Allison Janney would spend a lot of time with her dogs at her Los Angeles home if she had her way.
“So, you like being home, you’re a homebody?” Tracy Smith, a correspondent, enquired.
She responded, “I love it.”
But it was a rare moment of calm in an otherwise hectic career.
On the TV show “The West Wing,” Janney played press secretary C.J. Cregg. But for the past eight years she’s been the mom in “Mom,” the hit comedy on CBS … and she was as surprised as anyone when she learned this season would be her last.
“It was a shock,” she admitted. “I have my own theories, but I’ve been told not to express them. But listen, eight years is a great long run for a show.”
Bonnie Plunkett, her character, is a recovering addict, and her show has become a light for those who are dealing with addiction problems in real life.
Smith said, “This show has had a deep effect on people.”
“Yeah, you know, it’s one thing to be part of a show that entertains, which in and of itself is a wonderful thing,” Janney said. “But to also have an impact on people who are in recovery, or people who have loved ones or family members who are going through it, to make recovery a more approachable option.”
The final episode of “Mom” will air later this week, and that makes her kind of uneasy. “I hate change,” she said. “It makes me … I get afraid – I always have – to let something go and not know what’s next. I think the biggest thing I need to learn how to say is no.”
“You’re not good at saying no?” asked Smith.
“I’m not. I’m terrible at saying no.”
However, here’s what can happen if Allison Janney says yes: She was so convincing as Tonya Harding’s mother, Lavonda, in 2017’s “I, Tonya,” that it seemed as if the part had been written for her by her good friend, screenwriter Steven Rogers.
Janney, on the other hand, was overbooked at the time. “I told Steven, ‘Honey, I think you’ll have to make this movie without me because I don’t think it’ll work.'”
She made it work in the end…
And it paid off big, with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
“I love that I have an Oscar,” Janney said. “I never thought it was gonna be possible for me. Truly, at a certain point I just sort of gave up on that dream.”
“So, where do you keep these things?” asked Smith.
“Well, the Oscar’s moved around, depending on who’s coming over! Well, I should have put it just, you know, back there.”
“Just subtly, yes.”
“Why didn’t I think of that?”
Her statue is dedicated to her brother, Hal Janney, who died ten years ago after a struggle with addiction. His big sister, on the other hand, claims that she still calls him now and then.
“My favorite time to talk to him was when I was in the car driving someplace, so I always think of him when I’m in the car,” Janney said. “And I still have his phone number, and I dial it.”
“You dial his phone number? can you hear his voice?”
“No. It’s not there. I just dial it.”
“What does that do?”
“I just – I just miss his sense of humor, really.”
When the pandemic shut down the studio last year, “Mom” shut down as well, but the break turned out to be a blessing in disguise: Janney’s own mother in Dayton, Ohio, needed her. So, at the start of the pandemic, she returned home for a while.
“My mother had gotten a diagnosis of cancer,” Janney said. “And so, I flew back to see her. And I’m forever grateful for that, even though it was incredibly difficult and heartbreaking and really hard. Ultimately she lost her battle and she died in October of 2020. I wasn’t there with her at the very end, which breaks my heart, but so, so glad I was there to …”
Last year, as tragic as it was, gave Janney the opportunity to finally do something she’d always wanted to do: cut her hair.
“And I said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s cut it.’ And to be able to run my hands through my hair and have it just be my hair is just, it feels so great. It was pretty funny, though, when I came to show up for our first ‘Mom’ episode in October, when we started in 2020. And the producers were like, ‘Wwhat have you done? Bonnie can’t – how are we gonna explain this?’ I’m like, ‘You guys, I’ve been wearing a wig since season one!’ None of them knew that I had been wearing a wig. So, you know, now all of America knows that I was wearing a wig!”
The latest ‘do is proof of that. Allison Janney is still up for a new challenge. She’ll make her action hero debut in the near future, but not yet. She explained, “I gotta protect myself a little, ’cause I’m tired,” she said. “It’s been a long run of back-to-back things, and I do need to take some time for myself.”
What exactly does that imply? “I don’t know. What does it mean? I think it means, like, going off on a, you know, one of those meditation journeys or someplace where you go where you’re not allowed to talk for a week.”
“Does that appeal to you?” Smith inquired.
“Yes! I have no idea, but I’d like to be open to whatever else might be out there for me. Maybe … I’m not gonna say it!”
“Oh, come on. Where were you going with that?”
“I was like, ‘Maybe marriage and kids.’ At 61, what the hell? It’s not too late for marriage and kids. Somebody else’s kids, you know?”
“You could totally do that?”
“And so, after that, then maybe a meditation retreat. We’ll see!”