January Jones opened up to W magazine and revealed that when it came to casting the role of secretary Peggy Olsen on “Mad Men,” she was thisclose to getting the part, but also that the role she eventually was cast for — Betty Draper, the icy blonde homemaker wife of anti-hero Don Draper — wasn’t even written into the pilot yet. Instead, series creator Matthew Weiner cast January Jones as Betty Draper and basically wrote the character around her.
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. This is huge, people. It’s crazy to imagine “Mad Men” without the Drapers home life factoring largely in the show — Don’s affairs, Betty’s burgeoning feminist consciousness — but as January tells it, the original “Mad Men” pilot only mentioned Don Draper’s home life in passing:
“There was no Betty in the pilot when I auditioned. Matthew Weiner, the creator of the show, had no intention of showing Don Draper’s home life. I read for Peggy two times — it was between me and Elisabeth Moss, who eventually got the part. At the end of the scene, there was a casual mention that Don was married. Matt went home that night and wrote two scenes that featured Betty. I auditioned a couple of days later, and he made me a verbal promise that the character would grow. I took the part on faith — there was no script or fleshed-out character or Betty plotline.”
First of all, can we talk about how January Jones would have been a horrible Peggy Olsen? No one can discern whether January is just a limited actress or whether Betty Draper’s character is just a tightass ice queen, but I think we can all agree January probably lacks the range that Peggy Olsen reveals on the show. I cannot imagine anyone but Elisabeth Moss playing the role of Peggy — or such a controversial character as Betty Draper not existing!
Second of all, how cool is it that Matthew Weiner felt in his gut that January Jones would somehow be a good contribution to the show, so he wrote her in? I love stories like this which show the creative process at work.
We’re a house divided here at The Frisky: I love the Draper family home life plot on “Mad Men,” while Amelia almost exclusively enjoys the office drama at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. How funny to think that the show may once have been very, very different.