Why January Jones never became the star Hollywood wanted her to be

With the debut of Mad Men in 2007, January Jones was flung into the spotlight. Thanks to her role as Betty Draper, the long suffering wife of Jon Hamm's leading man Don Draper, Jones became a household name. But her part in Matthew Weiner's iconic series was far from her first acting role, and she's continued to bag parts ever since. However, Jones hasn't become the huge Hollywood name that most people expected. Instead, she's flown under the radar in recent years.

Having nabbed the role of Emma Frost in 2011's X-Men: First Class, it seemed as if Jones' career was about to go stratospheric. Instead, the actress has made a return to TV in recent years, securing regular roles in series such as The Last Man on Earth and Ryan Murphy's Netflix show, The Politician. From giving birth to her son, Xander, in September 2011, to the slew of dating rumors surrounding her love life, the former Mad Men star has continued to be a topic of conversation, but why exactly did January Jones never quite become the Hollywood star that everyone expected her to be?

She's unapproachable, according to her on-screen son

Thanks to the instant popularity of Mad Men, January Jones became a household name, following years of smaller parts in movies such as Love Actually and American Pie: The Wedding. While Mad Men's popularity brought Jones a lot of positive press, she was also criticized — namely by one of her co-stars.

Jared Gilmore, who originally played Jones' son, Bobby Draper, on the show, before being replaced in 2011, had some harsh words to say about his on-screen mother. In August 2011, having decided to leave Mad Men for a role on Once Upon a Time, Gilmore issued a warning to his replacement (via TV Guide): "Be careful around January Jones," he said. "She's not as approachable as the others. She's really serious about what she does. Everyone else is so nice." 

While calling someone "serious" isn't necessarily the worst insult of all time and simply points to Jones' work ethic, that kind of sleight against one's reputation can be difficult to shake. Though fellow co-star John Slattery told TMZ that Jones is "great," that "unapproachable" label may have circled her reputation like yellow caution tape in Tinseltown. 

She doesn't have an acting pedigree

When January Jones decided to try her hand at acting, she didn't have any experience in the movie or TV industry. Her background was in modeling — which she hated. "You're like an object," she told GQ in 2014. "They move you around. And I felt like, God, I'm miserable. I hate modeling. When I moved back to New York, the agency said I owed them $20,000. So I left the agency and then — very quickly — decided to go to L.A. and try acting. Without any training." As in zilch: "The fact is, I had zero credits when I arrived — I had no pull, no experience. I had never worked and had no training. I once went to an acting class where they asked me to laugh for ten minutes then cry for ten — I mean, what the hell?"

Did she buckle down and try to learn the ropes? Not exactly. Jones told Interview magazine in 2009, "I've never been trained as an actress, so it's all instinct. I just let myself go into this kind of a free fall. Sometimes I feel scared, or out of my element — like everyone else knows what they're doing but me. I don't know … Maybe I function well with fear or I like to be faced with a challenge … I think I'm just a work in progress." While we admire Jones for going for it, the gaping holes in her résumé may have hampered her progress.

She's critical of Hollywood

In 2013, January Jones told USA Today, "I want to be given the opportunity to do lots of different things. It (Hollywood) can be a town where I feel people have very little imagination." If "Hollywood" was reading, it probably wasn't happy, and that's far from the actress' only criticism of the entertainment industry and the people that work in it. In fact, her continued dissatisfaction with the roles she's been offered and the scripts she's read could have contributed to a decline in her career prospects.

Jones lamented on this topic in a 2014 interview with GQ. Her career was "kind of stuck in limbo," she said. "The offers I'm getting aren't the ones I want. The ones I want are being given to Natalie Portman. Still, I can bide my time. I'm good at being patient, staying silent." While Natalie Portman's credits speak for themselves, the very act of speaking out against the parts she was being offered may have sent a negative message to industry heavy-hitters, prompting writers and directors to turn their attention elsewhere.

Acting wasn't her lifelong dream

In a 2009 interview with Vanity Fair, January Jones revealed that she didn't grow up wanting to be an actress. In fact, the Mad Men star had long held very different aspirations. "I wanted to be a marine biologist," she said. "That's interesting, growing up in South Dakota and dreaming of being a marine biologist. I know. I didn't see an ocean until I was like sixteen. But you're always fascinated with things that aren't tangible, that aren't there for you."

While no one necessarily knows what job they will end up in, it's irrefutable that many high-profile actors have spent their entire lives striving to build successful movie careers. Let's take Natalie Portman, for example. According to The Take, Portman — whose career Jones has said she envies — was cast in her first movie role at the age of 11, when she was plucked from among 2,000 girls who were auditioning for Luc Besson's Léon: The Professional. Portman told Blender in 2005,  "I was definitely different from the other kids. I was more ambitious, I knew what I liked and what I wanted, and I worked really hard. I was a very serious kid." Conversely, acting was not Jones' lifelong dream, and that may have contributed to her current Hollywood profile.

Her reputation has been plagued by relationship scandal

When asked if she'd ever date another celebrity, January Jones told Glamour in 2013, "There was a time in my life when I said I'd never date another actor. But it's hard to meet people outside of my job." To date, the actress' love life seems to have been even more dramatic than her career. Rumor has it that Jones' name came up during celebrity chef Bobby Flay's heated divorce from his wife. According to The New York Times, "She has been linked as well with Matthew Vaughn, her X-Men director, who is married to the model Claudia Schiffer, and Noah Miller, the director of her latest film, Sweetwater, a Western. The celebrity press has branded her as a temptress." 

In January 2011, People reported that she had broken up with comedian Jason Sudeikis. Then, in April 2011, it was revealed that Jones was pregnant with her first child. Her rep told People, "She's really looking forward to this new chapter in her life as a single mom." To make matters more complicated, when questions about the child's paternity arose, rumors started to swirl regarding the identity of the baby's father. E! News reported in May 2011, "According to very well placed movie insiders, closely connected to Jones (who's been shooting X-Men: First Class), January was involved with someone on set — and that someone is the father of her child." 

To date, Jones has not revealed the identity of her father's son to the public.

Did she seriously shade Ashton Kutcher?

In a 2009 interview with GQ, January Jones dished about a toxic relationship she was in when she first moved to Hollywood. "The guy I was dating when I first got to L.A. was not supportive of my acting. He was like, I don't think you're going to be good at this. So — f*** you!" she said. "He only has nice things to say now — if anything, I should thank him. Because the minute you tell me I can't do something, that's when I'm most motivated." 

One of Jones' most famous relationships was with fellow actor Ashton Kutcher, whom she apparently dated between 1998 and 2001, per E! NewsIt's widely believed the mystery man she was bashing was Kutcher, but Jones played coy about the whole thing in an interview on Watch What Happens Live in 2016. Instead of denying that she'd been dishing dirt on Kutcher, she had this to say: "I said that someone I had dated previously wasn't encouraging of my acting — not that I couldn't. I don't know if that person had ever actually seen me act. But the person who wrote the interview did the math and thought it might be him; I never really said who it was." 

She refused to be drawn in any further on the topic, but even dipping a toe into the waters of celebrity shading can sometimes hamstring one's career in unexpected ways.

She wants to be the next Bachelorette

Appearing on The Late Late Show with James Corden in March 2017, Jones revealed that one of her biggest ambitions is to be the next Bachelorette. (We're not kidding.) "I've been grooming myself for it," she told Corden. "I asked my publicist. I'll watch the show, have a couple of glasses of wine, Ben [Higgins] gets kicked off and I'm like, 'Oh I'm gonna be the next Bachelorette and get that guy.' And then she says it would ruin my career, and I get shot down. But that's my dream." 

While it hasn't happened yet, it's worth noting that the show's creator, Mike Fleiss, has been courting celebs on Twitter for the coveted reality TV role. In fact, Jones has already been romantically linked to one of the stars of The Bachelor, suggesting that she may be laying the groundwork for a future appearance. In February 2018, Jones laughed off rumors that she was dating Nick Viall, telling Entertainment Tonight, "He's a friend of mine. He's super sweet." She insisted she's "single" and said Viall was "a friend of mine" who "tells me lots of inside scoops." She did tell Corden she thinks Viall is "pretty cute." 

What we're suggesting here is that Jones might not be a big Hollywood star because she's harboring reality TV dreams instead, and we are here for it 100 percent!

Zach Galifianakis put her on blast

In additional to allegedly dissing former flame Ashton Kutcher, January Jones also apparently had a run-in with The Hangover star Zach Galifianakis. In a 2011 interview with Shortlist.com, Galifianakis was quizzed about Jones. His brutal response painted a not-so-nice picture. "That's really funny because, if I remember correctly, she and I were very rude to each other. It was crazy. I was at a party — I'd never met her — and she was like, 'Come sit down.' So I sit at her table and talk for 10 minutes, and she goes, 'I think it's time for you to leave now.' So I say, 'January, you are an actress in a show and everybody's going to forget about you in a few years, so f***ing be nice,' and I got up and left."

Clearly, Galifianakis isn't a fan of Betty Draper, and the feeling may be mutual. Bottom line: making enemies in Hollywood seems like a surefire way to get you blacklisted from future projects and that may be what transpired here. 

She doesn't play well with the press

As well as allegedly rubbing certain celebrities the wrong way, January Jones also doesn't have a great reputation with members of the press. A particularly scathing 2013 profile of the actress in The New York Times painted a rather bleak picture. For starters, the article claimed, "It isn't easy to coax a smile out of January Jones." Okay, not smiling isn't a crime, but the negative descriptions escalated throughout the piece.

According to the NYT's assessment: "At 35, she is not much inclined to draw back curtains on a private life that seems by turns hermetic and crazily exposed." Being a hermit isn't a criminal offence either, but when coupled with the negative words of other celebs, the actress' icy demeanor becomes more and more believable and less and less attractive. As for the author of this NYT profile, said journalist definitely didn't become a fan of Jones during the course of the interview. "She shook a reporter's hand wanly," they wrote. "In conversation, she studiously averted her eyes." 

She's extremely picky about roles

Speaking to Glamour in 2013, January Jones revealed that although she loves acting, she also loves her chill-out time. "I love my job, but if I don't have to work, I get very excited. I like to be lazy and do nothing," she said. "I'm lucky because Mad Men is a steady job that affords me to be choosy in my film career." Mad Men ended in 2015, and Jones' career hasn't exactly taken off. Perhaps she's struggled to turn on the hustle, defaulting to a "choosy" place that may no longer exist for her. Jones also told Glamour that if acting "ever becomes not fun, then I won't do it anymore." Is that the place where she is today?

According to her 2015 interview with IndieWire, "If I'm going to limit myself to not playing wives and mothers then I'm not going to work very much. [laughs] Because so many women are a wife and a mother or a wife or a mother." It's possible that Jones' fear of being typecast after playing Betty Draper on Mad Men may have prompted her to turn down roles that could have been good for her long-term career, but hey, at least she seemed to go into it with her eyes wide open.

She's no social butterfly

January Jones seems comfortable in both her career and her home life. Rather than courting the spotlight, the actress prefers to keep to herself. As she told Glamour in 2013, "I don't like going to parties, and things like that. I prefer to sit at home and be by myself, reading or watching TV or playing with my son. I don't get lonely very much." At a time when so many celebs are spending copious amounts of time curating their social media profiles, live-streaming, or hobnobbing at all the latest hot spots, Jones seems uninterested in all of that. To each their own, but her decisions could be hurting her prospects in Hollywood.

Regardless, Jones seems comfortable — or at least comfortably uncomfortable — doing things her own way, even if that means she isn't the star Hollywood wanted her to be. "If everything always went perfectly, I would feel like, When is the ball going to drop? Because good things don't always last," she told Interview in 2009. "…I come from a background where I was never told that I couldn't do something, so I'm very stubborn. I don't know if I believe in fate or destiny, but it kind of feels that way sometimes."

As for work-life balance? She knows what you may be thinking. "People keep saying, 'Oh poor you, being a single mum. But I don't want to be pitied," she told Glamour. "I can do anything I want to do."