'Mad Men' Premiere: John Slattery On Roger's Grief, His Lovechild With Joan And 'Arrested Development'

04/08/2013 10:08 am ET

Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you have not yet seen the Season 6 premiere of AMC's "Mad Men," titled "The Doorway."

The "Mad Men" Season 6 premiere was preoccupied with death; from Don's (Jon Hamm) "suicidal" Sheraton ad campaign to the loss of Roger's (John Slattery) mother -- and his shoe shine guy -- an air of melancholy permeated "The Doorway."

Before the episode aired, The Huffington Post talked to John Slattery about Roger's emotional crisis this season, his attempts to engage with the emerging youth culture of the late '60s, his tumultuous relationship with Joan (Christina Hendricks) and many other things he couldn't talk about.

Like Don, Roger's very much in crisis in the premiere after the loss of his mother ...
Yeah ... and he denies throughout the episode that he feels anything. Even to the shrink. What does he say? "How many times do I have to tell you I don’t feel anything?" And obviously, it’s not the death of a shoe shine guy that sets him off. But on the other hand, it explains a lot about Roger’s carriage that his mother "loved him in some completely pointless way," which is all you could hope for -- that unconditional love of your mother or your father. That sort of explains a lot of the confidence with which he moves through the world, and [it's] a crisis obviously because then he feels lost, despite the fact that he says he doesn’t.

His experiences with LSD have certainly spawned a lot of changes within the character. Is that going to continue this season? Is he still preoccupied with that search for deeper meaning?
Well, I think by virtue of the fact that he’s in therapy, which he referred to in the first season as "this year’s candy pink stove," it's an indication that he's willing to look elsewhere. I’ve always thought that he was practical enough to see that something isn’t working and try to fix it ... in his own way. Sometimes it’s acting out inside his marriage or sleeping with somebody outside, to try to get a thrill. But I think in this case, because of that LSD insight, that maybe -- although it may not be lasting -- he came to terms with his wife, the fact that their marriage wasn’t working, and so that went away. So yeah, I think he is searching for something. I don’t know what.

Will that be manifested in his relationships this year?
Well, I can’t really give you the details of it. But I think it's safe to say that there’s never been anything that any of these characters have done on this thing that isn’t informed by something that they’ve gone through, when forced to explain it, if necessary.

What are his thoughts on Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) leaving the agency? Is that something that troubles him?
I don’t think he concerns himself with the day-to-day aspects of the creative. If you said, "Who did the creative on this?" He might know. I think he knows that Ginsberg [Ben Feldman] is lightning in a bottle; I think he knows how smart he is. But I don’t know. I think one of the things he might be searching for is a renewed interest in work. So, I’m not sure whether the day-to-day of Peggy leaving concerns him.

We've often seem Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) undermining him, and we're moving into that period of '60s youth culture, with a younger generation that's convinced they know better -- like every younger generation. How is he going to try and stay relevant in the face of the changes that are coming -- or is that not a concern for him?
I can’t really tell you. I mean, you’re asking questions that I could answer, but I can’t. [Laughs.] I’ll say that I think Roger can relate to people. Being able to relate to someone of the age of that youth culture, I don’t necessarily think he wants to be those people. I don’t think he wants to be that young, or I don’t think he’s trying to kid anybody that he is that young. But everyone’s attracted to youth. It’s good to be young. Why wouldn’t you want to be young and relevant and powerful? So whether that rears up as a question about your own mortality ... it brings up all kinds of stuff. I think he’s in flux. I think they all are.

Did he ever truly recover from losing Lucky Strike? Is that still weighing on him?
I think it informs his actions, yeah. I think you don’t lose an account like that and be in this business as long as Roger has without looking for a another one. I think he said that, hasn’t he? Somewhere along the line, he’s been trying to find another Lucky Strike, whether it’s a cigarette or the cars, there were those big fish out there that he loved to land.

I'm sure you can't answer this question, but can you preview anything about the Roger/Joan lovechild situation?
That baby is going to turn out to be Jack Nicholson. [Laughs.] No, I can’t tell you.

It's interesting that they don't have anything more than a passing interaction in the premiere, even after his mother dies ...
It made me think maybe it’s payback for me not involving myself when she had to sleep with the Jaguar guy. I’m like, "Let her make her own decisions." And it's also ... the relationship between Roger and Joan was never an overt one. So, it’s not like they can dance around as much as they want anyway -- they’re hiding the fact that they had this kid together.

Speaking of things you can't talk about, how was the experience of working on the new iteration of "Arrested Development"?
It was fun. It was daunting because they’re ... I know better how people feel coming onto "Mad Men," and it’s a little nerve-wracking not knowing what you’re doing while being surrounded by people who know exactly what they’re doing. They were great, and they’re lovely and so talented, but I was like, "Oh my God, these people are good."

"Mad Men" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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