Mad about Betty
IT COMES as no surprise that January Jones is so committed to her role in the Emmy Award-winning drama Mad Men.
Mad Men might centre on three men at New York’s Sterling Cooper advertising agency in the early 1960s, but it’s the depth and complexity of its female characters that sets the show apart.
Jones plays Betty Draper — the Grace Kelly-like wife of top advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm) — and in the first season the pressures of being the perfect homemaker led Betty to therapy.
The prim and proper Betty exterior hid the dark, psychological turmoil underneath. In season two, Betty’s stronger and more independent and forceful in dealing with the cheating Don. Plotlines, Jones says, have thrown her an exciting curve ball as an actor.
‘‘It’s called Mad Men and the men are amazing (the cast also features Vincent Kartheiser as ambitious junior account executive Peter Campbell and John Slattery as senior partner Roger Sterling), but he (the show’s creator Matthew Weiner) writes for women in a way that is so layered and so honest and so truthful,’’ Jones says.
‘‘I’ve never come across it before. It’s a struggle for women as actors to find something this good. Usually you’re just window dressing.
‘‘With Betty I just love that we are in season two and she’s developed into being crazier, but stronger, and it’s fun because she’s so different from the first season.’’
It was that quality of writing that drew Jones to Mad Men in the first place, but she soon went through her own crisis of confidence, wondering whether she was up to the task of portraying Betty.
‘‘I was extremely nervous when I got the second script to the series because Betty was in therapy and there was all this emotion, depth and layers,’’ she says. ‘‘I thought, ‘how do I tell this woman’s story realistically?’ They wanted it to be real and Matthew (Weiner) said ‘it’s going to be dirty, it’s going to be ugly and it’s going to be honest’.
‘‘I was really nervous, thinking ‘what have I gotten myself into? What if I can’t do it?’ ’’
The 30-year-old, who has starred in movies including American Wedding, Anger Management, Love Actually and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, also wrestled with the idea of having to sign a longterm contract for the series.
‘‘I was reluctant to do TV because of the idea of playing one character for five years and all you have is the pilot script. You just wonder whether you’re going to hate playing this character by episode three.’’
Jones says she auditioned twice for the role of Peggy Olson before Weiner talked her into trying out for Betty.
‘‘Betty wasn’t in the pilot until the very end and Matt wasn’t going to develop that character at all,’’ she says.
‘‘He asked me if I was willing to audition for Betty if he wrote some more scenes and overnight he wrote two amazing scenes. I came in, read them and signed on with the promise that she would be an integral part of the show.
‘‘I didn’t want her to be the Stepford wife that is like ‘Welcome home honey’. I wanted something to sink my teeth into and true to his (Weiner’s) word, Betty is the most interesting character I have ever played.’’
JMad Men, M Movie Extra, Sunday, 8.30pm 1960s advertising agency Duration: 1 hour ONES grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but moved to New York after her 18th birthday.
After spending two years in the Big Apple, Jones relocated to Hollywood to become an actor and has lived there for the past 10 years.
She says it took a few years to establish herself and secure a good, trustworthy support network around her.
She dated Ashton Kutcher before he hooked up with Demi Moore, and also dated singer Josh Groban.
‘‘The hardest thing about moving there was meeting friends,’’ she says of Los Angeles. ‘‘You have a group of people but they are all actors and in the business. They are always in and out of town.
‘‘Now I have a house, a dog and a yard. I have made a world for me that resembles my home in South Dakota and how I grew up.’’
January Jones loves her role as Betty Draper in Mad Men.