'Mad Men's' Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss
Cannes' first-timers discuss meeting international buyersMore MIPCOM coverage
CANNES -- "Mad Men" stars Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss blew into town on a blustery rain-strewn day in Cannes to showcase the new season to international buyers. The duo fronted a screening of the show at the inaugural MIPCOM Red Carpet screenings at the Palais du Festivals Monday night, and will meet global buyers through the week as well as supporting Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer, who receives the MIPCOM 2010 personality of the year award at a black-tie dinner here Wednesday night. Hollywood Reporter European Television Editor Mimi Turner caught up with the pair -- on their first visit to Cannes -- at a suite at the world-famous Martinez.
THR's Mimi Turner: "Mad Men" is in over 120 countries now. How does the experience of meeting buyers and international broadcasters inform your experience of working on the show?
Jon Hamm: Honestly, it's tremendously surprising and very humbling. But it's also a tremendous validation of something that we are very proud of. We are very excited that people are responding to what is after all a very specific show about a very particular part of American history and a particular part of New York City. The fact that it resonates in Scandinavia and Germany and England and Australia and New Zealand and is working there is very gratifying.
Elisabeth Moss: There's a very universal element to it. The things the characters are going through, the people that they are, their secrets and problems and relationships are all universal no matter what decade it is and what country it is. I think that's ultimately what has carried the show for four seasons. People not only responding to the look and setting and feel but also learning to identify with a set of people.
THR: How do you find doing going out and meeting buyers and doing the whole sales pitch
EM: I think I've always felt that it's so nice to talk about something that you really like. Sometimes you have to go out and promote something that you would really rather than no-one see. But it has been really nice for us for the past four years we've gotten to really endorse it with our hearts because we think its really good.
THR: Jon, do you think it is a big part of the business now?
JH: Yes and no. Some people are very comfortable with it and some people are really very shy and they find it very hard to talk about themselves in any capacity. It's not necessarily part of the job, but it certainly gets your show out to more people so its certainly helpful to have that capacity. It's also way better when you're excited about it and they aren't asking you questions about why you did this terrible show. It feels good when people come up say "I like what you do." It's a little harder when people come up and are more aggressive or confrontational.
THR: Did the show feel completely unusual in terms of the depths of the character portraits.
JH: I'm not comparing our show to this but there's a reason that Shakespeare and Ibsen and Shaw have given us stories that resonated for hundreds of years. They're not just stories about Swedish people or Elizabethan people, they are universal stories about people. What I think our show has – which is not necessarily new but is a little bit out of the box – is very well drawn characters that people engage with and want to see what happens next. They are human if you are living in Sri Lanka, in Asia, or Denmark or the South of France.
THR: Has "Mad Men" raised the bar in the way that characters on U.S. television can be drawn in all sorts of shades of gray?
EM: I think there have been shows that came before us that started to raise the bar and raise the IQ and really expanded on the writing. But we landed in a really lucky place at the right time, just when there was a bit of a void. When we first started there was an idea it might be too smart for people or too slow or vague or subtle. But I've seen that happen before on "The West Wing" - everybody thought it was going to be too smart, too wordy, too fast - and that nobody was going to get it or watch it. But I think people underestimate audiences and its happened time and time again that when you raise the bar and you do something smart people watch it.
JH: It also demands an incredible amount of support from a network. You need to give a show like this time to breathe and time to find and audience and time to soak in. The easiest thing to do with something like "The Sopranos" would have been to put it in a "gangster Scorsese re-do" box, but when people started watching it and saw what David Chase was trying to do they realized it was something much deeper.
If you don't have the support of the network which isn't expecting some sort of giant return immediately – which is what a lot of networks expect, honestly – then it is going to be difficult. But I do think there is room for that now. There are nine thousand cable channels now and I think there's room on a pew for something a little out of the box.
THR: Do you worry about being typecast in future roles?
EM: This show has been such an incredible opportunity and opened so many doors that I don't care if people think I'm Peggy - it has worked out very well for me. It's my job as an actor to make sure I'm not put in that box though, it's nobody else's job though.
JH: Like most of the cast of our show, we are relatively unknown – this is certainly the first wide-ranging exposure most of us had had to the general population. It's the job of an actor to prove you can do other things, but this show has rewarded us with so many opportunities to do so many things – whether it's Lizzie [Moss] doing Broadway or me being able to do "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live" or January and Christina and January and John Slattery - everyone has benefited from this show.
To me, the downside of being maybe typecast in something that people are used to seeing you in is greatly offset by the upside of getting so many opportunities because people genuinely respond to what you are doing.