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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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The Mad Men - and Women - are back! January Jones is Betty Draper

© Lionsgate. January Jones as Betty Draper

Why do you think the show is so popular?

I don't know. I know that Matthew wanted it to feel like you are in that time period. Everything feels real and even though it is such a long time ago, I think people relate to the storylines. It's what the characters are feeling, and how they react to certain situations, it really makes you feel like you have something in common with them.

It also looks amazing and it is kind of funny to hear sexist comments or see people drinking and smoking in the doctor's office – that might be fun to watch.

But I think that a lot of people can just relate to what's going on. For me, it is educational to hear about some of the things that went on back then. I find it fun, interesting and appalling.

Your character is basically the true desperate housewife? Was this a character you found easy to play?

I really like her but I don't have anything in common with her, so I do find it hard. I'm not judging her but, for me, if something isn't going my way or if there is someone holding me down, I will say something.

It is really hard for me to understand how she can just keep everything inside, and put on a smile and be the happy housewife. Although I don't think she can do it for much longer, I think she is going to start to crack.

I mean, if she doesn't that will be disappointing. I empathise with all the things that she is feeling. She has all these people in her life, her friends, her therapist, her husband, and she can't talk to any of them honestly.

Have you been influenced by this era and the fashion?

I have always been a huge fan of vintage clothing, but I don't feel like I can go out and buy a dress from the Sixties anymore – unless it is something that Joan would wear. I do wish that we could bring the girdle back.

Is it painful to wear a girdle?

It's not painful. It is just really, really, really, really tight elastic. When I first put it on I realised you have to learn to breathe differently, to hold yourself differently. It helps for the role I think. Your posture is different, the way you walk and wiggle is different, but it is not painful. It is, however, painful to look at when you are getting out of it.

How much is Betty a product of the time period?

I think some women were perfectly happy being a housewife and a mother, and some people weren't. Some people spoke out about it, and even got a divorce because they were so unhappy. But that's not an option for Betty. Divorce isn't an option.

Wouldn't you like to see her rebel a little bit?

I would like to see her become happy. I don't think leaving her husband would make her happy. I think she loves her husband, and she wants to see him become the man that she knows he can be. I think she has a lot of faith in Don Draper and she is waiting for him to figure it out. I think she is trying to be patient, but she is feeling a lot of pain.

The greatest thing about last season for me was finding out that Betty was educated and she went to Bryn Mawr. She was a model, travelled the world and had all these experiences, and even after all that she made the conscious decision to get married, have children and be a housewife. She decided that. No one pushed her into it. The fact that it doesn't make her happy is something that she has to figure out.

I don't want people to think, "Poor Betty, she is this repressed housewife". She made the decision to be who she is and the fact that it didn't make her happy is her own fault.

Did you want any other part in the show?

When I first auditioned for the show, I went in for Peggy. I got the call from my agent saying that it was between me and one other girl. The other girl obviously got it but they said there was the role of Don's wife, who was only supposed to be at the end of the pilot episode.

Matt Weiner was planning to get a day player to play the role as there wasn't going to be a home life in the show. It sounded intriguing. Matt wrote two scenes overnight and I came in the next day. The scenes were amazingly written and they were in episode four I think. I just read it and agreed to do the show with the promise that I would get to be in it at some point.

Now Betty is very much in the show and I think it wouldn't be the same without her. You wouldn't sympathise as much with Don's character if you didn't see the other side of his life.

Do you get people recognising you on street more now?

Not really. If I do get recognised it is usually women. A couple times it has been men, but they are usually in their fifties and sixties. In LA, if people recognise you, they don't say anything because everyone is so cool.

From the women I get a lot of "poor Betty" and "what are you going to do?" I have to convince them that I live a nice life in 2009. The men that come up don't say that at all, they say, "Oh you are Betty! That is awesome". It is weird.

Are you getting new offers because of this role?

I have always been so picky about what I do. I always want to do something different to keep interested. I might be getting offered more roles, but they are not roles that I want. Yet.

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