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Talia Balsam plays Roger Sterling’s long-suffering wife Mona, and she also happens to be the real-life wife of John Slattery, the actor who plays Roger. In an exclusive interview with AMCtv.com, she discusses the scene where Mona storms into Don’s office at the end of “Six Month Leave,” as well as her take on Mona’s fashion sense.
Q: The scene where Mona reveals that Roger is leaving her felt very explosive — did you want to play it in a very specific way?
A: There’s a tone for that show. In another kind of show, that scene could have been more histrionic, tearful. In a scene like that — I know it was about two in the morning when I did it — the work in it for me was making sure that it wasn’t over the top. I think we can all imagine the consequences of someone’s husband doing that kind of thing and the repercussions of it — aside from the emotions. For a woman of that status to be divorced and to not have a husband, the tendency would be to just melt down — but I think her breaking down in an office wouldn’t be something she’d want someone to see. Maybe she leaves that scene and goes to her car and has a meltdown.
Q: Your husband [John Slattery] has been asked this question — what’s your take on playing the on-screen spouse of your real-life spouse?
A: I think it’s been great. Aside from him being my husband, I just
think he’s a wonderful actor. It certainly is easier on a lot of
levels. Obviously these two people have had some experience with each
other, so that takes the getting-to-know-you out of it. We were saying
in the first scene we ever did last year [in "Ladies Room"] that I
don’t think we ever looked at each other like married people! There are
some things that make it harder. Our lives in real life are very, very
different than those two, so it does require you to use your
imagination. I hope to do more with him
Q: Can you describe Mona’s fashion sense to me?
A: I feel it’s a bit of a work in progress. If you notice, I have
different hairdos in almost every scene. Because Mona probably looks at
European magazines, I’m hoping that if I’m back on, she has a little
more fashion-forward or European sense to her wardrobe, as elegant as I
think she is. But [costume designer] Janie Bryant is so brilliant that
I’m in good hands. It’s really a relief because that’s not always the
Q: Your father, Martin Balsam, was an Oscar- and Tony-winning actor. Do you remember his best supporting actor Oscar win for A Thousand Clowns (1965)?
A: I was sitting in my bed in California — I remember that very
vividly — and the two ugly troll dolls on my television set. I’m sure
at the time I didn’t know what the award was, but I knew it was
something important because I was allowed to stay up. I have his Oscar
in my house now.