Marvel Actor John Slattery Finds Surprising Similarities Between Howard Stark and His ‘Mrs. America’ Character

Marvel fans know John Slattery as Howard Stark, at least in his later years once Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) was born. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Slattery would pop up on Desperate Housewives as Victor Lang, and starred on Mad Men as Roger Sterling. Mrs. America casts Slattery as Fred Schafly.

Marvel actor John Slattery
John Slattery | Michael Gibson/FX

Schlafly’s wife Phyllis (Cate Blanchett) is the subject of Mrs. America. She was a conservative activist and the show chronicles her crusade against the Equal Rights Amendment in the ’70s. Fred was a lawyer who supported her work, but he has a little more in common with Howard Stark than you might think. Slattery spoke with reporters on a conference call on April 28 and discussed the comparison. New episodes of Mrs. America stream every Wednesday on Hulu.

Marvel and ‘Mrs. America’ have more in common than you think

Howard Stark paved the way for Iron Man. He made Stark Industries a major player from World War II through the Cold War before his son took over. 

John Slattery | Sabrina Lantos/FX

“[They’re] probably both on the right side of the aisle, politically speaking,” Slattery said. “Probably both fervent anti-Communists, given the time that Howard was around. Beyond that, Howard was kind of a titan of industry. Fred was sort of a small town lawyer who threw out his own shingle. I don’t think Howard would have been as readily relegated to the supporting position behind his very outspoken and public wife.”

Have Marvel fans followed John Slattery to ‘Mrs. America’?

Admittedly, Showbiz Cheat Sheet thought it a stretch to ask Slattery to compare Fred Schlafly to Howard Stark. It was just a fun way to connect his latest project with his Marvel history, but Slattery saw the parallels. Would that be enough to interest Marvel fans? Either way, Slattery has always done eclectic work.

John Slattery in Mrs. America
John Slattery | Pari Dukovic/FX

“I’m sort of hermetically sealed in my little spot here, so I haven’t had that much interaction with anybody, let alone fans of one thing or another,” Slattery said. “I’ve read the press coverage on Mrs. America and it’s all been really favorable, I think justifiably so. I think it’s really well produced and executed. I hope they tune in. I’m a little out of touch.”

John Slattery is stuck in the past

Howard Stark died before the first Iron Man movie so all of his Marvel scenes are historical. That, plus his history on Mad Men, prepared Slattery for the ’70s set Mrs. America.

Mad Men, we were at it for a lot longer. So there was a little more of a chance to do a deep dive and over that 10 year period, we were at it for almost 10 years given hiatuses and all. The producers, Stacey [Sher] and Coco [Francini], Ryan [Fleck] and Dahvi [Waller] gave us a lot, as much research as they could dig up on everybody. Certainly with regard to Fred, there was less archival footage being that he wasn’t a pulpit figure. There was a little less but into the period, Adina, our amazing costume designer, shed a lot of light as to specifics. It was really thoroughly considered on every level. So I dug into everything I could get my hands on.

John Slattery, conference call on 4/28/2020