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In this interview, John Slattery, (Roger Sterling on AMC’s Mad Men) compares directing to football, and describes the strangest thing he’s eaten at a dinner party.
Q: Roger seems to have reached a turning point. What do you think he’s learned about himself?
A: One thing I think he’s learned is that it’s too soon to give up on life…socially and romantically, and as far as work goes too. He lost his account. It was a big blow to him and…he had to figure out how to get his feet back under him, and then that led to the experience of him taking LSD. And I think that altered his consciousness a little bit.
Q: What was it like to shoot the LSD scenes?
A: We shot the bathtub scene two different times. I think it started out with something Matthew Weiner didn’t like about the wallpaper or some part of the set, and he said as long as we’re going to reshoot this, we should think about it differently. We decided that it’s a different kind of change of consciousness. It isn’t like you had too many drinks or you smoked a lot of pot or something. You’re actually seemingly lucid. It’s just that you’re having this experience that’s going all over the place.
Q: Fans are still talking about seeing your rear end in last season’s finale. Are you surprised by the reaction?
A: I think it was funny storytelling and surprising… My family, nothing really gets them at this point. They’re used to me embarrassing them in all kinds of ways.
Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been offered at a dinner party?
A: I was at a dinner party, and I realized that I had been eating pigeon the whole time. We ate down to the pile of wings and then all these pigeon’s heads were on the plate. This was in Hong Kong and…they’re speaking in Chinese and then I realized — oh, it’s pigeon. And they kept all the heads upright on the bottom of the plate.
VIDEO: Inside Episode 606, “For Immediate Release”
Q: You’re directing two more episodes this season. How have you grown as a director?
A: The playing field has slowed a little bit. They say that with an NFL quarterback, when you first get out there, it’s a blur. And then when you get more experienced, it slows down a little bit, and you realize you have an extra second here and there. It’s a little bit like that, where it’s not all just a blur anymore and I’m not operating with that blanket anxiety that I’m going to screw something up.
Q: What’s been your favorite episode to direct?
A: I’ve had favorite scenes… I like the image of Peggy and Pete in the first episode I did, called “The Rejected.” She’s leaving and getting in the elevator, and our music supervisor set up this great music to play under it, and Pete’s looking at her between this glass door and he’s sort of growing older and she’s hooked up with a younger crowd and is almost getting younger.
Q: Roger’s rivalry with Pete has been an undercurrent through the seasons. How do you get just the right amount of tension in your scenes together?
A: They are written so differently, and they rub up against each other just naturally… The way that Roger can be fast and loose and can rely on his charm, and Pete doesn’t have the facility with people. They’re just completely different people, different generations, and there’s probably not a hell of a lot of respect.
Q: Do you and Vincent joke about the rivalry off-screen?
A: Vincent Kartheiser is one of my favorite people. The episodes I’ve directed, he’s had a lot to do and he’s just a great guy to work with. He’s so open to trying anything.
Q: Don appears in Roger’s hallucinations. If Jon Hamm appeared to you in your dreams, what would he say?
A: He’d say, “Wake up, dummy!” He’d say something I hadn’t thought of, like usual, something smarter that what I’d come up with, that’s for sure.
Q: You’ll be in the new episodes of Arrested Development… Do you think Roger’s one-liners helped you get the part?
A: Definitely! Matt Weiner, I should give him my check… I walked onto their show and they move really fast. There’s like three cameras going as soon as you walk in the door, and they’re all making it up as they go along… But you just have to realize that they all are really good at what they do over there. So they will either cut it out or they’ll make it look funny to work.