this or that,” we all were just really grateful for the experience. And we’ve been through a lot of loss together. The experience of just getting to create with those people again would be the most appealing thing to me.

Jon, if they came to you tomorrow and said, “Hey, we’d like to do more Mad Men,” how would you respond?

HAMM (Shakes his head no.) Part of it is that there’s no story to tell. We ran out of story.

Well, that’s never stopped Hollywood.

HAMM No, it hasn’t. Prequel, sequel, threequel, squeaquel.

OWEN It’s a lot of money, Jon. (Laughs.)

HAMM No, obviously, you never say never. But [the way we ended the series] felt satisfying to me. And I think it was very satisfying to the audience as well. I’m happy with the way that [the show] lives in my life, and I would love it to stay there.

OWEN For $3 million an episode? No? (Laughter.)

What’s left on your collective bucket lists? Is there a dream role?

OYELOWO I would love to do more action.

GALITZINE I know Andrew Scott’s just done it, but I’d love to play a Ripley-esque character, someone who’s so Machiavellian and calculating and dark. I think steering to the darkness is definitely something I want to do.

TURNER I don’t really do theater, but I really want to play Stanley Kowalski.

OYELOWO Oh, I’d go see that.

TURNER I’d get you a ticket.

BOMER You don’t have to comp it, I’ll pay.

HAMM I’d like to be comped. (Laughs.) For me, Tom Stoppard is one of my favorite living writers, and he wrote a play called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. And they made a movie of it, which he directed, which Tim Roth and Gary Oldman were phenomenal in. It was a very, very fun movie. And I co-directed a production of it when I was teaching high school, and I love it. It’s funny, it’s fast-paced, it’s wickedly intelligent, and it’s a two-hander. My dream would be to do it with somebody where we would switch parts every night.

Have you actively tried to secure the rights?

HAMM I talked with a producer about it a long time ago. Someone else owns the rights to it at the moment. They’re trying to maybe put it up, I’m not sure. It’s one of those things that I could play tomorrow, or I could play in 10 years. I just love the language. My friend said to me once, “To be able to do something on Broadway for an extended period of time, you better love what you’re fucking saying because it’s a slog.” And those kinds of words I would love to say.

OK, ending on a lighter note: Who’s ever lied to get a job?

GALITZINE All the time.

BOMER I absolutely figure skate, I play ice hockey. Rollerblade. Yes, years of experience. (Laughs.)

OWEN Horse riding.

GALITZINE Mine’s more physical things, like being able to grow facial hair and look older than I am. I’m like, “Yeah, no, I’ll come in with a little beard.” Yeah, I’ll definitely look like 34 when I come in, not a 20-year-old prepubescent young man, but I’m still waiting for that. (To Bomer) I see some lovely facial hair over here. 

TURNER I’m with you, man. I can’t grow it. Wish I could.

HAMM I had to audition for a movie called Miracle, which was about the 1980 U.S. hockey team. And I love ice hockey. Cannot play ice hockey, however, which is a very specific skill set. I can skate a little bit. I can go forward and backward, I can turn, can’t really stop. But who needs that? That’s what the boards are for. So, I went to audition for this thing and it was absolutely humiliating. I’ve learned now that I should take that skill off my résumé. The movie ended up being great — one of my favorite sports movies of all time.

And you’re not in it?

HAMM And I’m not in it. 

Finally, this is going to sound like a ridiculous question, but I assure you it’s revealing. What’s the most used emoji on your phone?

GALITZINE Oh God, it’s probably the little winky.

OYELOWO Does this say something about you? Because mine is [the facepalm emoji].

HAMM Mine’s either the Groucho glasses guy, or the salute guy. That’s usually how I sign off, a little salute. 

BOMER I use Groucho glasses a lot. I also do mind-blown (pantomimes a head exploding) a lot. And then I use hearts a lot. Different color hearts for different things.

OYELOWO The different colored hearts, you have to be careful about that. I sent the wrong color to the wrong person.

What does the wrong color heart even mean?

OYELOWO Well, if you send the red heart to someone, that’s a lot of love. 

BOMER It’s romantic. 

OYELOWO Yeah, and it was an actor whose work I really love, but I could tell by the silence afterward that I had used the wrong color.

HAMM Oh, you’d overstepped.

OYELOWO Yeah! 

This story first appeared in the June 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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