The last time we saw Roger Sterling in Mad Men, he was watching Neil Armstrong land on the Moon. Soon, the show will complete its own touchdown, with the final seven episodes airing on Sky Atlantic. It’s the completion of a series that played its part in the recent TV drama golden age, as well as exerting a powerful influence over what smart men have worn to work for the past nine years.
Not that John Slattery, who plays Sterling – the sharpest wit and snappiest dresser at Sterling Cooper and Partners since 2007 – is letting much slip about Mad Men’s famously well-guarded plotlines: “When I read the final script I was surprised, but it made sense. Matt [Weiner, the show’s creator] did a good job of leaving everyone where they should be.”
In Roger’s case, you imagine that to be with a stiff drink in hand, wearing an impeccably tailored three-piece suit. “The stuff Roger wears this season is a lot of fun,” Slattery says. “The late-Sixties was quite a peacock-y time for men’s clothes, which is perfect for him. You can picture him looking through a magazine and thinking, ‘Finally! Finally, I get to wear an ascot!’”
Mad Men’s influence over men’s style – at its peak four or five years ago everyone wanted to be as sharply tailored as the early Sixties Roger and his equally dapper colleague Don Draper, tie pins, pocket squares and all – may have reached its natural end, but what will be the legacy of a show most critics would rank among the all-time top ten US TV dramas?
“I think people will revisit Mad Men and binge-watch it,” says the 52-year-old Bostonian. “My kid is 15 and I look forward to some day when he’ll go: ‘I’ve got to watch this’. Maybe in college he’ll watch it, because the writing is great and it’s so well executed.”
The final wrap party took place last year, an event that, given Mad Men’s characters were arguably as famous for their boozing as anything else, proved suitably raucous. “It was very sad, but fun,” he says. “There were lots of speeches. And it went on into the wee hours. This is not a group of people who have to be encouraged, you know?”
Slattery is relaxed about life after Mad Men: “My wife [actress Talia Balsam] just got a good job, so the heat’s off. I can be a kept man, just sit around and wave goodbye as she goes to work.”
First, though, it’s time to bid farewell to Roger Sterling, a man he’ll miss as much as the rest of us. “Playing a character with such a sense of humour, someone so confident in his ability to turn a phrase, has been a real pleasure. It’s been an amazing ride,” he says.
And the clothes? Surely he’ll miss having the best wardrobe of any TV character from the past decade, too? “Not really, to be honest. No offence, but I’ve seen enough of the three-piece suit to last me a lifetime.”
The final episodes of Mad Men begin on Sky Atlantic on 9 April
How will Roger end up?