Among her many accolades, Allison Janney can count six SAG Awards, seven Emmy Awards, and two Tony nominations. And she’ll add a new honor to the list when she receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Oct. 17. The actress, whose parents are coming to town for the celebration, has a big party planned.
“I’m a little overwhelmed and shy about that kind of attention, but I’m trying to embrace it,” she admits. “It’s really just such a cool honor to be on the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard for long after I’m gone — barring any major disasters or California falling into the ocean.”
Though Janney is winning raves and statues for her work as recovering addict Bonnie on Chuck Lorre’s “Mom,” she is still fondly remembered for her groundbreaking work as C.J. Cregg on Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing.” And she has a filmography filled with great performances in everything from such Oscar winners as “American Beauty” to the outrageous comedy “Spy” and this year’s acclaimed indie “Tallulah,” which reunites her with her “Juno” stepdaughter Ellen Page. She is on screens as the no-nonsense Detective Riley in the adaptation of the bestseller “The Girl on the Train.”
“Girl” is adapted and directed by Janney’s friend Tate Taylor; the two are so close, Taylor even knows what Janney’s final meal would be. (“Al dente pasta with a little bit of Parmesean cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper.”) Taylor has cast Janney in every one of his films, even when there was little for her to do. “She’s told me there’s no way she will not be in one of my movies,” Taylor says. “In ‘Get on Up,’ I said, ‘There’s hardly any white people except Dan Aykroyd. But you could have one line as a racist dancing woman. She said, ‘Done!’”
In the novel by Paula Hawkins, Detective Riley is male and his partner, Gaskill, is a woman “who says virtually nothing,” notes Taylor. “When I was looking at the characters, I thought it would be a bit cliché to have a male detective hounding these women, so it would be more cool to swap the character and make Riley a woman and Gaskill a man.”
Janney says it was a challenge to play such a straight character. “It was sort of out of my wheelhouse, I realized I couldn’t do anything silly with her,” she admits. “I’ve never played someone who was such a ‘just the facts’ type personality.”
It’s a far cry from her current role on CBS’ “Mom,” in which Janney often brings humor to even dark subject matter like addiction. She cites “Dropped Soap and a Big Guy on a Throne,” as one of her favorite episodes. It was also her winning Emmy submission in 2015. In the episode, Bonnie takes painkillers after throwing out her back and seeks more pills to feed her addiction. The episode has everything from outrageous physical comedy to serious drama, and it’s not surprising Janney received her seventh Emmy for it.
|Billy Kidd for Variety|
Janney says she’s proud of the direction “Mom” has gone. “There’s people from all different walks of life that have admitted they are powerless to drugs and alcohol and I love that our stories aren’t afraid to tackle that,” she says, praising Lorre and the show’s writers. “I get people all the time who come up to me and say they are Bonnie, or they know Bonnie. The only way through the hard stuff is to laugh at it and laugh at yourself and it’s wonderful to be making people laugh.”
Lorre is equally effusive in his feelings for Janney. “She is one of nicest, sweetest, funniest, smartest, bravest, hardest working actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” he says. He was a fan of Janney’s from “The West Wing” and the two had worked together on another of his shows, “Two and a Half Men.”
When casting “Mom,” Lorre had Janney read some scenes with Anna Faris, who plays her daughter. “The chemistry between them was immediate. It was what you hope and pray for when casting a key relationship like that,” raves Lorre.
“She’s a dream to work with. Always prepared but also always prepared to make changes, try different things. And as you can see on the show, she elevates the material constantly. She’s truly a master of the form. And frankly, every other form she’s engaged in.”
|“She elevates the material … She’s truly a master of the form. And frankly, every other form she’s involved with.”|
While it’s somewhat surprising to learn Janney auditioned for the role on “Mom,” she says she prefers it that way. “I’d rather audition and not get a part then show up having a part and have them say, ‘Um, not so much, no.’”
While Janney is flourishing on the small screen — she also won an Emmy last year for her work on “Masters of Sex”— she says she never set out to do television. “I was in L.A. doing movies. I was filming ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Nurse Betty’ and the audition for ‘The West Wing’ came in,” she recalls. “I knew of Aaron Sorkin, of course, and thought it would be a great opportunity.” Janney says she auditioned at least four times, and simply put, “I got it, and it changed my life.”
Of course, Janney still works nonstop in film — she has “Sun Dogs” and “A Happening of Monumental Proportions” already in the can. But for now she’s concentrating on season four of “Mom.” In fact, during the interview she was en route to the set where she’ll be taping a “big scene” with guest William Fichtner.
“I’m so excited to do this eight-page scene,” Janney says. “It makes me laugh that I get to say these things. Doing this brings me such joy.”
|What: Allison Janney receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When: 11:30 a.m. Oct. 17
Where: 6100 Hollywood Blvd.