Before 2007, Jon Hamm was one of a horde of impossibly handsome actors in Hollywood who’d achieved some success in independent movies and guest and series like The Division and Providence. He was far from a household name.

Then he was cast as a tortured Madison Avenue ad man in a little AMC drama, and almost everything changed overnight. Seven protracted, award-laden seasons later, Mad Men begins signing off with its final seven, Disco Era episodes this Sunday (10/9c), and Hamm closes the book on his iconic role.

As the beginning of the end nears, we asked about life as Don Draper and the next chapter.

“I am so pleased to participate in a show that had so many weird moments. Matthew and his writing staff never shied away from craziness and were never afraid to move on to the edges of the narrative rather than right down the middle.”

Did you ever imagine Mad Men would become such a phenomenon?
No, I certainly didn’t expect I’d be having this experience for nine years. There’s no version of it that I can imagine in my mind that would equal what actually happened, not only creatively and what we got to do and what I got to do in playing this person, but tangentially, this amazing group of people that I got to get to know.

What kind of note will the show go out on?
Well, I can basically tell you nothing. The show means so much to me and these people mean so much to me, and these characters mean so much to me. So it was pleasing to have a satisfying ending. It is a story. It has to end.  If there is no end to the story, you never get to go to bed.

What will you miss most?
All of it. There’s no one thing. It’s become for better and worse, but mostly better, a significant part of my life. There’s not a lot of jobs you can point to, at least in our world, that have that impact. At the end of the day, this experience has been unequivocally wonderful, and I’ll miss it.

Did you take any souvenirs from the set, anything from wardrobe?
No. Most of it was rented, so if I had taken it, I would have literally been stealing. I took nothing from the set other than memories, and they were delightful at that.

Do you remember your audition for the show?
I certainly do. It was in Santa Monica in February of 2006. I had to drive from Los Feliz to Santa Monica in the rain. And anybody who lives in L.A. knows that it is a disaster to get to Santa Monica from Los Feliz in the best conditions. So it took about two and a half hours to get there. It was in this weird place, literally me and this 17-year-old, who was there to audition for a commercial. So it was a very strange experience. That was the first audition, with the casting director. It was the first of seven auditions. I knew it went well.

Do you have a favorite, quintessential Mad Men episode?
The whole foundation of the show is in the pilot. Not only for Don, but for Peggy and Christina and Roger and Pete. All of our characters. It’s all in the pilot.

What other moments were the weirdest and most memorable?
There’s a million of them. A dude got his foot run over by a lawn mower.  There are so many weird memories. I am so pleased that we got to participate in a show that had so many weird moments. Matthew and his writing staff have never shied away from craziness and were never afraid to move on to the edges of the narrative rather than right down the middle.

How do you move on from an iconic role like this?
Everybody wants to identify you as that particular character. But if you just bang on the same piano key over and over again, it gets boring, not just for yourself, but for the audience. I want to work with different people and do different things.

Have you and Jennifer [Westfeldt] discussed your next move?
Jenn and I have been together for 17 years now, and everything that happens in our lives gets run by the other. So having a partner that is incredibly supportive of you is wonderfully helpful. The day after we wrapped, I flew to New York and Jen and I watched fireworks in New York City and then we went to Martha’s Vineyard for two weeks to decompress. That was really nice.

Photo by Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC