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Scott D. Pierce: January Jones is mad about 'Mad Men'

PASADENA, Calif. — January Jones got herself in trouble on the set of "Mad Men."

In a town where thin is perpetually in, the actress' physical appearance was of concern to the show's producers.

"I got told a couple of days ago that I look too skinny and I was in trouble," Jones said.

"Mad Men" is set in the mid-1960s, when the standard of female beauty leaned more toward curves and less toward super-skinny. Which makes the "Mad Men" set a bit different than most TV and movie productions, where the actresses are so often encouraged to keep their weight down as much as possible.

"If anything, they tell us to gain weight, gain weight, gain weight, because they want a soft look to these (1960s) women. And it was beautiful, which it should be," Jones said. "Let's bring that back."

When the third season of "Mad Men" kicks off on Sunday at 8, 9 and 11 p.m. on AMC, Jones certainly doesn't have to look thin. Her character, Betty Draper, is about seven months pregnant.

And the pregnancy has, at least for the moment, saved her marriage to philandering advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm).

"I think the whole baby thing … it's kind of been a rebirth for them," Jones said. "They're being very nice to each other and they're looking at this baby as being a new beginning for them. I can't give anything away, but the pregnancy is a very optimistic time for them."

Of course, Don is still Don. And, in Sunday's premiere, he takes a business trip. So … well, Don is still Don.

Although you can never feel too comfortable predicting what's going to happen next on "Mad Men." The show is always full of surprises.

And Jones has gotten over the surprise that nobody complains when she eats on the set.

"I eat whatever's at Craft Service. I'm a big meat eater. I'm from South Dakota, so I eat meat and potatoes, carbs," she said. "We're encouraged not to work out. They want soft. They don't want any muscle definition. I'm naturally pretty thin, so. ..."

Jones credits costume designer Janie Bryant for her "amazing" work on the show, re-creating '60s fashion.

"A lot of thought goes into that and a lot of shows don't do that. I think it lends a lot to the show," she said.

And it doesn't feel like she's playing dress-up.

"Not anymore. I feel very comfortable in it. I mean, I can get into my girdle and my longline bra, my hose in, like, seconds now. I'm really good at it," she said.

And "the girdle creates the waist." So she can eat what she wants at the Craft-Service table.

"I definitely feel it's a little bit of a cheat as an actor because when you walk out of the makeup and hair trailer and you look a certain way and you feel a certain way and you walk a certain way, it just makes you feel already a little bit there — but I don't feel like you need to be a certain shape."

Jones admits that her life has changed since "Mad Men" premiered.

"Well, sure. Every couple of months, we're at an awards show. So it's pretty crazy," she said.

(In its first two seasons, the show has won six Emmys and been nominated for 20 more, along with awards from the Television Critics Association, the Directors Guild, the Screen Actors Guild the Golden Globes and the Peabodys — just to name a few.)

"But what's most shocking is that ... the people involved in this show are so close and all love each other so much and respect each other so much," Jones said. "There's no animosity. No one ever believes us, but we all love each other very much. And we have just a great family environment when we go to work. We all want to be there. We all want to be part of each episode."

She also admits that playing troubled, complicated housewife on "Mad Men" has sort of spoiled her for other projects.

"For me, the only thing that's changed, really, is my expectations when I read a script," Jones said. "When I come off this show and I have to read scripts for my hiatus for films or whatever, it's, like (expletive, expletive, expletive, expletive). I mean, nothing is as good as 'Mad Men.' And it's pretty wonderful that it's a TV show and we can get away with that.

The show's third season gets off to a good start on Sunday, and Jones promises it will only get better.

"We're (filming) Episode 9 of the third season, and it's, like, who's writing this at 3 a.m.? 'Cause they get so little time to do this," she said recently. "(Creator/executive producer) Matt Weiner doesn't sleep at all. And I think he actually performs better when he's crazy with no sleep. I mean, the scripts are just genius."

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com