Jon Hamm + John Slattery Reunite! The 'Mad Men' Stars Reflect on Their Struggles Finding Success

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

“Hey, buddy, let’s see what you got.”

So, John Slattery didn’t actually utter these words to Jon Hamm upon their initial interaction. But Hamm jokes that his co-star was thinking it.

This would be in 2006, on the first morning of shooting the Mad Men pilot episode at Silvercup Studios in New York City. Hamm, a relative unknown from St. Louis, had landed the lead role of tormented ad whiz Don Draper. Now he had to recite four pages’ worth of dialogue in a key scene with a handful of older and more established peers. Among them? Slattery, who had auditioned twice for Don Draper only to be told that it had already been cast. “I’m looking in the mirror and thinking, OK, you’ve got the part and now you’ve got to do it,” Hamm says.

He did. And by the end of the day, “John and I were cutting up and joking with each other and had a really good time. That attitude and that friendship really was forged in that moment,” Hamm says.

And all these years later, it’s still thriving.



The longtime pals collaborate in the off-kilter crime caper Maggie Moore(s), now playing in theaters after a successful Tribeca Festival premiere. Slattery is behind the camera in his feature-film directorial debut; Hamm stars as an unassuming small-town police chief and grieving widower called to investigate the back-to-back murders of two women, both named Maggie Moore. A divorcée and neighbor of one of the victims (Tina Fey) helps him piece together the clues. The story is loosely based on true events.

“When I read the script, I knew right out of the gate that Jon should do it,” Slattery says. “And I had his phone number. That definitely helps.” Hamm says, “For better or worse, we’re a big part of each other’s lives.”

>>> Sign up for Parade's Daily newsletter and get the scoop on the latest TV news and celebrity interviews delivered right to your inbox <<<

From Men to Maggie

The two may be close, but they’re roughly 3,000 miles from each other on this early June afternoon. Hamm, 52, is Zooming from his office in Los Angeles, where a framed autographed bat and base from St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial is proudly displayed in the background. “I have a footprint in New York but home is here and the dog is here,” Hamm says. (So is his fiancée, actress Anna Osceola.) Slattery, 60, is in the Long Island home that he shares with his wife of 25 years, Homeland actress Talia Balsam, and their 24-year-old son, Harry. He makes it known that as a Red Sox fan, he roots against his friend’s beloved hometown team.



Though eight years have passed since Mad Men aired its last episode—and the two stars are most definitely not wearing ‘60s-era suits and ties—it’s difficult to look at them on the computer screen and not immediately pester them with questions about the iconic Emmy-winning series. (Slattery played quick-witted ad agency partner Roger Sterling.) The topic seems especially relevant given that they’re speaking just days after another prestige NYC-set drama, Succession, ended its tenure on HBO and sparked a slew of “Best TV Show Ever” headlines.

“That didn’t bother me,” Hamm says. “Sure, there is recency bias, and everyone is talking about it because it’s the thing to talk about, but it certainly didn’t negate my experience on Mad Men. The recognition and accolades we had were amazing. I don’t think we’ll ever see that again in our careers.” Slattery picks up on the comment: “I did watch Succession and get a pang of It would be fun to be on that show. Because that’s what we’re all looking for all the time!”

That’s why neither of them took their Mad Men experience for granted. “The show got better and ramped up to a certain level as it went along,” Slattery says. “I mean, those table reads were amazing.” And while show creator Matthew Weiner was famously fastidious in how he ran the set, his actors forged a true bond. Says Hamm, “We were all in the same boat and trying to do the best we could. We’d all been around long enough to understand how incredibly lucky we were to do this. The episodes and the schedule were not easy, but we never lost that sense of wonder.”

Related: Mad Men Turns 10! Our 10 Favorite Quotes From the Series: ‘We’re Flawed Because We Want So Much More’

After the show wrapped, Hamm and Slattery—the former refers to his pal as “Mr. Slattery,” “Slatty” and “Johnny” throughout the interview—stayed tight. “We’ve maintained a friendship in a way that I don’t have with anybody else in the cast,” Hamm says. “Maybe it’s because we have a lot in common. Maybe it’s because we’re in the same town an awful lot. Or we just like each other and like working together.”

First Hamm asked Slattery to pop up in the 2022 comedy Confess, Fletch. “I thought he’d like the part and could come to work for a few days and tell a few jokes,” he says. “And we had a great time.” (He’s trying to get a sequel greenlit.)

In turn, Slattery contacted his friend when developing Maggie Moore(s). Well, technically, he sent the script to Hamm’s agent. “It’s tricky because I didn’t want to impose and think he had to do me a favor if he wasn’t comfortable playing the role,” Slattery says. “That’s the good Catholic in me.”

But Hamm—who maintains, “if it were not to my liking, I certainly would have given my opinion to him”—jumped at the opportunity. “He’s solving these heinous crimes and there are very real emotions that come with that,” he says of the character. “But then he’s got to go home and sit with himself and sometimes that’s even more difficult on a human level. It’s a resonant point for a lot of people of a certain age.”

Slattery himself can somewhat relate to the thematic undertones. With the Writers Guild of America strike still in effect, “I’m basically sitting around the house. It’s nice to have this coming out and I can talk about it. And it was nice as a producer and director to do this film because I had control over what it was going to look like and sound like. It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

<p>Screen Media</p>

Screen Media

Swings and Misses

On paper, they’re a study in contrast—at least the early chapter. The Missouri-born Hamm, an only child, was raised by his mother, Deborah, a secretary, in the suburbs until her death from colon cancer. He was 10. He then lived with his father, Daniel, who managed a family trucking company. Slattery, one of six kids, was born and raised in a close-knit Irish Catholic family in Boston. His mom, Joan, was an accountant; his dad, John, a local leather merchant.

Both found escape in movies and television (and baseball). Hamm recalls the thrill of watching the Indiana Jones films on the big screen. “I remember seeing Harrison Ford with the bullwhip and thinking, Man, that would be great. I can play his son!” he says. (A Star Wars fanatic, he also envisioned himself as Han Solo’s future progeny.) “Then you eventually start acting and you realize it’s not just playing around. A lot of work goes into it, and you have to start focusing and learning.”

And hustling. After moving to L.A. in the ‘90s, he struggled for years trying to make a living in his chosen field. Paychecks would consist of just a couple hundred dollars a month. “It’s a lot of swinging and missing before you’re steadily hitting the ball,” Hamm says. “They don’t teach you in acting school what the business is all about and the actual ins and outs of going on a million auditions and the disappointment of not getting the part. The sheer numbers game of it all is hard to understand.”

Hamm worked as a bartender and a cater waiter in between auditions. (“You learn a lot about people when you’re serving them food and drinks, that’s for sure.”) For every small role that he landed (see: Young Pilot No. 2 in the 2000 Clint Eastwood-directed film Space Cowboys and Capt. Matt Dillon in the 2002 war drama When We Were Soldiers), he’d lose out on something else (it was a “no” for a role in the quirky early aughts NBC drama Ed). But he tried to keep a positive attitude: “I’ve always been a big proponent of having a life and friends and other stuff to do during the fallow times. At least L.A. fosters that mellow approach. I didn’t want to move to New York City because that energy was debilitating for me.”

Slattery, however, was an East Coaster through and through. After being reared on a steady diet of classic movies and an old BBC production of Shakespeare’s I, Claudius, he says the “light bulb went on” and he realized that acting was a job that he could pursue. “It didn’t occur to me to do anything else,” he says.

But he had to first earn the money to make it happen. Slattery groans, recalling how he hated toiling as a gas-station attendant in the freezing cold during his junior year of high school in the mid-‘70s. Then he had to wash trays at a bakery. Then he delivered prescriptions for a local drug store, which proved to be the most demoralizing gig of all. “I thought I was going to get so much action and boy that was not the case,” he says. “People couldn’t take the bag of drugs and close the door any faster than they did. I was a confirmed loser of all losers.”

On the screen, he started off in a 1988 TV version of The Dirty Dozen, followed by a 1989 episode of Father Dowling Mysteries. (“I had a mullet!”) For the next 15 years, he became a quintessential “Where do I know him from?!” character actor. Perhaps you spotted Slattery in episodes of Party of Five, China Beach, Law & Order, Will & Grace, Judging Amy or the films The Station Agent and Mona Lisa Smile.

A memorable exception? In his arc on Sex and the City in 2000, he played a politician dating Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw who had a rather icky sexual request. “It took a little bit of time to live it down,” he says. “A friend told me that her mother called her when she saw the show and said, ‘Are his parents still alive?!’’’ (They were.) In the plus column, “If you make noise in this business, someone else will hire you. So, the role got noticed, which was good.”

Hamm echoes the sentiment: “If you work long enough, someone will take a flyer out on you. And that begets confidence. And that begets relationships and all the other intangibles that really help you be comfortable and believable in people’s living rooms once a week. And when one of your friends has a project, you go, That person would be good for this role. So much of this business is difficult, so it’s so nice to remove some of those obstacles.”

Future Talk

When you work relentlessly for a solid decade before the right role in the right series comes along, the coast is never clear. “There’s not a hell of a lot of security in this business,” Slattery says. “And even when you think you do have security, you go Yeah, well, what’s going to be next?” Seconds Hamm, “I’m not sitting on pins and needles waiting for the phone to ring, but the feeling of insecurity never goes away. At least you do have some chips to work with. And I can actually get my own projects off the ground.”

Hamm’s current schedule reflects that. In the upcoming third season of the Apple TV+ drama The Morning Show, he portrays a corporate titan who sets his sights on acquiring the UBA broadcast network. He also appears in the fifth installment of Fargo, the drama anthology that follows a new murder investigation in a Midwest city each season. On a lighter note, Hamm plays a coach in Mean Girls, the musical version of the stage show based on the 2004 comedy. Will he sing and dance? “I will not spoil anything!” (Responds Slattery, “He moves well. I’m just going to say that.”)

Related: Jennifer Aniston Teases Season 3 Romance! Everything to Know About 'The Morning Show,' Including Exciting Season 4 News



Slattery plans to spend the summer with his wife and son, who’s just started taking acting classes. He’ll surf. He has a boat but admits he’s “terrible” at catching fish. “When you get older, your time becomes more precious and you want to spend it with the right people,” he says. “You get a little more perspective and you wonder if it’s worth leaving them to do something else. But I do like acting a lot and hope to do more of it.”

Yet with all the rampant talk of AI and strikes, both acknowledge that the future is as uncertain as ever. “The business has completely changed even from a few years ago,” Slattery says. “And I don’t know what the solution is.” Hamm continues, “Who knows what the landscape will look like in 2030? I hope there will still be parts and a place for creators, and we’re not just plugged into some algorithm like it’s something out of Soylent Green.”

On the bright side? “We had a pretty good run,” Hamm adds with a sly smile. Besides, there’s always baseball.

Next, New a New Binge? Travel Back in Time With Our Ultimate Guide to Everything Mad Men