Mad about Betty

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Pay-tv - ERIN McWHIRTER

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.’’

Per­fect role:

Jan­uary Jones loves her role as Betty Draper in Mad Men.

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