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January Jones on Sundance, Shotguns, and What’s Next for Betty on Mad Men

January Jones. Photo: Getty Images

Mad Men fans, accustomed to the perfectly coiffed Betty Draper, will be surprised by January Jones’s character in Sweetwater, which premiered last night at Sundance. Jones plays Sarah, a former prostitute with a messy strawberry-blonde braid, who fends for herself in nineteenth-century New Mexico and thinks nothing of shooting lascivious men in the butt. We spoke to the South Dakota native about shooting guns, drinking beer, and why Betty Draper will never escape her funk.

Your character’s this gunslinging, horseback-riding dame. Are you more like her or Betty?
Oh, God. Sarah. I related to her strength, as brutal as it is.

It’s almost like she gets to take the revenge that Betty doesn’t get to take.
Right, you want Betty to. And she does a little bit, but there are times when I get so frustrated with her. You know? Like, why don’t you say something? The last few films I’ve done, I’ve played the villain. I just think it’s really fun for me because it’s not things that I get to do in real life. I’m not going out and punching people and blowing shit up. I mean, if you’re an actor, wouldn’t you want to do fun stuff like that? Like shooting and riding horses and shooting a guy’s dick off and things?

Did you know how to shoot a gun?
Yeah. My dad would always go shooting, like, pheasants and ducks and stuff. I never did that. He takes me clay shooting quite a bit. We go do that. I’m not as familiar with handguns, only from films I’ve done. But, yeah, I felt more comfortable with them than the sheep.

Are you more comfortable with a rifle?
Yeah, shotgun or rifle. Much, much easier. And it’s also less scary for me, I think. I feel like handguns are for a certain reason, while shotguns and rifles are for sport.

I’ve read that you like to drink beers and hang out and watch football.
I mean, my family — that’s just the way I was raised. We’re from South Dakota. We watch a lot of sports and don’t drink fancy drinks, and we eat a lot of meat and potatoes. I like the glamorous aspects of my job too. I like, you know, putting on expensive frocks and going on the red carpet once in a while. But mostly I’m pretty laid-back.

If you had your druthers, where would you like to see Betty go? She’s had a rough couple of years.
It’s interesting to hear people’s perspectives, because I felt like the first few seasons were rough, and then she’s made steps in the last couple seasons to be happier, by leaving Don and marrying Henry and trying to be a better mom. And I think that she’s in the best place we’ve seen her — but I’m not sure she’ll ever be completely happy. I don’t know if she knows how to do that. She’s one of those people who’s always searching for something else, so even if she finds it, I don’t know if she’d recognize it. And it’s sad, because Henry’s, like, a great husband and a great guy, and he took in her kids, and he’s like this kind of perfect guy, and she’s still searching for something.

I guess she could go to a place where she’s more self-actualized?
I don’t know what would make her happy. I mean, even when she found out last year that she wasn’t dying, she was like, “Great, so I’m just fat.” I mean, there’s no silver lining for her, but I don’t know.

But maybe Matt Weiner will give her a silver lining?
But I don’t think he wants — that’s not realistic, and he’s very true to human nature. Some people don’t get silver linings, and that’s not interesting anyway.

What can we look forward to this season?

I’m in it more. I can only say that, I think. We’re halfway done — and I’ve gotten to do a lot of weird stuff.

January Jones on Mad Men’s Sixth Season