A refreshing light beams through a production when Allison Janney is involved. The Ohio native has created a remarkable career touting performances on Broadway, memorable television appearances (i.e. The West Wing) and noteworthy roles in over 50 films. With her vulnerable display of emotion and distinguished knack for comedy, it’s no shocker that Allison has racked up countless accolades including a Drama Desk Award and six Primetime Emmys.
The high praise didn’t come over night, as she worked tirelessly to attain her success. “Years ago, one casting agent told me that the only roles I could play were lesbians and aliens” Janney has said (People). However, over the years she certainly defied the trite notion of “type casting” with her broad scope of talents. Whether playing a mistreated and silent housewife in American Beauty, a bright pink starfish in Finding Nemo, or an erotica writing, adjective seeking, profanity yielding principal in 10 Things I Hate About You, Janney has tackled each part with a charisma and force that’s simply unmatched. Phrased without jargon, Allison Janney is a scene stealer.
Allison is currently amusing masses with her recovering and rash character “Bonnie” on CBS’s Mom. She took a moment from the bustling set of the breakout sitcom to chat with NYCastings about her innate comedic timing, developing a thick skin and coming back to Broadway.
RP: What’s your favorite aspect of being a performer?
AJ: I love collaborating with other artists. Being part of a team.
RP: Which one of your past projects do you look back on and miss the most and why?
AJ:I miss them all for different reasons; some being the people I’ve worked with, the costumes I got to wear, others being the material…or the location we have worked in.
RP: You studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse here in NYC, what was the most important lesson you took away from that experience?
AJ: The simple act of listening and answering. It has never failed me as an actress.
RP: NYC is a place where you need a pretty thick skin at times. You’ve said that you didn’t feel like you had a thick skin when you were first starting out. How have you developed one?
AJ: Time and experience has helped me grow an extra layer of skin… but just a little one. I’m still hugely sensitive.
RP: Any plans to come back to Broadway in the near future? We all miss you.
AJ: I am dying to get back to Broadway… and hoping to make it a goal to return sometime in the next 2 years.
RP: You’ve played some wild characters. How important is it to you for the people you create to be as realistic as possible?
AJ: It is the most important. I strive to make all of my characters incredibly grounded, no matter how crazy they appear on the outside.
RP: Congratulations on your Emmy Winning role in Mom! How’s the new season coming along?
AJ: Anna Faris and I are having the best time… some incredibly challenging story lines and fun physical comedy. I love this job.
RP: Why do you think you and Anna Faris have such great chemistry together?
AJ: I think we both share a lot of the same values – being generous, professional and kind in life and in work. And we both like to have fun.
RP: You’re hilarious on that show, and in many roles. What’s your secret to comedic timing?
AJ: I like to think it is because I grew up in a house with music… my father is a great jazz pianist. My ear for music and growing up watching The Carol Burnett Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I watched great comedic actresses and learned from them.
RP: I always try to end on an inspiring note for our NYCastings readers: As an actress who studied in NYC, what’s your best piece of advice for aspiring NYC actors?
AJ: I would say keep yourself busy with acting classes, scene study classes, or join a theater company. Think of auditioning as a great way to get to act, to take the fear away and look forward to it. The more people you meet, the more doors open for you.
Tune into Mom Thursdays on CBS at 8:30/7:30c!