LOS ANGELES, April 1 (UPI) -- Jon Hamm and January Jones say they found fulfilling ways to spend the lengthy hiatus between the fourth and fifth seasons of their 1960s New York-set drama series "Mad Men."
Seventeen months passed between the Season 4 finale of the show and last Sunday's Season 5 premiere. During that break, Hamm produced and acted in "Friends with Kids," which was penned by and starred his longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt, while Jones became a first-time mother to son Xander.
"Some people had babies. Some people did jobs. My girlfriend and I were able to finance and produce a film," Hamm told United Press International in a recent teleconference.
"In fact, 'Friends with Kids' came about and was a full product of the hiatus," he said. "We raised the money for the movie, we shot it, edited it and premiered it at the Toronto Film Festival. We sold the movie and the movie was in theaters all before 'Mad Men' came out. So, it was quite a journey."
In the critically acclaimed television show, Hamm plays Don Draper, a womanizing, successful partner in a New York advertising firm. Jones plays Betty, his spoiled, depressed ex-wife and the mother of their three children.
"We haven't been off as long as the show has been off the air. We went back shooting in August, which is a few months longer [of a break.] Usually, we go back in May," Hamm replied when asked about how hard it was to go back to being Don Draper again after the hiatus.
"The fun thing was that I was directing the first [episode we shot,]" Hamm said. "So that was able to kind of reinvigorate folks and give them a little charge. And it was nice to see a familiar face behind the camera for the first one."
Hamm told reporters during the teleconference he declined previous offers to direct episodes of the show, but finally decided he was ready after seeing some of his actor friends direct themselves.
"When they came back at the end of Season 4 and said, 'Would you do it?,' for whatever reason something had shifted in me. And I'd seen [my co-star] John Slattery do it, Jen do it with 'Friends with Kids,' Ben [Affleck] do it on 'The Town' and whatever else. So I was surrounded by these examples of actors directing themselves. And I thought, 'All right.' If Bryan Cranston can do it on 'Breaking Bad,' then OK, maybe I can do this. I feel comfortable. And so I did. And I'm glad I did."
"When we first started the show this season, I was eight months pregnant and it was great," Jones told UPI in a separate group phone interview. "I was really excited to be back and see everyone and be at work. At that point, I was getting pretty big, so I was also pretty fatigued, but at the same time it was sort of perfect because I had an outlet to channel emotions and mood swings."
Even though she has been playing Betty for years, Jones confessed it always takes a day or two at the start of a new season to get back into character.
"I always think it takes the first episode to find your voice again," she noted. "The first few days are always nerve-wracking; like the first day of school. You're just trying to find your voice again and gestures and body language and things I've done to kind of create her."
The Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG award-winning "Mad Men" airs Sunday nights on AMC.