It probably helped that she also hung out with the kind of clique you wouldn’t mind being part of, Judd Apatow’s harem of humour, working and improvising on a show called North Hollywood. It wasn’t picked up, but the experience left its mark and she’s never excommunicated herself from the church of the split sides.
“I really love the comedy world and I love to laugh, obviously,” she says. Obviously. “There’s a lot of really great talent out there right now. I think Kristen Wiig is a really talented, funny person and I think there should be more roles written for females in comedies.”
And the most naturally funny person she’s met?
“Zach Galifianakis is a genius. He’s just extremely quick and genuine, and it’s not forced and he’s not always trying to be funny.”
The patience shown through dropped shows and anonymous credits eventually paid off in 2007; that was the year Mad Men came along. Such was her effect on creator Matt Weiner that he expanded Betty’s role and gave this put-upon ad man’s wife a modelling background. Not only did the show make Jones world-famous, but it also allowed her to wear the official ‘international sex symbol’ T-shirt, which leads to the inevitable celeb lifestyle scrutiny and ‘hot list’ evaluation by various magazines.
“I don’t really think about it,” she says. “I don’t seek it out and I rarely hear about it. I think it’s inevitable for a woman to be rated one way or another like that, unfortunately. I guess it’s flattering, depending what number I am…”
“Do you think it affects your career?” I ask.
“I would hope not.”
I think I’ve just been ‘told’. And she’s right, of course. She’s an award-nominated actor and a major presence on Mad Men. It’s skills, not looks, that have landed her major big-screen roles, like the one as Mrs Neeson.
Shooting Unknown let her have a few nights out in Berlin with her German co-star Diane Kruger (“the pilsner and schnitzel were particular favourites”), but it’s not the only European capital she’s embraced recently. As mentioned, she was here for four months last year, taking on another major role in another major film: Emma Frost in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class. She’ll also be embracing a whole new audience: the feared and revered comic-book fans.
“I’m very excited about that,” she says without hesitation. “I was kind of intimidated by the idea, wanting to not disappoint everyone’s idea of what Emma Frost should be. So I took it on very seriously, in my research and collaborating with the costume and the hair and make-up. I’m really excited to see what they think. I feel very proud of it and some of the stuff that Matthew Vaughn’s shown the cast looks really amazing.”
As well as London-born director Vaughn, Jones also shares the screen with Englishman Nicholas Hoult, Irishman Michael Fassbender and Scotsman James McAvoy. It’s not the start of a bad joke, but a talent-fest that does the British Isles proud — and they’re far from the worst looking bunch of guys. I ask for her brutally honest assessment of British men.
“Umm, ahh,” she hesitates. Oh dear. “Well, London is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, cities, so I love English people in general, but I think James McAvoy would be really upset if you called him an Englishman.”
Yes he would. “I did actually say British…”
“They’re great. I love the sense of humour and the charm that goes along with British men. And women.”
“Have you been fully immersed in British culture?” I enquire.
“I love the vibe,” she replies. “The culture really suits me: the fashion, the food, the people, everything.”
“Some of the Indian food. And Wagamama is my favourite place on Earth.”
“You like sport. What do you think to ours?”
“The sports, er, I’d have to… I don’t know, cricket and, er, yeah. I like rugby. I like seeing teeth get knocked out!”
That’s comforting. I also read she likes a beer and chews tobacco, but assumed that it was some other January Jones. If she likes violent entertainment, though, why not beer?
“Yes, yes I do.”
“Light. I’m not a huge Guinness girl — it’s too filling. I like a Stella or a Peroni or something like that. Miller Lite. Nothing too fancy. You drink ’em pretty fast.”
“I read you chew tobacco…”
“Not any more, but yeah, I’m from South Dakota, I’m a farm girl.”
“Did you spit into a bucket?”
“Not a bucket! A bottle or a cup or something. I tried to be a little discreet. I’m not a total hick.”
“What’s your most uncouth habit?”
“Wouldn’t you say chewing tobacco? Or drinking beer and watching people get their teeth knocked out?”
“So you don’t neck the beer and then belch afterwards?”
“No, I don’t do that.”
I get the impression I’ve pushed this one as far as it’ll go, but it’s enough to give any man solace in his more slovenly state. What’s more, if January Jones spits, drinks and likes legalised assault, might Mad Men’s Mr Impeccable Don Draper have less ‘sophisticated’ habits, too? And by Don, I of course mean Jon Hamm, his non-fictional alter ego. I ask her what un-Don like habits Hamm has. Does he turn up unshaven in jogging bottoms?
“He’s not impeccably maintained?”
“No, they do that for us in hair and make-up. We don’t come to the set looking like that. But yeah, he’s very cool, very laidback. He’s almost more cool in his sneakers and sweatsuits than when he is in a suit.”
I pick a bit of fluff of my jogging bottoms and give them a loving pat. Next time I’ll make a video call.
https://www.facebook.com/UnknownUK is at cinemas nationwide from 4 March