We were there as Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant sat down with the man responsible for the legend of Sterling to talk suspenders and seven years of style. The two first met eight years ago while prepping for the seminal series and clearly, a lot has happened since.
Off the set, Slattery recently directed his first feature, God’s Pocket, set in 1978, starring his Mad Men co-star Christina Hendricks. Meanwhile, Bryant nabbed three Emmy noms and partnered with Brooks Brothers to design a limited-edition sharkskin suit that sold out in days.
As they prepped for their last day of shooting the Mad Men finale, the costume designer and the actor bantered about bow ties, the creative process, and those wild Hollywood parties.
Janie Bryant: It’s almost over. Are you going to cry at the wrap party tomorrow night?
John Slattery: I don’t know. I’ve never been with a group of people for this long. Those parties have a way of unexpectedly turning…
Janie: Into complete debauchery?
John: Right, we had some rowdy parties. I remember when we got kicked out of the Chateau Marmont that one year, which is not that easy to do. People end up naked in the pool.
Janie: I was not one of those people, but I lost a cell phone at one party.
John: Me neither, but I’ve had to hold my hand over one eye to make it out to my ride. That’s when I realized it was time to go home.
“Right, we had some rowdy parties. I remember when we got kicked out of the CHATEAU MARMONT that one year, which is not that easy to do. People end up naked in the pool.”
Janie: Sounds like Roger Sterling. So what would Roger look like today?
John: Who knows? We’re living in this period of time where no one really gets dressed up. You go on an airplane and it looks like the end of the world. Literally, a woman got on my flight recently and she wasn’t wearing any shoes.
Janie: I think that’s in violation of the health code. I see people wearing pillows as accessories and pajama pants. You have your own cool style.
John: My wife says I buy the same things all the time. I like black, blue and grey suits. Oh man, you made me a light, pearl-grey wool suit. It was the one that I threw up the oysters on and you had to make two of those.
Janie: Actually, I made three of them.
John: That’s right. One of them didn’t fit as well.
Janie: I don’t believe that. What did you love about that particular suit?
John: The color worked. The cut was great. My knowledge of Roger’s uniform—the three-piece suit—has grown. I understand fit better. I loved everything about that suit. Remember how you and I would argue in the beginning of Mad Men? I would say, ‘I got to be able to move around or this just doesn’t work.’ But what you made was always good for the story.
Janie: Argue? I thought those were just little lover’s quarrels.
John: You have got to be able to do that—argue—with people if you’re going to work together. I don’t like being told what to do unless someone has a really good reason as to why I have to wear something or say something.
Janie: Well I think it’s important to have the openness of the creative process to come alive. What if I told you to wear a bow tie?
John: Only with a tux.
Janie: I agree. I’m more into the traditional rules of the tuxedo.
John: Which are what?
“I like a blue tux. You could put JON HAMM in a green tux and he’d look good. Maybe not green velvet though.”
Janie: Well, wearing studs, cuff links, a bow tie instead of a straight tie and a proper tuxedo shirt. I also love a dramatic dinner jacket in a velvet or jacquard.
John: I like a blue tux. You could put Jon Hamm in a green tux and he’d look good. Maybe not green velvet though.
Janie: Besides the Red Sox, what did you like most about growing up in Boston?
John: The people. I’ve heard it said that Boston would be great if it weren’t for the Bostonians. I think it’s the other way around. It’s a beautiful place, but the people there have a certain sense of humor that is unlike anywhere else. It’s rough and sarcastic and they don’t suffer fools.
Janie: And there’s that accent.
John: When my family gets together, all we do is make fun of the Boston accent. It’s just a great sound and it’s funny as hell.
Janie: I have never heard you revert back to your accent.
John: When I have a few beers, I do. Matt [Weiner] told me to watch the Boston sound a couple of times. He stopped because it just made me turn it on stronger.
Janie: You’ve got authority issues. Were you the same way as a kid?
John: Yes. And I see the same thing in my son. He’s a wise ass.
Janie: Would you have teased me when you were a kid?
John: Yes. Especially if you were as cute as you are now. Because otherwise, what would have been the point?
Janie: Hmm. What did growing up with four older sisters teach you about women?
John: I suppose it made me comfortable with women—but not that I have an agenda or that I’m trying to be Mr. Cool. I like the company of women and I always have. We have a lot of really funny, strong women in my family with great opinions. My sisters are hilarious.
Janie: Did they treat you like a little king?
John: King? Ha! They would wake me up an hour after I went to bed and tell me it’s time for school and I’d get dressed and I’d be sitting at the kitchen table asleep. My mother would come in from the other room—having just finished dinner with my father who worked late—and she’d say, ‘God dammit. Who did this?’
Janie: I loved to dress up so much that I would dress up everybody in my family. What were some of your favorite TV shows and films when you were growing up?
John: I liked everything: The Odd Couple, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, BBC shows. If The Godfather came on and I had my jacket on to go out, I’d stand there with my jacket on and never leave. What about you?
Janie: Once a year, we would watch The Sound of Music, Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz as a family when it was on TV. It was a requirement. I remember being fascinated by how the clothing looked on the screen and on the actors, but I didn’t know that it was possible to be a costume designer.
John: So, who in the cast (of Mad Men) gets his or her way the most?
John: No way. You’re lying.
Janie: You wouldn’t wear the suspenders.
John: They hurt my shoulders. I hate them.
Janie: You wouldn’t wear the sock garters.
John: Well no one ever saw them. I would wear them if they were in the shot. And they hurt my legs. I wore the vests. A three-piece suit changes the way you sit and the way you stand.
Janie: That’s why I like to make it tighter.
John: You’re right. It made me feel more formal. It helped me get into character. But those sock garters are for the birds.
Find more of Janie’s style tips HERE