THR Emmy Roundtable: Kevin Bacon, 'Mad Men's' John Slattery and More on Aging, Worst Auditions and 'Jerk' Pasts
THR: John, did you have any idea Mad Men would be so successful?
Slattery: We shot a pilot, then we waited a year-and-a-half. It was on a network [AMC] that had never made anything. We knew the material was good but sort of figured nobody would ever see it, so I didn't have that much invested in it. And the show came at a time with DVRs [and on-demand], so people could start watching when they wanted to. Whereas before, you'd tune in during the middle of the season, and you'd go, "You know, the hell with it. I don't know what's going on, and I don't care." So that kind of happened at the same time, and it was what we wanted. I mean, you want to be involved in something that people want to watch, so it was a positive experience.
Daniels: Completely out of your control, though.
Slattery: It rarely happens where you read something that you like and that you know is good material.
Quaid: And then you have no control over it! Your movie is coming out, and the stock market crashes the day before, or there's a hurricane, or it's a success for reasons you never thought of.
Daniels: Between action and cut …
Quaid: That's the only thing you have control of.
Bacon: One of the things about television that's so amazing is that you get a chance to just act and act and act and act. You do a movie. You spend eight months, and the amount of time you're acting is like an infinitesimal part of your life. And I think we all really like to act.
Patinkin: You do not get bored.
Bacon: In TV it's, "I've been here 16 hours, we've done 10 pages," and you go, "Ahhhh, it's exhilarating."
THR: What are you most critical of when you watch yourself perform?
Bacon: Bad habits. Like, "I've done that thing before" or "I went to like a go-to kind of thing."
Patinkin: Mine is doing too much. I always do too much. I'm over-the-top, I'm like the president of the club.
THR: But on Homeland, you're generally very restrained.
Patinkin: You don't know what they cut out. I owe those editors, I'm not kidding.
Bacon: That's the great thing about your character, Saul. He's just so … small.
Patinkin: I don't know how it gets like that.
Slattery: Do you always do a small take?
Patinkin: Yes. I said to [Homeland showrunners] Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, "I promise you, before I leave today, I'll take the size down so it's not a Mandy take." Sometimes I'll look at some dailies, and when I think I hit it, I didn't. And what I thought was horrible and would beg you to reshoot it or beg for the time to redo it -- it worked.
Quaid: That's why I appreciate strong directors who have a definite point of view and can rein me in. "OK, I'm going to do this now, so please hold me back!"
Stoll: When I watch myself, I try to pay attention to how I'm making transition from one action to another, to the audience thinking, "OK, I can see this actor is making a choice now." Whenever you can see somebody acting, it's a horrible thing to watch.
THR: What were some of your worst or craziest audition experiences?
Daniels: Got a few of them!
Bacon: I got a really bad one. Studio 54 was just about to close. I used to go to 54 in the '70s, but I wasn't famous.
Patinkin: How did you get in?
Bacon: You had to have the right shoes. [Studio 54 founder] Steve Rubell would come over and see what kind of shoes you had on. And I used to go by myself, and my agent called and said: "I know you don't go in for musicals, but there is one called Got to Go Disco. And it's based on Studio 54." In fact, there was this guy at the club who would let you in named Mark, and when people would arrive at 54, they'd go, "Mark, Mark, Mark!," and he would let people in or not. He was a very, very scary dude. So Mark was one of the producers of this musical, and my agent said, "All you have to do is sing a disco song." So I got Alicia Bridges' "I Love the Nightlife" -- I was probably about 18 -- and started working on this song just from the record. I never got the sheet music, I didn't realize you had to have sheet music. So I went to Colony Records on 50th and Broadway, got the sheet music, went into the audition, and it was in a key not even close because I'm singing an octave up from Alicia Bridges. And the sheet music was like in the completely different key, the guy started playing, and I was way, way, way out of my range.
Quaid: It sounded pretty good, actually!
Bacon: Sitting there was Mark, and I just stopped the audition. I went down on my knees, and I said: "This is terrible. I never should have been here, I'm so sorry to waste your time," and I walked out.
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