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Jon Hamm on How the Death of His Parents When He Was Young Could Inspire Him to Return to Teaching

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For Jon Hamm, teachers were more than just how he learned the craft — they were a lifeline during a dark time.

Sitting down Sunday with Willie Geist on NBC’s Sunday Today show, Hamm opens up about his brief tenure as a drama teacher, why the profession can change lives and how losing his parents at a young age might just convince him to give it another shot.

“[Teaching] was always my fallback position if it all went sideways,” Hamm says of his year running a drama class at the Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, which is renowned for its theater program.

Hamm acknowledges the profession’s signifcance — especially for kids who might be missing adult guidance in their own lives.

“Being a parent and being a teacher are parallel lines,” says Hamm, who has a very personal reason to appreciate the connection.

Hamm’s parents divorced when he was 2 years old, eight years before he would lose his mother to colon cancer. After that he lived with his father, who managed a trucking company, who also died a few months ahead of Jon’s 21st birthday. Struck by these losses, Hamm came to acutely understand the necessity of “alternative parents.”

“As we spoke about, growing up without parents for a certain portion of my life and having certain ‘alternative parents’ for a larger portion of my life, I recognize that that’s an important thing to provide for a kid,” says Hamm, 46.

He adds, “It can be the different between, literally, life and death — like a kid who lives a successful life and a kid who punks out in the gutter.”

FROM PEN: Viola Davis Opens Up About Her Parents and Her Impoverished Childhood

As for any immediate plans to return to teaching, Hamm says, “I might still.”

“Jon Hamm Drama,” chimes in Geist. “It would be a popular class!”

Riffs the Emmy-winning former Mad Men star: “Jon Hamm Drama: The Star Wars Years.”

Sunday Today with Willie Geist airs Sundays (7 a.m. ET) on NBC.