Interview: ‘Mad Men’ co-star John Slattery

After I watched the “Mad Men” premiere (which I reviewed here), I did a couple of interviews about the events of it that I agreed to run the morning after it aired. One was with creator Matthew Weiner, and this one is with Roger Sterling himself, John Slattery. Slattery and I spoke about Roger’s position in the agency, his reaction to a familiar character’s return to the office, and, in non-spoiler territory, about his experience directing his third episode this season (he and I discussed his directorial debut last season), and how Jon Hamm did when he followed in Slattery’s footsteps and got behind the camera, all coming up just as soon as I buy myself a very beautiful picture of something to look at…

Without Lucky Strike, and with the company in the position it’s in, what value does Roger offer at this point?

I think that’s up for grabs. I think if you look at the first episode, he’s just trying to hang onto his office. Pete Campbell puts up a good argument. He’s the one bringing in all the business. And Roger, despite the fact that he had the account that kept the lights on in the place for years, that’s not the case anymore. It’s “What have you done for me lately?” And there’s no argument against it. Pete’s right. I have to figure out my own way to go around that. I think he is scrambling. I’m trying to figure out what to do.

You have to take his age into account, too. It’s hard to start over, to regroup like that at that point. So that’s basically where he is. I think he’s on unsteady ground.

Well, how worried is he about his position? There’s a sense that he makes that deal with Harry to try to head off bigger trouble with Pete.

His name is on the building, but does he care? That’s the bigger question. You could argue that his nose hasn’t been to the grindstone for the last few years anyway. Maintaining that account was his only job. So he could sail off into the sunset. He has the money, doesn’t need to work. So that’s basically what remains to be seen.

There’s that great moment in the premiere where Roger asks Jane why she doesn’t sing like Megan, and she asks him why he doesn’t look like Don. What exactly happened to that relationship in the last four years?

I will quote someone later in the season who says, “You know what happiness is? Happiness is the moment before you want more happiness.” Happiness only lasts so long.

So is this something that Don should be worrying about down the line with Megan?

I don’t want to go that far. If you look what’s happened before, and what these characters have come through. It’s interesting; the whole season is about change. Obviously, we’re getting into this iconic period of the ’60s, and change is all around them, and who decides to go with the flow and who decides to dig their feet in and try to remain who they are.