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If you’re eagerly awaiting the premiere of Mad Men on Sunday, and averse to any spoilers surrounding this long-overdue event, then read no further. But if you can’t resist a Betty Draper update, then read on.
All right, spoiler time: January Jones is MIA from the Mad Men‘s fifth-season debut. Not in a single shot, although Betty’s presence hangs like a shadow over the continuing saga of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), who last time we saw him, abruptly announced his engagement to secretary Megan (Jessica Pare).
Betty, meanwhile, had recently married political adviser Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley).
In an interview with THR, Jones explained her absence from the two-hour premiere, saying: “I wasn’t hurt at all.” In fact, she said, “It was organized that way.”
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See, Jones had been pregnant with her first child (son Xander, born in September 2011) when filming was set to resume on the AMC series. Creator Matthew Weiner collaborated with Jones, working around her pregnancy to get some scenes done before she gave birth.
“We went back to work a lot longer ago then everybody else,” Weiner told THR. “We wanted to accommodate her. She has a very modern situation. Way more modern than Betty Draper. We accommodated her work life, and we’re just so happy for her. And so she got to go off and have her baby, take her maternity leave, and come back to work. We actually shot some of the things out of order, not just the first episode but later episodes, like scenes and things like that when she was able to come back to work.”
Jones has another theory on Betty’s no-show in the premiere.
“I think, creatively, Matthew just wanted to f–k with people, basically, and have them wonder where Betty is because there was so much going on about how we were going to shoot it because I was pregnant when we first started the show this season,” she said.
When Jones returned to the set, Xander was about seven weeks old.
“It was really difficult,” she said of balancing long work days with a new baby. “Eight months pregnant, you’re fatigued and emotional and I just sort of tried to channel that into the character … luckily, Betty’s sort of an emotional crackerbox, so it worked. … (Xander) was at work with me because I was nursing, so every two hours I would come back to my room to feed him, then I would go to work and then that night, I went to sleep.”
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As for the season-five arc of Betty, Mad Men‘s most controversial character, Jones said the frustrated ’60s housewife is still seeking happiness.
“Each season has felt almost like a different character, just in her growth — which is a good thing,” she said. “I think that she’s just really trying to grow but her emotional immaturity is at a level where it’s not possible … for her to really feel content, ever.”
Jones defends Betty from critics who denounce the frosty blonde as a cold, selfish mother while she gains more independence with each season.
“People don’t like it. People don’t sympathize with her anymore,” Jones observed. “People find her a villainous, or unlikable character. So I’m very confused by that. Especially for a modern society — for modern women especially. We should, if anything, relate to her more now then we did then. But for some reason, she’s not liked. Maybe it’s just her relationship with Sally (Kiernan Shipka) that people are offended by, that they’re more like sisters than mother and daughter. That they fight, and hit each other, and just don’t really get along.”
She added: “I find myself defending her. I don’t agree with a lot of the things that she does either, but I find myself defending her. Because I think she’s trying.”
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