John Slattery reflects on his incredible streak of projects, from 'Mad Men' to 'Spotlight' to 'Veep'

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, And Matt Walsh Discuss Incorporating Improvisational Techniques In "Veep"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, And Matt Walsh Discuss Incorporating Improvisational Techniques In "Veep"

By: Gibson Johns

John Slattery is on a roll right now: After his star-making seven-season stint on a little show called "Mad Men," the actor won universal acclaim for his turn in "Spotlight," which went on to win Best Picture in February. Not one to wait around, the 53-year-old Boston native decided to take on a new kind of role: That of Charlie Baird in HBO's award-winning comedy "Veep."

On "Veep," Slattery's billionaire banker Baird is relentless in his pursuit of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' no-bullshit President Selina Meyer. In his two-episode turn on the hit show, Slattery exhibits a chemistry with Dreyfus that resulted in scenes of pure comedic magic.

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The actor also recently helped to launch Duracell's "Stay Connected" campaign, which shines a spotlight on hearing impairment, an issue that hits close to home for him: His father suffers from hearing loss. Throughout the month of May, National Better Hearing Month, Duracell will off 50,000 free hearing screenings by phone, and Slattery helped get the ball rolling last week at Santina in the Meatpacking District.

We chatted with John Slattery about his hilarious "Veep" role, how Julia Louis-Dreyfus makes "everybody else look better," his father's reticence to get his hearing checked and where he can possibly go next following such an incredible streak of on-screen projects.

Call 1-844-9-DURACELL for a free hearing screening by phone during the month of May.

Don't miss these recent photos of John Slattery:

Check out our full conversation with John Slattery below:

You're helping to kick off Duracell's "Stay Connected" campaign, which will shine a light on hearing impairment. Can you talk about why this campaign is so personal and meaningful to you?

My dad wears a hearing aid. He has had hearing loss, and it got to a point where it became difficult to communicate with people in my family -- particularly my mother, who he spends the most time with. She asked him to get checked. He was resistant to it, but when he finally did, he came back with the result that he had hearing loss, so he got a hearing aid. It's changed his life, as well as everybody's lives around him.

That's what Duracell is trying to do with people, in giving all of these free hearing tests out this month.

Do you think that people's reluctance to get tested for hearing loss -- or, at least, your father's reluctance -- comes from a sort of embarrassment that there's a problem?

I think so. There's a reticence to ask anyone to explain themselves or go over something, like a funny story, again. You want to be part of the conversation, but I also think it's maybe generational. That's a generation that isn't used to being indulged as much as we are now, or maybe they're not used to the technology -- they didn't grow up with this kind of technology. I think there's definitely a reticence to do that, but I'm glad to say it worked.

How did your father react when you told him you were going to be part of the "Stay Connected" campaign?

When I asked him it it was okay for me to talk about him [and his hearing loss], he was like, "Sure!" My being in any way public in general is something he gets a kick out of.

You're appearing on the current season of "Veep," and your first episode aired last Sunday...

I haven't seen it yet! I gotta see it.

What?! You must watch it -- you and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have amazing chemistry on camera. What was it like working with her?

Good! She's fantastic. It was a little daunting before I got there, I have to say. But when I got there [the cast] were all super nice and so talented. Julia makes everybody else look better; I'm glad to have been a part of that. I'm a huge fan of hers, and I think she's a wonderful person, too. We had a good time. Not only is she so good, but she also produces and she oversees the writing: From take to take they rewrite jokes. She has a lot to do on that show, and the fact that she made me feel that welcome is a testament to her good she is.

A couple of the cast members stopped by AOL recently and talked about how much improv they do on the show. What was that like? Did you find it difficult to catch on?

Yeah, that's not the way I came up. You see it in these people, how good they are and how long they've been doing that. I don't even think Julia really came up in improv, per say, but she's great at that too. It was really impressive. It's daunting to join that cast that has been doing it so well for so long, and then improving gave me pause.

One of the best parts about "Veep" is the incredible insults that they reel off scene after scene, and your first insult is "asshat." How hard was it to try to keep such a straight face when saying stuff like that?!

Not really that hard! That's my favorite part of the show. It's incredible. It's unbelievable how good they are. [Those insults are] what you want to be armed with.

You're coming off a hot streak of amazing, popular material: "Mad Men" ended last year and you were in "Spotlight," which obviously won Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year. Where do you go after such fantastic successes? What's next?

I don't really think about that. You kind of just go where the best material you find is, or the material you have a connection with. The fact that those were the projects that asked me to be a part of them is an extremely fortunate circumstance. I don't know, I guess I'll just go look for some more good material. I'm really lucky to be doing this play, ["The Front Page,"] so that'll take me into next year and beyond that, who knows!

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Originally published