January Jones on How She's Shedding Betty Draper

January Jones, Tribeca
Photo: Henny Garfunkel

After seven years playing Betty Francis (formerly Draper) on Mad Men, January Jones is ready for a change—particularly when it comes to her hair.

"I haven't been able to grow my hair long for eight years," she says on a rainy day inside one of New York's Park Avenue hotels. So will she do something crazy? "No," she says, a little disappointment rising in her voice. "My hair’s been through the ringer."

Her hair isn't the only thing. After playing Mad's insecure, icy Betty, she is ready to shed the character that made her a household name. "I had no intention of doing another series, but when I read Last Man on Earth [her new comedy series co-starring Will Forte and Kristen Schaal], I couldn’t come up with a reason not to do it," she says. "I hadn’t read anything that made me laugh like that, ever. It was a nice way to be emotionally relieved of the pressure of Betty, and also just to remind people that I’m not Betty."

Jones's Instagram followers know that the 37-year-old flexes her funny bone often. So does she prefer comedy over drama? "Not really. I like to do both," she says. "I just like telling a story, so if a story is good, that’s what appeals to me most first and foremost."

Case in point: In her latest film, Good Kill—which she was promoting at the Tribeca Film Festival when we caught up—she plays the wife of a drone pilot (played by Ethan Hawke) who suffers from PTSD and starts to question his mission. Not exactly light fare, but Jones welcomes the challenge of giving life to every kind of new role. "I get super-involved in the process of creating a character visually," she says. "Hair and makeup and wardrobe are very important, and I have a lot of say in that. I usually come up with an idea—obviously with the help of all the artists involved—to make it so that I can separate enough, and that I don’t feel like me."

So while her Good Kill character, Molly, may be just that—a character—there is one role that's closest to her core. "I would say that Melissa [the character on Last Man on Earth] is the most similar to me," she says. How so? "Just the sense of humor, the no-nonsense, no-bull attitude," she continues. "Even the stuff she wears, and the jewelry she wears, some of it is mine, but I think that that’s what appealed to me too—just because I wanted the comedy aspect of it to be reflective of me it felt very natural for me to feel like me physically, too."

Last Man on Earth airs Sundays on Fox at 9:30 p.m. ET, and Good Kill hits theaters nationwide May 15.

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