Adria Tennor is known to “Mad Men” fans as Betty Draper’s friend Joyce Darling, but she’s also known to food fanatics as the co-owner of two Los Angeles restaurants–Barbix and Cooks County–with her husband. ShockYa was excited to talk to Tennor about her time on “Mad Men,” how the show has changed the television landscape and her latest venture, a short film named “Cracked.”

“Cracked” can be found at its website and on Facebook and Twitter. The final season of “Mad Men” is currently airing at 10 p.m./9 p.m. central on AMC.

How would you describe your character Joyce?

She’s a friend of Betty’s. She’s very frank-talking. I was on the show for the first season and the third season, and we [Betty and Joyce] were friendly in that 1960s, “Everything is great” kind of way. But in the fith season, Betty runs into my character in the hospital when she has had this scare that she has this tumor that could be malignant. I [as Joyce] am going to the hospital for radiation because I have cancer. You know, in the ’60s, there weren’t as many people being cured of cancer as there are now. It’s kind of cool because my character shifted from being this kind of sweet housewife friend of Betty’s…to this kind-of doomed, tell-it-like-it-is woman on her deathbed…that was kind of fun to play that, to play the sweet sunny lady and then to have this flip in her character. The scene was great with January and she was great. She was so good. She really let my situation, which was mirroring her own, affect her and it. She was really beautiful in the scene.

Now that the show is ending and you’re reflecting back on it, how does it feel to be a part of such a groundbreaking show?

It’s such a blessing. I feel it’s something I’m super proud of. It’s one of my favorite credits. There are things that I’m thankful for every day and that’s one of them. I think about the casting director every day who cast me and working with Matthew Weiner and Jon Hamm. That [episode] was his first episode that he ever directed. He was such a doll and I think he [and Weiner] volleyed for me to have that…I think this was a show that really revolutionized television. It made cable and television good again. It forged the way and showed that people will watch [engaging television]…There used to be three networks and now there’s [seemingly] 500 networks! You’re not going to get every eyeball. So the audiences are going to be smaller…so let’s try to not appeal to all these eyeballs. Let’s try to just make something that is really good and something we really believe in so that whatever group there is will fall in love with it instead of making everything so [milquetoast].

Can you tell me more abut “Cracked”?

I’m in the process of making it…When I was working on “Smothered,” which is John Schneider’s directorial and writing debut, the man who was the first AD and co-producer in that movie really became friends [with me] and he really has this terrific mentor bone in his body. When we came back here, I showed him my script of the short and he wanted to make it. So we did that–we shot for two days. Marguerite Moreau is in it–she’s got a really nice recurring arc right now on “Grey’s Anatomy.” [There’s also a] really talented little girl named Talyan Wright; everyone’s going to know who she is in just a few months because she’s so amazing, and a couple really amazing actors [including] Kerrie Keane and Stanley Miller. All these people just came out and I had an incredible crew and was just supported by all of these friends.

You act, but you also co-own two restaurants with your husband. What sparked your love for food?

I was always a waitress–as an actor, I was always waiting tables. I never liked to rely on just my acting income. I always wanted to know where my money was coming from and to feel a little a more secure than if I was just to live off the acting income. And I wanted to live a little better that I was [laugh] if I had just lived off acting. There were a few times as a waitress when I could have not waited on tables, when I was making enough money as an actor, but I just kept doing it because I felt like it gave me the security and I wasn’t so insecure when I went into an audition. You need to have all your wits about you and feel secure and not be worried about anything when you go in for something like that. And another thing, especially in Los Angeles–most of the people in this town are in the movie business, so most of the people you’re waiting on are in the movie business or television. So I started to get work from the people I was waiting on…

[M]y boss at this one place, he misinterpreted something that I said [laughs]. It was his last night–he was going to go open another restaurant, and I said, “We should go for a drink.” What I meant was “It’s your last night, the staff should take you out for a drink.” He thought I was hitting on him [laughs]. So we ended up going out on a date. We went on three, and at the end of the third one, I told him I wasn’t ready to date anybody, and I didn’t date anyone for an entire year. I took a poledancing class. And after a year taking poledancing class, I suddenly wanted to call my ex-boss and I asked him out and we’ve been together ever since. [Food] is his passion, his dream is to own a bunch of restaurants, so I went along for the ride. Instead of waitressing, I’m now a co-owner and proprietor of these places. So that’s how it happened.

Wow. That sounds like it could be a movie in itself!

[Laughs] I actually co-wrote a one-woman show about the poledancing class, so that is chronicled in that, and I have written a screenplay and that’s in the works, too, so we’ll see what happens. I’m starting to write it as a book–I finished the proposal, so that is in the works. We’ll see what happens.

How do you balance your life between acting and owning two restaurants?

Truly, I don’t even know how I do that. Well, first of all, my partner is my husband and he has a vested interest in my happiness and my financial well-being because it also impacts his happiness and financial well-being [laughs]. Before we had our own restaurant, I would be in Santa Monica for an audition and have to be in West Hollywood to work my restaurant job and it was so stressful, but…now he can cover those situations. As we’ve grown and now that we have two restaurants, we have more and more people working for us and there are less and less times it’s vital for me to be somewhere, so that’s awesome and that’s allowed me to actually leave Los Angeles–I went to Louisiana to work as a producer on a film, I’ve spent a couple months in New York auditioning with some new agents I got there. What I do for the restaurant now is stuff I can do anywhere from my computer at any time…It [does] mean that I work long hours, but my husband works long hours, too, so I don’t mind as long as I know that at 10:00 or 11:00 he’s going to come home and watch the news and maybe a little [late night television]. So that’s okay with me; I don’t mind that it’s long, hard work as long as I’m happy and I’m doing what I want.


By Monique Jones

Monique Jones blogs about race and culture in entertainment, particularly movies and television. You can read her articles at Racialicious, and her new site, COLOR . You can also listen to her new podcast, What would Monique Say.

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