AMC’s Mad Men, a surprise small-screen hit, has thrust January Jones into the big time. By Allison Winn Scotch

The way Mad Men’s January Jones sees it, you either haven’t watched (or, perhaps, even heard of) her hit television show, in which she stars as the repressed and unhappily married Betty Draper, or you’re obsessed with it. In 2007, critics -- and Mad Men’s zealous fans -- fell unabashedly into the latter category, and theseries came out of nowhere to win big at last year’s Golden Globe Awards and Peabody Awards. Now the show, set in 1960s New York, is back for its second season on AMC. South Dakota–born Jones, 30, tells us about the appeal of her character, how she fills her downtime, and the story behind her unusual name.

As how about advertising in the ’60s on AMC doesn’t exactly seem like asurefire hit. Did you ever expect this kind of reaction?
I knew that AMC had not done a series before, but that did not concern me. It was such an amazing pilot -- very smartly written, really different. And I love period pieces. I wanted to be a part of it in any capacity.

Betty Draper is consumed with creating a picture-perfect life, but all the while, she’s internally unraveling. How much does that resonate with today’s modern woman?
I think it was a different time when marriage was definitely an institution and you didn’t get divorced. One of my favorite things about Betty is that she has been educated. She has traveled the world. You see her gradually come to terms with the fact that [being a housewife] is not going to make her happy. And now, she’s finding that very difficult to remedy and is imploding, which isn’t too different than being in a relationship in2008. I relate to those things. I think everyone does. What I would not relate to is not minding that this is going on.

Off screen, you’ve created a jewelry line. How did that come about?
I’vealways really enjoyed doing bead work. I mentioned it in an article a couple of years ago, and my business partner’s mother saw it [and told him about it], and he approached me. I was like, “Right. This guy wants to give me money to design a line. Sure -- sure!” After he tried a couple of times to get hold of me, I was like, “What do I have to lose?” So I took a meeting with him, and he wanted me to design a line.We’re doing special orders now, and the jewelry will be in stores soon.

Tell us about your name; you are not named after the month, correct?
I was named after a character in the book Once Is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann. My mom and dad saw the TV version of it, and mydad especially liked how January went with Jones. My sisters are all JJs as well.

Has Mad Men opened up a lot of doors for you?
Yes, in certain ways. But I’m still the same in how I approach things. I’d rather do small roles that I’ve never done before than a leading rolein a romantic comedy.