Imagine Betty Draper, locked and loaded, brutally avenging the death of Don on the plains of 19th century New Mexico. Of course, that's not exactly what January Jones is going for with her new movie Sweetwater, but it's hard not to shake the petite actress' rendition of the uptight housewife as she explains her new movie.
Despite her national recognition as the former Mrs. Draper (plus her chillingly cold take on X-Men's Emma Frost), Jones is no stranger to roughing it. Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, she speaks with a slight lilt and had plenty of tips for saving our skin from the Sundance cold. When we spoke to her at the True Religion party celebrating the premiere of Sweetwater, she explained the romance of the West and the wide-open sky (something the S.D.-native knows a lot about). Sporting a comfy red sweater and jeans like nobody's business, the denim lover (she picked up plenty of True Religion goods for herself and her son) talked to us about her possible X-Men: Days Of Future Past role and what it's like being Hollywood's most photographed single mother. Last bit of info we gleaned from January? Yes, that is really her actual, parent-given name.
We’re here in Utah and you grew up in a similar climate — do you have any great tips for winter beauty?
“Moisturizing. It’s brutal...so dry here; drink lots of water. I just started using Egyptian Magic. It comes in a little jar — I guess people have been using it forever, and I just found out about it. It’s just oils — natural oils — and I put that under my night cream at night. I try to exfoliate and not wash my face too much because all of the hard water is hard on my skin. Baby wipes and little tricks — I try not to shower very much. I try not to wash my hair very much. Whatever you can do to still stay clean but not use water.”
Westerns are becoming really popular right now, both critically and with audiences. As a native of the edge of the world, why do you think that is?
“I don’t think (Sweetwater) is a Western. I think it’s a movie that takes place in the West during that time period, but it doesn’t feel like a Western to me. There’s guns and horses and things, but it has a very modern feel to it. It’s just a very harsh film in the storytelling. If we’re going to consider that a part of the Western genre, then, I think the reason people like it is just because it may be nostalgic."
Do you think the time period of the wide-open West is one Americans find really romantic?
“Maybe. I feel like the landscape for this film was definitely its own character, but it’s just beautiful to watch. It makes the movie seem so epic even though we didn’t have a very large budget; we had these beautiful landscapes that brought so much to each scene. We were there in a rough time of year (there’s a monsoon season), so in the afternoon all these clouds would come in, and we’d have lightning and thunder and it led to some really beautiful skies, but it was tough filming.”
Photo: Courtesy of True Religion
When Betty Draper realizes she’s pregnant, it's a major problem due to the stigma of being a single mother and societal norms of that time. In your own life, you’ve provided a great counter-example to Betty as a working single mom. Is that a hard thing to do in Hollywood?
“I think being a mother in general is very difficult, especially when you are working and trying to juggle everything. I think the difference between now and then is that it’s more acceptable. People don’t frown upon it like they may have in Betty's time. I think that we’re really lucky to be in a time in our world and our country, at least, where women have all these opportunities, and being a working mom and juggling all these things — people are very supportive of that instead of ‘oh, she’s a blot in society.”
There are not a lot of positive examples in media of a woman doing it on her own. Do you feel a responsibility to be a strong representation?
“Well, I don’t think I do it consciously. I just try to be a good mom in general. I hope I’m sending a good example. I know that there are people who have it a lot more difficult. Because of the job I do, I’m able to afford childcare, and I have a lot of family, so I am able to work, but it’s not easy. I don’t think it’s easy even if you have a partner. I mean, it takes a village.”
Kind of in a similar vein, one of the most striking moments of Mad Men is when Betty is about to have her third child. It’s her third time doing this — it should be comfortable, but it’s so procedural, clinical, and cold. Was that disturbing to you? As a woman, how did you react to that?
“Well I asked a lot of questions ‘cause when I read it I was like, 'Why is this happening?' I didn’t know that’s how they did things then: They were so drugged; it’s not a very friendly environment. The husbands weren’t even in the room. It was very difficult. I couldn’t wrap my head around that to know how to behave in that scene. I mean, it was on the page, but I was like…I just couldn’t relate to it in any way. I have never heard of anything like that. I asked my grandmother about it, and she said, 'Oh yeah, you know, the doctors barely said anything to you, and you’re just doped up.' I’m very grateful that being a mother today means embracing a kind of more happy surrounding. People are using midwives again and doulas. It’s a lot more friendly. It’s about a beautiful experience and not just about getting that thing out.”
Yeah, that was really evocative.
“Yeah! It was really hard to shoot.”
Okay, so: Emma Frost is a beloved cult character. Are you going forward with her for Days of Future Past?
“(Laughs) I honestly don’t know. I haven’t seen a script.”
When you were preparing for her, did you get into some comic books?
“Yeah! It was really fun. I mean to say that doing research for a film by reading comic books is kind of nice. I wasn’t familiar with her, so it was really cool to go through and see all the different looks and try to collaborate with the hair and makeup and wardrobe teams. It was the ‘60s, so it could be kind of retro, but still, we wanted to take pieces of different costumes she wore in the comic books and make them new and fresh for the fans. It’s also very daunting; it’s a big responsibility because she is so loved in those comics. So, once I found that out, I had already signed on and I was starting to get pretty freaked out about that, but it was a blast. I’d never done a big, franchise, comic-book-stunts [kind of movie] — it was awesome. I’m usually, like, the rom-com’er. I like something easy to relax in to, but it was really fun.”
Photo: Courtesy of True Religion