LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jon Hamm’s new TV role takes him far from the stylish 1960s Madison Avenue setting of “Mad Men” to a dreary, isolated and bloody hospital in a small Russian village during the 1917 revolution.
The backdrop for “A Young Doctor’s Notebook,” a four-episode series that makes its U.S. debut on Wednesday on the Ovation cable network, is not a typical one for television, and the show does not fit neatly into a particular genre. Hamm said he liked the project for both of those reasons.
“It’s dark, and yet it’s quite comic,” Hamm told Reuters. “It’s fantastical in many ways, and macabre in many ways.”
“It’s very British,” he added. “That’s probably the best way to say it. I like that they take risks over there.”
“Young Doctor’s Notebook” was filmed in London and broadcast in 2012 on British network Sky Arts. Ovation, a cable network available in about 50 million U.S. homes, picked up U.S. rights for the first season.
Hamm, best known for his Emmy-nominated role as the brilliant-yet-troubled ad man Don Draper in “Mad Men,” stars as the older version of the doctor, a figure who advises and taunts his younger self, an overwhelmed recent graduate played by “Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe.
The show is based on a collection of short stories by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov. Radcliffe and Hamm are both fans of Bulgakov’s writing.
In the TV series, the character Hamm plays is addicted to morphine and under investigation by the Soviet secret police. He finds a notebook filled with writings about his experiences 17 years earlier that he uses to narrate the story of his younger self.
Radcliffe portrays the fresh Moscow medical school graduate sent to tend patients at the small, rural hospital. Hamm’s character appears to coach him - or to smirk at his naivete. The older and younger selves played by Hamm and Radcliffe appear in several scenes together, including one in a bathtub.
The younger doctor panics at having to pull a tooth or amputate a limb, with blood spattering by the buckets around him. While the show has some “gruesome horror elements,” Hamm said, “we hope it has some emotional resonance” as a story about “a guy dealing with his demons.”
Looking ahead, Hamm is preparing to film the final season of “Mad Men,” which will run on the AMC cable network in two parts in 2014 and 2015. He said he has not fully mapped out his career plans beyond “Mad Men.”
Hamm will appear in a second season of “Young Doctor’s Notebook.” In May, he will star on the big screen in the Walt Disney Co movie “Million Dollar Arm” in which he plays a sports agent who stages a contest in India to find cricket players who he can turn into Major League Baseball stars.
One role Hamm is not expecting to play is superhero. “As has been pointed out by quite a few people on the Internet, I’m not quite built like a superhero,” he said.
“If there is a superhero whose super ability is sort of sitting on a couch, then maybe,” he joked. “Like he’s really good at sitting on the couch, like he’s Couch Man! Maybe I could do that.”
Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Will Dunham