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Mad Men actors forced to smoke herbal cigarettes


Smoking is a sign of style, élan and being a man’s man, the admen on Mad Men believe — just as their real-life counterparts who worked at Madison Avenue ad agencies in the early 1960s did. Lucky Strike was Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s most valued client, after all.

There’s just one catch: Smoking is not cool, we now know in 2012.

Furthermore, California state law prohibits smoking indoors. That can be a problem for Mad Men, since the Emmy Award-winning AMC drama is based at L.A. Center Studios in downtown Los Angeles.

Jon Hamm, John Slattery and the other Mad Men actors — and actresses — are reduced to smoking herbal cigarettes instead, during filming. And while the stand-in cigarettes may not contain nicotine per se, they are still foul. Despite their benign, seemingly harmless handle, “herbal” cigarettes also produce tar, carbon monoxide and other noxious, carcinogenic value-added toxins.

“Somebody actually watched the pilot and counted the amount of cigarettes I smoked in the pilot,” Hamm recalled earlier this year at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. “It was 74 or some ridiculous number like that.

“You have to remember, though, that shooting a scene is not shooting one take of a scene. It’s four or five setups, and three or four takes on each setup. So every time you see me light a cigarette, I do it five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 times.

“You can hear from my voice that it’s a debilitating endeavour. We’re going for verisimilitude, though. People did smoke. My father smoked indoors, in the car, in the summertime, with the windows up. It was a part of life. And it creates a mood on the show.

“I’ve read where certain people watch the show and then they’re like, ‘All I want to do is smoke a cigarette and have a drink.’ Knock yourself out. Just don’t make a habit of it.”

Hamm is not one of those actors who shuns the DVD, once it’s out. He watches himself on camera, for pointers on what he might do differently in future.

“Being an actor is a wonderful exercise in self-doubt and regret, especially when you have to do things like (smoke),” Hamm said. “It is fun to revisit. I’m a fan of the show, I love watching it. I see things in this show when I re-watch it, for the DVD commentary, that, for whatever reason I didn’t see on the day. I get to see scenes I wasn’t in, and watch the other wonderful actors perform.

“I am constantly kicking myself, thinking that I should have done something better, that I could have done this a different way or that a different way. Part of it is that we move at such an incredibly fast pace when we make the show, and you’re so in it and so focused and micro-focused on your own work, you lose sight of other things that are going on around you. I’m no different than most actors. I’m constantly revelling in self-doubt.”

Approximately one million Canadians will die over the next 20 years as a direct result of smoking and second-hand smoke, if current rates of tobacco use continue.
(Makomaski Illing & Kaiserman, 2004)
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