HUBBUB: John Slattery

The actor’s character on AMC’s Mad Men, Roger Sterling, is notorious for his chauvinistic zingers. It turns out that off set, the Boston native is just as often a target of barbs, courtesy of his three sisters (blame the hair). On the eve of Mad Men’s October 17 season finale, we caught up with the silver fox himself — and learned not to call him that.

By Jason Schwartz | Boston Magazine |

You’ve been nominated for a supporting actor Emmy three years running but still haven’t won. What’s that been like? You sit there and you start to get nervous, thinking, What am I gonna say? And then, of course, three years in a row I haven’t had to say anything. At this point I’d rather be nervous and have to say something.

[sidebar]So next year you’ll have your speech in your breast pocket, right? I was watching Al Pacino, who was sitting next to me. I think he was writing out a list of names in anticipation of winning, and then he put it in his pocket. When he got up onstage, he couldn’t find it. I wanted to yell out, “Al, it’s in your right pocket!”

I know you’re from the Boston suburbs — where exactly? I grew up in Newton, and then we moved to Wellesley. I make it back a lot, actually. My parents are in Newton; two of my sisters have places in Scituate. We shoot during the summer, so I haven’t spent a summer in Scituate in the past five years, which is too bad because I really like it there.

Roger’s such a misogynist on the show. Do you get a lot of flak from your sisters? Not so much that, but I get a lot of comments on what I’m wearing or what my hair looks like. My sister said I looked like a triceratops at the Emmys because my hair was sticking up all over the place. Basically, there’s a running commentary.

I read that you hate being called a “silver fox.” Is that true? It’s not that I hate it; it’s just embarrassing. I get shit for it all the time. My family doesn’t let you get away with anything, and all that silver fox stuff is fodder for them.

I was going to ask you about the Roger Sterling doll, but I assume that goes in the same category. Somebody asked me, “How do you feel that they made an action figure out of your character?” I said, “Well, it isn’t an action figure; it’s a Barbie doll.” I have friends who have action figures, and it’s not the same. This is definitely a Barbie doll.

You directed a couple episodes this season. Had you done that before? No, I had it in my head, but I never really found the right situation. And then I got into this, and saw how good everybody was at their jobs. I thought, Yeah, I can really learn something from everybody in this process. So I threw my hat in. Ultimately, it was a leap of faith by [series creator] Matt Weiner.

How did you do? I think the first episode I directed was good enough for him to say yes the second time.
After such a long acting career, how does it feel to have landed a role that’s gotten you so much attention? If someone told me 20 years ago, “You’ll kick around for this long, and then you’ll get a part that will probably be the best job you’ve ever had,” I don’t know what I would have said. If I were smart, I would have said, “That’s the best way for it to happen.”

I imagine you get recognized a lot more these days. A little bit more.

A little bit? I bet you get a bad martini joke every time you walk into a bar. Well, I do get sent drinks more than I used to. But, you know, I’m not gonna complain about that.

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