Blanketing mass and social media this week is the report that Mad Men actor Jon Hamm recently finished rehab for alcohol addiction. Hamm has asked for “privacy and sensitivity going forward”. However, the pinnacle of the current discourse is that playing a character causes an actor takes on the difficulties and traits of that character in their “real” non-acting lives. The idea that someone playing an alcoholic suddenly becomes an alcoholic is naïve as well as damaging to the public’s understanding of the complex roots of addictions.
Unfortunately, this parallel drawing is gaining ground at the water cooler and even in media markets that should know better. Jon Hamm plays alcoholic Don Draper, and he becomes an alcoholic himself. James Gandolfini the actor, and Tony Soprano, the character, both fighting inner demons and anxiety. These are just some of the comparisons being made.
What made these actors so excellent in their roles may well have been a personal understanding of the characters. However, did this turn them into their characters? Not likely.
Rehab and the recovery process are challenging. Privacy, support and respectful treatment is essential. James Hamm, like anyone struggling with an addiction asked for privacy and understanding. Asking for sensitivity and privacy is the only fact presented, yet page after tweet after facebook comment has speculatively dissected Hamm’s 30 day stay in rehab beyond sensitivity or privacy. Does he deserve privacy less because he is a public figure? Is the public exempted from providing support to the rich and famous?
Share your thoughts and comments, let’s get a positive, honest and factual dialogue going!