How ‘Mad Men’ Star John Slattery Became Roger Sterling

Celebrity Q&A, Featured Article
on March 12, 2013
Mad Men (Season 5)

Is it true that John Slattery auditioned for the role of Don Draper on “Mad Men” before getting the job as Roger Sterling?
—Veronica Zammit, Boston, Mass.

As Slattery, 50, tells the story, the answer is yes—but there is a twist to the tale. Because the Boston-born actor had a lot of solid TV credits to his name, including “Homefront,” “Will & Grace,” “Judging Amy,” “Sex and the City,” “Jack & Bobby” and “Desperate Housewives,” the producers told his agent they wanted to see him for the lead role of Don Draper. They felt if they told the truth that he was actually auditioning for Roger Sterling, he wouldn’t have come in because in the pilot for the series, the role of Roger was really small.

After he read for them, they came clean, saying, “Okay, here’s the thing. We have that guy. We want you to play this guy.” It took some convincing, but he finally agreed. Slattery recalls, “He convinced me to do it because he said, ‘I promise this will be a great part.’ So it’s a leap of faith. You take a risk.”

Slattery goes on to joke that if he had landed the role of Don Draper, “Mad Men” wouldn’t still be on the air, because audiences wouldn’t have found him as convincing as they do Jon Hamm. Besides, there are advantages to playing Roger. He gets some of the best one-liners on TV and Slattery only has to work a few days each week, while Hamm has to be there every day.

“It’s a great part,” Slattery says. “It’s good to be given these lines. It’s also good to be thought of as trustworthy enough to deliver them.’