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9 Quick Questions for John Slattery

Veteran actor is still learning to listen and react

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Corey Nickols/Contour by Getty Images

Veteran actor John Slattery, 60, is most recognized as Roger Sterling from the popular TV series Mad Men, a role that earned him four Emmy nominations. But his impressive career also includes turns on the big screen in blockbuster Marvel movies such as Avengers: Endgame, the Broadway shows Rabbit Hole and The Front Page and additional small screen hits including ABC’s Desperate Housewives and HBO’s Veep. Slattery’s latest TV role is on the Paramount + hit series, The Good Fight.

You joined The Good Fight in its sixth (and final) season. What was it like being a newcomer on the set?

All the actors know the drill. They know their characters so well that it gives you a leg up on just being reactive. Most of my scenes are with Christine Baranski, who’s obviously great, and she also has been playing this character for 13 years in two different shows [The Good Fight was a spinoff of CBS’s The Good Wife] … so I'm trying to figure out who I’m playing. As they used to say in acting class, “Leave yourself alone, and pay attention to the other person.” React and listen and react and talk. And then you kind of develop a rapport.

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Had you worked with Christine prior to The Good Fight?

No. We have met, and we have a lot of mutual friends and experiences because we’ve both done a lot of theater and lived in New York for a long time, so we had tons to chat about in between takes in the beginning and kind of get to know each other. She is just also a warm and welcoming person. All that helps, because first days, first weeks, you’re just a little unsure.

You also recently worked with your Mad Men colleague Jon Hamm in the Confess, Fletch movie [a sequel to the 1985 original starring Chevy Chase]. How was that reunion?

Very fun. We see each other from time to time. He’s very busy obviously. It was brief. We shot in Massachusetts, which is where I’m from, so that was very fun. We got to shoot those scenes and have dinner and hang out for a little bit.

How is Hamm’s Fletch character different from Chase’s?

I didn’t go back and watch the original as any reference or anything because I knew that was the last thing they’d want to do was kind of a copycat. Hats off to Chevy Chase for being one of the great comedians, but his style was his own. That was what made him so funny and original, on SNL [Saturday Night Live] and forward. He had a thing that no one else had. So [Hamm’s Fletch] is Jon Hamm style — less slapstick and a little more underplayed, maybe drier. It’s an interesting tone. Tone is always the hardest thing to find in a movie. 

spinner image john slattery with cigarette in hand grabbing jon hamm's face in still from mad men
John Slattery played ad executive Roger Sterling alongside Jon Hamm in the hit show "Mad Men."
Photo: Justina Mintz/AMC; Courtesy: Everett Collection

You turned 60 back in August. Any parties?

I had a little thing.

How are you feeling about that number?

It’s sort of mixed. Look, I’m glad to be healthy and alive, and I have a great life. I’m just not sure. Sixty made more of an impact than 50 or 40, and those are milestones, too. People have trouble with their 40th and their 50th, [but] those didn't bother me. This one gave me a little bit of a pause. I woke up and thought, “In 20 years I'll be 80.” It definitely started me thinking.

Are you still spending time surfing?

I am when I can. It wasn’t the best summer on the East Coast for waves as opposed to the West Coast, where I think they had an all-time best summer season. When [the waves are] out there, I try to get out.

Shark attacks have been making headlines. Do you ever worry about sharks while surfing?

Not until something hits your foot or you see something out in the distance and you wonder, “Is that a shark?” You see dolphins and whales off in the distance, but I haven't had any, knock on wood, intimate experiences with sharks. … The good thing about surfing is it puts you in the present and you’re looking for a wave, and when one is coming, it’s catching it and surfing it well. It keeps you right in the moment.

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You’ve played Howard Stark in several Marvel movies. If you could have a superpower, which would you want?

It would be good to be able to be any age — to be a 25-year-old man, to be a 35-year-old man — that might be handy, right? You could be a baby, an old man, change as suits the moment. That's what everybody wants … to be able to go back to the beginning but with all the knowledge you have now.

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