The probability of John Slattery and Zach Gilford meeting on the small screen, at least on their beloved series (Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, respectively) was nothing short of impossible and completely improbable. But for every television fanatic that held out a sliver of hope that they'd see suave 1960s ad man Roger Sterling and sensitive Texas high school football star Matt Saracen together, that time has come. Well, kind of.
Slattery, 50, and Gilford, 30, who starred on two of the best television series of the past decade, are finally working together, but on the big screen. The two esteemed actors play Gil and Seth, an estranged father and son who must come to terms with their past and determine the future of their relationship after they unexpectedly spend a weekend together at the family's country home in the indie drama In Our Nature
. But anyone expecting to see two hours of Roger Sterling and Matt Saracen will be sorely disappointed. Both actors flex their dramatic muscles and break out of the lovable, charming characters that won them legions of devoted fans. (In fact, Gilford is still dealing with rampant FNL
fanaticism, despite the show being over. The actor — who admits he still hasn't watched the final season of the drama — says, "People will be like 'My wife loves you, can you call my wife?'... Someone was actually in the elevator in my building in Chicago and recognized me and got me to get on the phone with his wife. He hand wrote me a thank you letter, which I thought was very nice.")
In the movie Gil is a hardened, distant father starting a new life with his girlfriend (played by Gabrielle Union) and Seth is a stubborn, spoiled son preoccupied with the future for his girlfriend (Jena Malone) and the past with his dad. "You gotta play the scene and not worry about being likable," Slattery explained during his chat with Hollywood.com "It's such a silly concept of playing someone that's likable. You want to play someone that an audience can identify with, one way or another, but likability is a bulls**t concept." Gilford, on the other hand, struggled with his oftentimes hard-to-love character. "I'd be reading [script] and at times think, 'Why are you being such a d**k, Seth?' The actor says that when he tried to "finesse" Seth into being more relatable director/writer Brian Savelson "was good about being like, 'No, you can't be liked all the time.'"
Luckily, for the small scale cast and crew, they liked each other during the secluded shoot that took place near Woodstock, New York last year. "I used to lead camping trips for high school kids, and it's kinda like that," Gilford says. "It's this group of people 24 hours a day for the next three or four weeks. It's like doing that with a film....If anyone sucked, as a person, it would have been a really hard experience." While Slattery, who recently filmed a cameo for the return of Arrested Development
and went back to work on Mad Men
(both as an actor, and soon once again, as director
) thinks on-set camaraderie "isn't necessary to the making of the movie" he called the In Our Nature
experience "a pleasant kind of perk that we all did get along playing four people who can't stand each other."
In fact, it wasn't being in a single location in sleepy upstate New York (most of the film takes place in and around the house) or exploring the emotional weight of the characters that was the hard part for Slattery. Rather, it was learning to do canoe rolls
(a trick which flips the boat under water and back up again) for one of the film's rare bonding scenes. "I had to learn that in the Hudson River, which was disgusting," he recalls. "The director and the producer are sitting on the dock and I'm like, upside down in the Hudson in brown, God knows what kind of water, not knowing how to get back upright again. I swallowed a few gallons of that [water]." While GIlford considers himself an outdoorsman and his character Seth does do a roll in the film, the actor opted out of learning how to do the aquatic trick. "They asked if I wanted to go and I was like [makes a grossed-out sound] 'uh-uh'
Now, really, can you even imagine Roger Sterling doing canoe rolls in the Hudson River or Matt Saracen turning down an opportunity to play sports? Didn't think so. In Our Nature is currently playing in limited release. [Photo Credit: Cinedigm Entertainment Group] More: