You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Mom’s’ Leading Lady Chemistry Has Made Flaws Funny for 100 Episodes and Counting

When “Mom” premiered in 2013, the mother-daughter duo of Christy and Bonnie Plunkett had been estranged for years after Bonnie (Allison Janney) had neglected her daughter throughout her childhood — lost for many years to her addiction — which was then a cycle Christy (Anna Faris) repeated. Tension, especially for a sitcom, was high from the start, with both characters being “extremely flawed,” says co-creator and executive producer Gemma Baker.

“I think people assume we started ‘Mom’ with a desire to do a show about a mother-and-daughter relationship, but our starting place, as I remember it, was actually the word ‘redemption,’” Baker says. “We loved the idea that you would be able to watch characters completely turn their lives around over the course of the series. The whole point of ‘Mom’ was to make a show that would give people hope.”

In order to be successful in such a grand endeavor, the series in many ways was going to live or die by its casting.

Faris had been in the comedy world since she helped the Wayans brothers launch the “Scary Movie” franchise in 2000, but her resume read much heavier in film titles than television ones. In 2004 she had a recurring guest-star arc on the final season of Warner Bros. mega-hit “Friends” and then she went on to play a version of herself in HBO’s Hollywood-set bro-comedy “Entourage.” But it wasn’t until she booked “Mom” in 2013 that she nabbed her first starring television comedy role.

“There’s something about Anna as a human being that makes you care and root for her. You want her to succeed in life,” says co-creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre. “She’s a very skilled actress and she can do comedy and she can do the dramatic moments and she can do slapstick and the whole range of acting. But beyond that, just [as a] person [she] is very empathetic.”

Faris was the first person cast when CBS ordered the pilot into production for the 2013-14 television season. She booked the role of Christy Plunkett at the end of January, and with one of two major roles down, producers then turned to finding someone who would balance — and also have natural chemistry with — Faris for the role of her mother.

Janney certainly wasn’t a stranger to comedy in 2013 — she had appeared in such roles in films including “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” as well as in guest-star spots on sitcoms including “Frasier.” But she was certainly better known for her dramatic turns — namely her Emmy-winning performance as CJ Cregg in “The West Wing” — when she booked the role of Bonnie later that same January.

Allison Janney is one of our great actresses, for whatever the requirement might be — she’s the master of the craft,” Lorre says. “She connected with Anna on a very deep level that created a team, that created a unit. They became a comedic team and when the comedy was put aside and the moments were being played just for what they were, it was something special and you could feel it when you were watching.”

Faris and Janney may not necessarily resemble each other physically, but the relationship they have developed certainly defines family.

“I’ve always been in awe of her,” Faris says of Janney. “From the first season, we always had this kindred spirit element about us. We would hang out after work all the time, we’d get to work early to just decompress or go over lines. We’re incredibly close, and I learn from her. Whenever we have a scene that’s just the two of us, it feels like this incredible dance partnership because we can anticipate each other’s moves. I’m so lucky and fortunate, and I couldn’t love her more. I don’t know what I would do without her.”

“We loved the idea that you would be able to watch characters completely turn their lives around over the course of the series. The whole point of ‘Mom’ was to make a show that would give people hope.”
Gemma Baker

Janney says that everyone already knew Faris was “hysterically funny,” but now they have learned she is gifted dramatically as well.

“From the beginning she has made such brave emotional choices, and over time I think she has really begun to trust herself in that area and take more risks,” Janney says. “Working with her this closely and this long has been one of the best parts of doing this show.”

At times, some of the humor on “Mom” comes from the women taking jabs at each other and their checkered history, but they also provide many more tender, serious and heartwarming moments, too. It is this balance that has become the quintessential tone for the show.

“I have always felt that one of the reasons that the show works is because of how much Anna and Allison love each other in real life,” Baker says. “That love and respect comes through even when Christy and Bonnie are fighting, and it’s what makes those scenes enjoyable to watch.”

More TV

  • Wendy Williams Sober Living House

    Wendy Williams Reveals She's Been Staying in a Sober-Living House

    Wendy Williams, during an emotional monologue on her talk show on Tuesday, revealed through tears that she has been staying at a sober-living house. “So you know me for being a very open and truthful person,” she began the segment on “The Wendy Williams Show,” fighting through tears. “And I’ve got more to the story [...]

  • Hong Kong Industry Executives Seek Clarity

    FilMart: Hong Kong Industry Executives Plead for Clarity on Mainland Chinese Tax Policies

    At a time of heightened scrutiny of tax affairs in China’s entertainment sector, even industry veterans in Hong Kong are struggling to figure out how to operate in the new financial environment and pleading for more clarity from the Chinese government. Hong Kong produces about 60 films a year, three-quarters of which are typically co-productions [...]

  • Michael Jackson R Kelly

    'Leaving Neverland,' 'Surviving R. Kelly' Composers on How They Scored Sexual Abuse Docs

    How do you put music to child sexual abuse — especially if the accused predators are musical icons? That’s the challenge composers Chad Hobson and Nathan Matthew David faced as they scored HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” and Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly,” respectively. The documentaries are built around interviews with the alleged victims of Michael Jackson (two [...]

  • Canadian Animation Shop Guru Studio Makes

    Canadian Animation Shop Guru Studio Makes Moves in China

    Guru Studio, an award-winning Canadian animation studio, is exploring the possibility of opening an office in Hong Kong or mainland China. The Toronto-based company is keen to get a slice of China’s animation market, which has been growing quickly. Louise Jones, Guru vice president of finance and business affairs, said at a FilMart panel discussion [...]

  • Viacom HQ LA

    Viacom Goes to War With AT&T Over DirecTV Carriage Deal

    Viacom has declared war against AT&T, blasting the telco giant on several fronts as the companies wrestle over a carriage renewal deal that is vital to Viacom’s long-term financial health. As of today, Viacom has begun running crawls and promo spots on its channels warning viewers that Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and other channels [...]

  • Maureen FitzPatrick Rob Silverstein

    Rob Silverstein Out as 'Access Hollywood' Executive Producer After 20 Years

    Rob Silverstein, exec producer of NBC’s entertainment newsmagazine “Access Hollywood” and its spinoffs, is leaving the syndication franchise after 20 years at the helm. He’ll be replaced by “Hot Bench” alumnus Maureen FitzPatrick. Silverstein’s departure was announced Tuesday morning at a staff meeting for “Access” producers. Silverstein was also exec producer of the hourlong talk [...]

  • '9-1-1' Billboard Vandalized With Anti-Beto O'Rourke

    '9-1-1' Billboard Vandalized With Anti-Beto O'Rourke Message

    A billboard for the Fox procedural “9-1-1” on Pico Blvd., adjacent to the studio lot, has been vandalized with an anti-Beto O’Rourke message, Variety has learned. The imagery was put up by a politically conservative man who goes by ‘Sabo.’ The promotional art for the series featured on the billboard shows a car wreck sticking out [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content