The Mad Men actress is our February cover star
Iâ€™m obsessed with a quote January Jones posted on her Instagram. It reads â€œCrawl inside this body â€“ find me where I am most ruined, love me there.â€ I read it and cried. Itâ€™s the first thing I bring up when we meet, and she says she cried when she found it, too.
Weâ€™re in Le Pain Quotidien in Woodland Hills, California, which is so generic I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™m in LA or Brent Cross. Itâ€™s the last place youâ€™d expect to find Betty Draper: Mad Menâ€™s steel magnolia and a woman known to walk around the house in a cocktail dress.
Jones has chosen Le Pain because itâ€™s local. She lives in Topanga Canyon. There is no tulle up there. No twinsets or pearls. Just hippies and goats.
From the neck up, Jones looks like a Hitchcock heroine: white blonde hair and translucent skin. But her clothes tell a different story. Sheâ€™s a funky 1990s throwback in black and red lumberjack shirt, Paige jeans and chunky Choo boots. Jones looks like she should be carrying an axe, not Givenchy shades. She orders Quiche Lorraine and coffee â€œwith cream and sugarâ€. Sheâ€™s fresher, funnier, more open than I expected. Unlike Betty Draper, she laughs a lot.
Then again, Jones has long moved on from Mad Men. Sheâ€™s currently shooting comedy series The Last Man On Earth. Created by and starring Will Forte, itâ€™s about a man searching for survivors after a virus wipes out the planet. A professional idiot, Forte has married the first woman he meets and then regrets it when he finds the second woman on earth: Jonesâ€™s Melissa. She says, â€œItâ€™s dark and different and I love that challenge.â€ And, since it shoots in LA, â€œIt has enabled me to provide stability for my son, Xander.â€
She moved up to Topanga Canyon three years ago, driven out of town by the press scrutiny surrounding the identity of Xanderâ€™s father [she became pregnant in 2011, after filming X-Men: First Class, and has refused to discuss her sonâ€™s paternity]. Instead of a house in Silverlake permanently dogged by paparazzi, they now live in a gated community with their Yorkipoo, Max. â€œItâ€™s like in a Spielberg movie,â€ she describes. â€œThe adults have more drinks and the kids are dirtierâ€¦ but itâ€™s safe. Photographers donâ€™t follow us up there, so Xander has a pretty normal life now.â€
She may not be willing to disclose the identity of Xanderâ€™s father, but she is open about the tribulations of being a single parent. Having Xander on her own was scary. All her family came to the birth to support her. â€œMy younger sisters [Jacey and Jina] and my mum and my doula were in the room. My brother-in-law and my dad were next door. I only wanted women with me,â€ she remembers. â€œFemale energy. And I was embarrassed â€“ your body does all these crazy things. It was a 30-hour process but it was awesome. Iâ€™d love to do it again.â€ She says motherhood has only changed her for the better. On Xanderâ€™s birthday she posted: â€œFive years today I became whole because you came into this world.â€
Xander is still surrounded by strong women. â€œMaybe too much,â€ she smiles. Four of her closest girlfriends all had their children at the same time. She counts Rose Byrne and Amy Adams as inner circle, and follows Naomi Watts, Diane Kruger and Marion Cotillard on Instagram. She likes powerful women. â€œMaybe I should get a manny soon,â€ she says, a tad concerned. â€œBut Xander has a lot of bro time with the neighbour dads and my dad, who is super young.â€
â€œItâ€™s good to have strong women around a man,â€ she continues. â€œTo teach him to respect women. He doesnâ€™t have a male person in his life saying â€˜donâ€™t cryâ€™ or â€˜you throw like a girlâ€™. All those shitty things dads accidentally do.â€ Her male friends â€œwant to be around him because heâ€™s such a fun kidâ€, but sheâ€™s candid about the fact that she doesnâ€™t have a partner.
â€œPeople want to set me up all the time and Iâ€™m like, â€˜No way.â€™ If I meet someone and we go out, then fine, but Iâ€™m not going to go lookâ€¦â€ She makes a puke noise and grins.
Speaking of men, she remains close to her Mad Men co-stars. She tells me she and John Slattery are tied at the top of the Fantasy Football League she plays with the Mad Men boys: â€œWe donâ€™t play for money. If we win, we just get to gloat. Itâ€™s how we keep in touch.â€ And Jon Hamm in particular is a pal. â€œThe problem with working with January,â€ Hamm has joked, â€œis that she is so damn hideous!â€
Off-screen, Jonesâ€™s â€˜leading menâ€™ are rumoured to have included Ashton Kutcher, Josh Groban, Jason Sudeikis and current co-star Will Forte. But sheâ€™s been single since having Xander. Itâ€™s all about Xander and the work, she says firmly.
I get it. She has worked extremely hard to get where she is today. After graduating as a straight-As student in small town South Dakota, she was spotted by a modelling scout who asked her to do some tests in New York. â€œMy mum made sure it wasnâ€™t a prostitution ring,â€ she remembers. It wasnâ€™t â€“ and off she went.
She was just another gorgeous struggling actress in LA until Mad Man creator Matthew Weiner cast her as Betty. In the pilot, Betty had three lines. â€œBut her audition was spectacular,â€ says Weiner. â€œI made sure that, starting with the second episode, she would be placed front and centre.â€ It was a defining role that garnered her Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.
Sheâ€™s 39 this month. â€œIâ€™ve done so much more than I ever would have hoped for,â€ she says. â€œI donâ€™t have a 40 by 40 list. I have no New Yearâ€™s resolutions. Everything Iâ€™ve done is everything I would have dreamed of. I have had the most wonderful, unexpected, joyous life. Bizarre to me. Maybe because I never asked for it.â€
Perhaps this accounts for how relaxed she is. She has her work/life balance right. She credits her rural background â€“ her mum worked in a sports shop and her dad was a PE teacher. They had no money; it was all Midwestern pragmatism and being kept in check by her sisters. â€œIf Iâ€™m complaining, they still say â€˜Shut up Jan, I donâ€™t want to hear it.â€™â€ And her mother was a tremendous role model. â€œSheâ€™d had three kids by the age of 26 and then went back to work. I donâ€™t know how she did it.â€
Weekends, she says, itâ€™s all about family. She and Xander hang out with their neighbours. â€œI love to cook a soup on Sundays for football. Have the neighbours over â€“ the kids play.â€ Weekdays, she says, â€œItâ€™s just me and a nanny. No one lives in the house with us. I go to work, always leave at 5pm, come home, let the nanny go and then Iâ€™m mum. I put Xander to bed. Watch two hours of reality TV, then go to bed myself.â€ I laugh about the reality TV and she smiles. â€œItâ€™s escapism. The Bachelor, Bachelorette, The Housewives of Whatever â€“ all of them.â€
Imagining her, night after night, watching TV and going to bed alone makes me push her on the absent man question. Her eyes roll. â€œThe moment I see someone who I think is cute, I google him and, oh, heâ€™s 25, and Iâ€™m thinking, what is my problem?!â€ Sheâ€™s laughing a lot now. â€œMy sister, too. She lives in LA and we both like tattoos, guitar, kinda dirty…â€ I say, whatâ€™s wrong with younger rocker men, surely the sex would be great? And she says, â€œIs the sex great though? Do they know what they are doing? I guess you can teach them. I guess they are mouldable. But I want a manly man in flannel, with a beard and an axe. But then thereâ€™s always something wrong with him. Like heâ€™s a Republican.â€
Joking aside, she continues. â€œSomething else would suffer if a relationship came along. Yes, Iâ€™m willing to make that sacrifice for the right relationship â€“ I just donâ€™t feel I need a partner. Do I want one? Maybe. But I donâ€™t feel unhappy or lonely. It would have to be someone so amazing that I would want to make room. Someone who would contribute to my happiness and not take away from it. I realise I have very high expectations and will probably have to compromise â€“ but my life is so full. Itâ€™s not like, â€˜Aww, I wish I had a man.â€™ After I had Xander, I went on a couple of dates and I was like, â€˜Iâ€™d rather be at home sleeping, or watching TV or hanging out with my kid.â€™â€
Jones has little time for traditional expectations. She has a bunch of tattoos that she had done in her thirties. â€œI have a white one on my wrist [that spells Bellatrix â€“ Latin for female warrior]. A little â€˜5â€™ on my ankle, which is my lucky number.â€ And a new one, concentric circles on her forearm done by legendary LA tattoo artist Dr Woo. â€œItâ€™s Xander and my moon dials with a little heart in the middle.â€
Appearing so fearless and comfortable in her own skin, I ask if there is anything sheâ€™s afraid of? â€œItâ€™s mostly about being a mum. Am I failing at life? Am I failing him? There are other ways to be brave,â€ she says. â€œEmotionally. Vulnerably.â€ I say intimacy is brave and she says, â€œI donâ€™t remember.â€ We laugh again.
As a fellow single mother, we talk about how frustrating it is to never have anyone to hand over to; being good cop and bad cop in every situation. â€œI donâ€™t want to be bad cop,â€ she says. â€œBut to have his respect, I have to be both. I mean, Iâ€™m an emotionally immature person. Iâ€™m an actor for Godâ€™s sake. I see myself behaving like a child all the time.â€
Only this morning, she threw her toys out of the pram. â€œI made Xander eggs, toast, a smoothie. And he spat out his blueberries, threw the eggs into the sink, was playing with his toast, and I just lost my shit. I was like, â€˜Mummy made this breakfast for you!â€™ And he was like, â€˜I donâ€™t want it.â€™ And I took the plate and threw it in the garbage, in tears. Iâ€™m fighting with a five-year-old and acting like one. Someone needs to be the mature one here, but I had a full tantrum.â€
As she gets ready to go and watch Xander in his dance class [â€œa performance called Wobblinâ€™ Goblin, itâ€™s a bit Thriller-esqueâ€], I ask if she has any regrets? She says, â€œI donâ€™t believe in regret. I just try to be a better person. Try to be a better mum. Maybe itâ€™s an ego thing. But I think even missteps are done for a reason. I have dÃ©jÃ vu a lot and someone once told me that when you feel dÃ©jÃ vu a lot, itâ€™s because you are living your life the way it should be lived. And so I feel â€“ even if itâ€™s been a mistake â€“ it has led me to where I am now. Which is great. So, no, to answer your question: I donâ€™t believe in regretting anything.â€
January Jones is the face of KÃ©rastase Nutritive. The first two series of The Last Man On Earth repeat on Dave this month, with the third series starting in the spring