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January Jones distances herself from Betty Draper with 'Last Man on Earth'

January Jones distances herself from Betty Draper with 'Last Man on Earth'
"Mad Men" and "The Last Man on Earth"star January Jones. (Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

Make no mistake, in real life, January Jones is not Betty Draper of "Mad Men" and her role in the Fox comedy "The Last Man on Earth" has helped her make that distinction.

"Creatively it was just good for people to see me to do something different than Betty and remind [viewers] that I'm not Betty," the actress said of her role during the Television Critics Assn. press tour on Thursday.

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"It's always a compliment when people think that I am her or are very attached to her. But I think for me creatively it was important for me to do something different," the 37-year-old star said. "I started in comedy and it's just been very refreshing to go back to that."

Starring in the Emmy-nominated Will Forte series, Jones who plays the wry Melissa welcomed the departure in tone from her AMC drama.

"Betty was very different [than me], obviously I gave a lot of myself to the character emotionally," she said. "I'm still very close to Melissa in terms of time period and the way she is -- very straightforward and sarcastic. I feel like she's sort of the audience in a way. She sees everyone for exactly who they are, especially Phil [Forte] and calls him on everything. I mean the things about her that I like are very like myself I guess."

When AMC and Matthew Weiner closed the door on "Mad Men's" final season in May, we saw a transformed Betty, without makeup, smoking a cigarette at her kitchen table, resigning herself to lung cancer. Jones said she loved that final glimpse.

"Betty was one of the characters that had the most full-circle story," she said. "I couldn't have hoped for a better ending for her just because you saw how much she's grown and she's just come to terms with everyone in her life. It was super emotional and it felt very appropriate to have it end that way for me. It was very therapeutic ... and I think the audience came back around on her side because of what she's going through."

"Mad Men" arguably became the forerunner of television's renaissance, pulling audiences and rich, character-driven stories back to the small screen. That legacy was not lost on the actress.

"For 'Mad Men' as a whole, it was one of those first shows that opened up TV to what it's become now -- just from when we started 'Mad Men' to now promoting a show, how we do it and all these interviews and live tweeting, and advertising. Television is just where everyone is working...it just broke down the walls of what TV is and has now become."

One similarity the actress deals with in both roles is the secrecy.

"We're secret about the plot lines and I can't say very much, which I'm used to and I'm fine with," she said. "Plus it's broadcast instead of cable, which is very different for me."

On Thursday, Fox announced the return of Jason Sudeikis in Season 2 after his character's arrival in "Last Man's" finale. Jones, whose character was romantically involved with Todd (Mel Rodriguez) last season, couldn't elaborate much further but did share a few teasers.

"I can say that we're not in Tucson anymore. I can't say where we are. I can say that I'm not in the first episode, that's kind of a hint. I think that's about it."

The show begins shooting Monday and returns to Fox on Sept. 27.

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Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.

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