John Slattery stars with his wife and son in "The...

John Slattery stars with his wife and son in "The Subject Was Roses" at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Credit: Getty Images for Tribeca Festival / Jamie McCarthy

John Slattery became a household name over "Mad Men's" seven-season run, but there's a lot more to this name than Roger Sterling, the silver-haired and silver-tongued mentor to Don Draper. He was one of the stars of ABC's too-short-lived "Homefront" (1991-93), and more recently of Oscar winner "Spotlight" (2015). In between, he had memorable roles on "Sex and the City," "Desperate Housewives," "Veep," "30 Rock," "Arrested Development" and since 2010 has been Howard Stark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Then, there's theater.

In a stage career that began in the late '80s, this Boston native, 61, has appeared on Broadway four times, most recently in the 2016 revival of the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur classic, "The Front Page" (quite the stretch: He played Hildy Johnson, the role immortalized by Rosalind Russell in "His Girl Friday").

Now, on to the more intimate setting of Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theater, where he'll appear with his wife, Talia Balsam, and son, Harry Slattery, in "The Subject Was Roses," in previews May 28-31, then running June 1-16 and directed by Scott Wittman. Slattery and Balsam won't have far to commute — they have a home in Springs.

Slattery recently spoke about the play, which concerns a young man who returns home to his family in the Bronx after World War II, and much more.

You were also at Bay Street last year for the New Works festival and a reading of "Another Lovely Day."

[Playwright] Leslie Ayvazian is a friend and she wrote a three-character play — we did a reading with our son who was the proper age for the role ["Day" is about a family in the wake of 9/11]. Victor Garber, who lives out on the East End and saw it said, 'Well [Harry] can act.' He's a friend of Scott Wittman's and I guess that put the idea in Scott's head to do this.

"The Subject Was Roses" had a Eugene O'Neill vibe that audiences really responded to back in the mid-'60s. But why this dark, bitter play  and why now?

It was the circumstances of us being right for all three parts. They are terrific and it's a really well-written play — funny, dark, emotional. It's also a good place for Harry to kind of make his debut under friendly circumstances and out of the full, bright lights of New York City.

But why then, why now? I would guess the themes of familial dysfunction are universal and timeless, as well as generational miscommunications — the idea of a family incapable of expressing love for one another even though they love each other is something everyone can identify with.

On Broadway, Jack Albertson played John as a hard-bitten, hard-drinking emotionally abusive spouse with a secret history. You seem too nice to play the guy — I guess that's why it's called acting — but is there anything in the role you can relate to?

I come from a long line of Irish — not so much drunk, but Irish and temperamental. He's good with a turn of phrase and a salesman — my father was a salesman, too — so I understood the character. The specifics, of course, are different and the circumstances unique to the play.

I familiarized myself with the original cast recording for our chat. It's sad and often elliptical.

Sad because of their struggles but it's what you want [as an actor] — something to play against, with a lot of obstacles. In their relationship, they're on to each other which is what happens after 25 years — they've been together 25 years — and we've [Slattery and Balsam] been together 25 years, too. You know someone [after that amount of time] and not necessarily because of something they've divulged but you read between the lines. They're good parts.

Listening to the record, I kept thinking of the set in "The Honeymooners." Will yours be that austere?

We have the great Derek McLane as scenic designer. The theater has a proscenium, with the audience on three sides, so the requirements of the space dictate something different. I wouldn't say austere, although the characters are middle-class, working people. But there might be a little more dreamlike quality to the set — I think Edward Hopper has been mentioned.

Tell me a little bit about Harry.

He's 24 and he's impressed the hell out of all of us. He's just a great young man and he's decided this is what he wanted to do, although he didn't study acting in college. But he's just done a remarkable job [in rehearsals]. He's been openhearted and open-minded about the whole thing.

You've been in so many series over the decades — any that a reader might be surprised to learn that you were in? For me it's got to be "Ed" — who knew! Or remembered?

I did an episode of "Father Dowling Mysteries" that was probably the dumbest thing I ever did — a hit man. But I did get a free trip to Colorado — they shot out in Denver — so I got to go skiing. And I just did a season of "The Good Fight," which I was not that familiar with but got to work with the great Christine Baranski.

So, nearly a decade since "Mad Men" wrapped. Any favorite memories?

The cast was so tight that we'd sit around after shooting our scenes and have beers and unwind before dealing with the traffic. They even built us a deck behind the trailers on the studio lot as a place to hang out because nobody ever seemed to want to go home. Robert Morse would even come by on days when he wasn't shooting just to hang out. We had these long-running cribbage games that went on for days. It was just great.

Ever get tired of "Mad Men" questions? You've done so much else over your career.

No! How could you top that and why would you have to top that? It doesn't get much better and I was very lucky I had anything to do with it. It was really a special moment in time which we all [the cast and crew] recognized as special. It wasn't like we wrapped and said well, 'I wish I'd appreciated it more.' We appreciated the hell out of every minute.

OK, my admittedly facetious "favorite role" question: Who did you like to play best — Howard Stark, Roger or that guy on "Sex and the City"?

Hard to beat Roger Sterling, just for the writing on that show. I made some of the greatest friendships of my life from there, and Harry was just 6 years old when it started. And hard to beat it for the impact it's had on my life.

Directing has also been important in your career — a number of "Mad Men" episodes, the 2014 indie flick "God's Pocket" with Philip Seymour Hoffman, and last year's "Maggie Moore(s)," with Jon Hamm. Do you prefer being in front of or behind the camera?

I wouldn't say directing [although] directing helps me as an actor by recognizing that the acting is just a piece of the puzzle between the edit and the music and all the other elements that go into the finished product.

What's next for you?

I just finished a couple months shooting a movie in Budapest, with Rami Malek, Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon called "Nuremberg" [based on the 2013 Jack El-Hai book about Hermann Göring and his American psychiatrist, "The Nazi and the Psychiatrist"], then literally started rehearsals for this the next day.

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