In his latest TV series, Mad Men alum John Slattery, 58, plays a Silicon Valley pioneer who races to stop the very AI he created, in Fox's new thriller Next. We catch up with the actor about his latest project, why he doesn't have Alexa in his house and how he's embraced the realities of aging — including that incredible head of gray hair.
Why we should be afraid of what this new show is about
It's scary because of all the real-world applications of a potential artificial intelligence. I think the jumping off point is that we created an artificial intelligence that is potentially able to improve itself to the degree that, if left unchecked, it will be the smartest thing in the world in 10 days. And that sort of premise is what makes it a thriller. The electronics and the fridge are watching you, your Alexa is talking to your kid — and that's scary. We have all these smart devices in our pocket, these supercomputers, and who knows what the practical consequences of all that could be?
Drawing the line at Alexa and Siri
We don't have an Alexa or Siri. I hear my brother on the phone talking to his Siri and I think, “Yeah, no. I don't think I want one of those.” We screened the [Next] pilot one day for the crew, and then we gave them all Alexas for Christmas — and they all regifted them. They were, like, “No, I don't want that thing in my house.”
His relationship with tech?
It's complicated. All these things that are supposed to make your life less complicated make them more complicated. Whether it's dividing you from someone else, or how many passwords do you have to keep in your head. The ripples are in there all the time. I think they mess with people's relationships, with young people trying to get together and figure out who they are.
What texting has taken from us
I was saying this to my [21-year-old] kid: “We used to hang on every breath on the telephone. You'd say something you thought was funny and it wouldn't go over, and you think, She hates me.” You're so vulnerable. And now with texting, you get to create an identity that isn't necessarily you. It's an avatar. You think of something clever in your head. You've got time to rehearse something in your head, see what it looks like.