For seven seasons on Mad Men, January Jones unhappily suffered as fragile Betty Draper Francis, ultimately facing a terminal cancer fate. No wonder she wanted to do a comedy next, and she found a good one in The Last Man on Earth, focusing on a small band of apocalypse survivors that are seeking a change of scene as the second season begins on Sept. 27 9:30 (8:30 C) on Fox.
Jones, who first met star (and former boyfriend) Will Forte when she hosted Saturday Night Live in 2009, gets to flex her comedy muscles as Melissa, who rejected Will’s character Phil last season. “I started in comedy, I did improv, I worked with Judd Apatow on a pilot a long time ago with Amy Poehler,” points out the South Dakota native, who modeled and did commercials in New York before heading to Hollywood and landing roles in movies like Bandits, Anger Management, American Wedding, We Are Marshall, Pirate Radio and Unknown.
Here, she analyzes her career—past, present and future—and reveals what she looks for in men, the “crap” she watches on TV, and what she’d do if she was the last woman on earth.
“I would go destroy someone else’s house for fun. Or like sweep like the china section at Neiman’s or something.”
After Mad Men, were you looking to do a comedy?
It was important to me to do something different, emotionally and therapeutically, and it was nice to do something a little bit lighter but not any less good. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. I don’t want to get bored and I don’t want my audience only to expect one thing from me. I thought, “I’ve maxed my television experience and nothing is ever going to compare to what I had with Mad Men.” But I haven’t read anything in film or TV that was as funny as this show. So it was just another way to use the tools just a little bit differently and also a nice reminder to the fans and my future bosses that I am not actually Betty Draper Francis, that I can do other stuff. I agreed to do Mad Men thinking that it would never get picked up and I felt the same way about this show too. I just thought it was too original and too weird and funny but I just didn’t know if that would translate and it has, so I feel like I hit the lottery. It’s not only fun and silly and smart and funny but it’s become successful, and we get to do it again.
What’s ahead for Melissa this season?
I can’t say what’s going to happen for her but I’m open to whatever. I don’t want to know, I like to be surprised and I like to see it go in a way that I wasn’t anticipating. The weirder and the more outlandish, the better.
Do you crack each other up on set?
All the time, all the time. I literally burst into tears laughing. When we go off script and do improv it’s especially hard to not laugh and waste a take. I made Kristen [Schaal] break once, which I should be ashamed of but I’m so proud because Will can’t get her to break! On Mad Men we had such crazy time constraints that there wasn’t a lot of joking around on set so it’s been fun.
Do you think about what you’d do if you were the last woman on earth?
I think I would find a way to survive. I would be depressed I’m sure. I would get lonely. I would be sad, I don’t know. Those questions I just don’t like to entertain.
Would you do some of the crazy things Phil has done just because he can?
I would go destroy someone else’s house for fun. Or like sweep like the china section at Neiman’s or something. I like things to be tidy.
Melissa’s choice of Todd [Mel Rodriguez] over Will gave hope to many guys out there. She didn’t choose based on looks.
No, and I don’t think all girls do that either. I don’t. I don’t have a physical type when I am dating someone. The first thing that attracts me to a man is if he can make me laugh. So I don’t think it matters, I don’t think it matters to people as much as we’d like to think. I hope not.
What’s your idea of the perfect gentleman?
Intelligence and the ability to make me laugh, to challenge me. Someone who is good.
What was it like to say goodbye to Mad Men after seven years?
That last day was a very long day, very emotional, and then I felt very cleansed of it but then when it started airing again I went through the emotions all over again. There was a viewing party for the final episode, which I couldn’t go to, but I watched at home. I was a wreck.
Did you take a souvenir from the set?
We weren’t allowed to and I just found out why. It’s because they are auctioning everything off. Screw that! I’m not going to pay for my dresses.
Do you keep in touch with your cast mates?
I saw Jon [Hamm] and Kiernan [Shipka] at an event for Oceana. Everyone is kind of scattered doing jobs in various places but we see each other and we all keep in touch a lot. We do fantasy football in the fall.
What do you watch on TV?
I watch crap. I watch a lot of reality TV. I love The Bachelor and Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise–anything that can take my mind of work life. I love Veep a lot. I watch a lot of Forensic Files. Ricky Gervais makes me laugh, Louis C.K. I have a four-year-old so I watch a lot of Octonauts and a lot of Peppa Pig.
How about movies?
I just watched 22 Jump Street. So dumb, so funny. I do love a good rom-com too, but that’s the only genre I can’t really see myself in. I don’t know if I’d be a good rom-com girl. I don’t know if I could play it realistically. Maybe I could, if it was a really cute guy.
You’ve done a superhero movie—X-Men: First Class. How was that?
I would do it again. It’s a whole different skill set. There’s not a lot of dialogue often and so you’re asked to pretend that tennis ball is a spaceship so you feel silly a lot, but those movies are also fun to do just because of that. You’re running around in these gigantic, big budget sets and I love it all.
What other kinds of projects do you want to do?
It always comes down to the story and the script. If it’s something that’s smart and that would challenge me to do something that I’m uncomfortable doing, If I do something that I’m not 100 percent on board with, I usually don’t end up giving it my all and I’m not good in it. I’m adapting a documentary that I found and I love the creative process of that. I think it’s important for women especially to be doing what like Reese Witherspoon does: have your own production company and make things that wouldn’t normally get made.
How about travel?
I’d love to take a ten-hour flight somewhere, just to have someone bring me food and take naps and watch movies. I have a kid and we’ve gone on vacation but it’s not relaxing to take him on a plane. Thank God for iPads!
Photo: Noah Schultz/Fox
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