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EXCLUSIVE: Stockard Channing Raises a Toast to Allison Janney’s Return to Broadway

by Stacy Lambe 11:50 AM PST, February 10, 2017
Photo: Getty Images

Allison Janney is making her long-awaited return to Broadway as Ouisa Kittredge, an aging New York socialite who’s lost touch with the passion that’s given her life, in the Broadway revival of Six Degrees of Separation, which is set to open at the Barrymore Theatre on April 25. (Previews for the production start April 5.)

The role, of course, was made famous by Janney’s former West Wing co-star Stockard Channing, who originated the part on Broadway and later earned an Oscar nomination for the 1993 film adaptation. While knowing that she’ll need to bring her own spin to Ouisa, Janney recently told ET that she does wish to call Channing -- whom she also hopes will comes see her in the play -- and ask, “What’s the trick? Give me the secrets because I don’t have a lot of time here.”

The lack of time is due to the fact that she’s been busy simultaneously filming CBS’s Mom and the upcoming Tonya Harding biopic, I, Tonya, with Margot Robbie. Of course, Janney is not one to slack off, so she’s been running lines with her Six Degrees co-star John Benjamin Hickey over Skype so the two can hit the ground running during their short rehearsal period.

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Yet, for Janney, the most daunting aspect about the show is following Channing. “I'm going to send her an email and say, ‘Please give me your blessing and say a good prayer for me,’” Janney said, to which Channing replied through ET.

“I am more than flattered,” the longtime actress said via email, “but the bottom line is that [Janney] is a divine actress in a divine part in a divine play and I can’t wait to see her in it!!!!” (The many exclamation points included in full.)

“I send her much love and many glasses to hoist together!” Channing added. Here, here!

The cast of The West Wing season three.  Photo: NBC

Now fans can eagerly look forward to a mini-West Wing reunion backstage at the Barrymore Theatre sometime this spring. In the meantime, Janney’s hoping to reunite with former co-star (and current Scandal star) Josh Malina, who co-hosts a weekly discussion about Aaron Sorkin’s NBC drama with Hrishikesh Hirway on The West Wing Weekly podcast.

The show has quickly become a hit among pop culture fanatics and those involved in the TV series. Currently just over halfway through season two of The West Wing, the trip down memory lane revisits each episode in the order they originally aired. And in addition to Malina, who played White House communications director Will Bailey, the podcast regularly features former co-stars -- Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, Rob Lowe and Janel Maloney have all called in -- and Sorkin himself. But sadly, Janney, who earned four Emmys for her role as press secretary C.J. Cregg, has not yet appeared. While there are seven seasons to cover in this extensive rewatch of the series, the actress has certainly been missed in early discussions of the show.

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“I’m going to be a part of it,” Janney promised. “I’ve been like, ‘Josh, I literally have no time’ -- I love Josh Malina and the podcast. I want to be a part of it, but I’ve just not had a minute to do it.”

“And please, if you’re putting that in there, tell him how much we’ve been trying to get a moment for us to do it,” Janney continues. So there you go, Malina and fans alike: Janney has plans to appear. It’s just a matter of when.

The West Wing is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done,” Janney added. “I love everyone in it still and we’re all very much still in each other’s lives whenever we can be.” 

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