Q&A – John Slattery (Roger Sterling)

John Slattery talks about the Emmys and what it’s like to break up with his real-life wife on the small screen.

Q: Congratulations on the Emmys.

A: Thanks a lot. Yeah, it was good. It was looking grim there for a couple of minutes. But [Best Supporting Actor winner] Zeljko Ivanek is a pal of mine, and he’s really a great actor, so I was glad for him. Not as glad for him as I was sad for myself, but almost.

Q: Was there a lot of partying after the Emmys?

A: Uh, yeah. I had to get the hell out of Los Angeles just so I could save my liver. It was either New York or the Betty Ford clinic — I flipped a coin and ended up at home.

Q: Can you relate to Roger’s devil-may-care lifestyle?

A: Totally! I mean, how many New Year’s resolutions have you shattered two weeks later? I think everybody has a bit of that in them. It says a lot about people in foxholes: They’ll go, “Dear God, if you get me out of this, I’ll do anything.” And two weeks later, you’re not carrying your own cigarettes, but you’re bumming them off everyone you see. Roger tries to exercise moderation — sometimes it works, sometimes there’s a moderation in his moderation.

Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of the character?

A: The hardest part is remaining composed, because generally that’s not me. I’m looser and goofier than Roger. At least in the beginning, Matt was sort of going, “Can you stand a little taller, be a little more formal?” I was a little less old-school than I should have been. That was the sort of thing I’d forget, though I’m more accustomed to it now.

Q: Your wife, Talia Balsam, plays Roger’s wife, Mona. How does that affect your on-screen interaction?

A: How is it acting with my wife? She just walked by. It sucks! She’s terrible. It’s great, actually. There’s less acting involved.

TB [in background]: Not on my part, honey.

JS: You bitch [laughs]. Except for the last episode, where she busts in the door to tell Draper a thing or two, you don’t really have to pretend.

Q: What was going through your head during your on-screen breakup?

A: That was just a matter of remembering what I do when she’s pissed off, which is just get the f___ out of the way. Actually, in those scenes, I was just trying to keep a straight face.

Q: This season takes place in the year you were born, 1962.

A: The year I was born. I’m actually acting in a very special way, I feel. The whole season I want to subtly suggest that this was the year I was born and see if anyone in the audience gets it. Birthday acting. So far, you’re the only one who’s picked up on it. People are always asking me what it was like back then. I’m like, “How the f___ old do you think I am?”

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