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 himselfâ€”and learned not to call him that.
Youâ€™ve been nominated for a supporting actor Emmy three years running but still havenâ€™t won. Whatâ€™s that been like?
You sit there and you start to get nervous, thinking,Â What am I gonna say?Â And then, of course, three years in a row I havenâ€™t had to say anything. At this point Iâ€™d rather be nervous and have to say something.
So next year youâ€™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 couldnâ€™t find it. I wanted to yell out, â€śAl, itâ€™s in your right pocket!â€ť
I know youâ€™re from the Boston suburbs â€” 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 havenâ€™t spent a summer in Scituate in the past five years, which is too bad because I really like it there.
Rogerâ€™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 Iâ€™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, thereâ€™s a running commentary.
I read that you hate being called a â€śsilver fox.â€ť Is that true?
Itâ€™s not that I hate it; itâ€™s just embarrassing. I get shit for it all the time. My family doesnâ€™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, â€śHow do you feel that they made an action figure out of your character?â€ť I said, â€śWell, it isnâ€™t an action figure; itâ€™s a Barbie doll.â€ť I have friends who have action figures, and itâ€™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,Â Yeah, I can really learn something from everybody in this process.Â 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 thatâ€™s gotten you so much attention?
If someone told me 20 years ago, â€śYouâ€™ll kick around for this long, and then youâ€™ll get a part that will probably be the best job youâ€™ve ever had,â€ť I donâ€™t know what I would have said. If I were smart, I would have said, â€śThatâ€™s the best way for it to happen.â€ť
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, Iâ€™m not gonna complain about that.
Is there anything you can tell us about the finale? Anyoneâ€™s foot going to get run over by a tractor this year?
I canâ€™t tell you anything because Iâ€™d lose my job. Matt Weiner is pretty adamant about all of us remaining closed-lipped about what happens. Itâ€™s not dull; Iâ€™ll say that.
He seems like heâ€™d be sort of tough.
Well, he has a really specific vision in his head. He wants whatâ€™s in his head to end up on the screen, which is difficult, given all the hands that get hold of it in between. [In the episodes I directed], you know, you think youâ€™re doing something, you think youâ€™re shooting it a certain way, and then all of a sudden the camera moves a little bit or the frame is different than you thought or you didnâ€™t have time to get a shot that you needed. Getting that pure vision in his head to the screen, he has to overcome a lot of impediments along the way.
When you were directing, did anything you saw surprise you? Experiencing everything from a different angle, maybe? I think the surprise was how fast the time goes. The schedule is very short; itâ€™s eight days. So we shoot an episode in eight days and itâ€™s a lot of material that needs to be done in a very specific way. You really need to be prepared â€” and then you also need to be prepared for all those plans to go out the window and to have to improvise at the last minute. You know, itâ€™s 1965, so you canâ€™t look in a certain direction because you see a building that wasnâ€™t there in 1965 or a telephone poll, or you know, traffic, or whatever the case may be.
Huh, thatâ€™s interesting.
Yeah, itâ€™s definitely a different experience with how fast the clock goes. You know, you can sit there as an actor and go, â€śGod, will this day ever end?â€ť You feel like it takes forever, and meanwhile, the director whoâ€™s standing next to you is experiencing it in a completely different way.
One last question: Do you feel like your Boston roots come out in your acting in any way?
You mean a nice, sarcastic Boston delivery? You know, I think itâ€™s actually an untapped mine of comedy. Thereâ€™s a particular kind of Boston spin. So many people from Boston that I know, particularly my family, are pretty adept at knocking you down a peg in a very specific and succinct way. I think itâ€™s a particular skill that people from Boson have, which I admire.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2010/10/hubbub-john-slattery-bonus-interview/