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Letting the man in 'Mad Men' go

Whatever happens to Don Draper this final season, here’s hoping Jon Hamm escapes.

IT'S TEMPTING to suggest Jon Hamm may already have done what he most needed to do to move on from Don Draper, a character whose passage through the '60s may not have been conducive to living into his 60s.

But I've never confused Hamm with Draper and when the "Mad Men" star met with reporters in January to talk about the AMC drama's final seven episodes, we didn't know he'd be checking into a rehab facility the following month for treatment of what was described by his reps as "alcohol addiction."

So I asked instead about Bryan Cranston, another actor whose AMC character - "Breaking Bad's" Walter White - needed to be left behind if the actor who played him was going to have a chance of continuing a meaningful life of let's-pretend.

One of Cranston's first stops: Broadway, where his Lyndon B. Johnson in "All the Way" added a Tony Award to his four Emmys.

"Bryan is obviously a wonderful actor and a wonderful guy as well. And [he's] done what I think we can all take a lesson from, and I watched [the late "Sopranos" star] Jimmy Gandolfini do as well - God bless him - which is . . . move on from the character," Hamm said.

"Everybody wants to to identify you as that particular character, but as actors, if you just want to bang on the same piano key over and over and over again, it gets boring. Not only to yourself, but I think for the audience."

Anyone who's seen Hamm in "30 Rock," on "Saturday Night Live," or in Netflix's new "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" knows he's playing with a full keyboard, and I'd love to see him do the reverse of Cranston - who was a three-time nominee as a sitcom dad in "Malcolm in the Middle" before clicking with Emmy voters as a meth dealer - and consider a comedy.

When another reporter asked if he'd consider another series, Hamm quipped, "You've got something in mind? You want to write it for me? I'm open."

As open, at least, as fans will let him be.

Because "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner no doubt meant it as a compliment, not a curse, when he replied to a question about managing the show's legacy into the future, by saying, "Jon Hamm is forever going to be the face of 'Mad Men' and that is firmly on his shoulders to represent it in the future."