Allison Janney Talks 'Mom,' 'Sex' & 'The Jackal'

By JARETT WIESELMAN

September 30, 2013

Allison Janney is one of Hollywood's most in-demand actresses. And for good reason. Her unique mixture of empathy and audacity has resulted in the creation of countless iconic characters (from The West Wing's C.J. Cregg to Loretta of Drop Dead Gorgeous fame) and this year will see her add, at least, seven to that ever-growing list!

Janney has already shone on the big screen in Touchy Feely and The Way Way Back (Trust Me and Bad Words have yet to be released) while small screen work on Veep, Masters of Sex and Mom ensures her fans will have endless conduits through which to enjoy Janney's brilliant brand of comedy. ETonline caught up with the actress at Showtime's Pre-Emmy party to talk about returning to television with Mom, her upcoming Masters of Sex gig and why it was such a coup to resurrect The Jackal!

ETonline: What are the chances we'll get some flashbacks on Mom and see both women in the throes of addiction?
Allison Janney: Believe me, I asked Chuck [Lorre]. We have to. There's just too many opportunities for incredible flashbacks. We can do stripper poles, drug dens -- it's endless! I really think there's so much fun to be mined from that. I'm having a great time and I am so excited about it.

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ETonline: What excites you most about the show?
Janney: Everything. It's kind of the best of all the different mediums I've worked in as an actress. The live aspect is so thrilling, I get nervous again. It's like going on stage. And the pre-shoot days are so relaxed and fun and the writers are laughing. I love the rehearsal process. I mean, we have three days to perfect every scene but at the same time, I love working on the fly when the writers come up with new jokes on show nights. It's exciting. I love it so much.

ETonline: Well, your fans loved that reprisal of The Jackal on Arsenio last week. Did you have any idea the appearance would blow up like it did?
Janney: No, I had no idea. That was really fun for me. I love wasting time and learning to lip-sync to songs; it's a silly hobby of mine; that was definitely Allison's version of The Jackal and not CJ's but I had a blast, and Arsenio was a good sport. He didn't know what I was going to do. He just told them to put on the music and let me go, so it was a dream.

ETonline: I recently binge-watched The West Wing for the first time, and know that a lot of other people are still discovering the show. Are you surprised by how enduring that show's popularity is?
Janney: I'm not surprised. I don't know what I am beyond flattered, but I do feel the show is worthy of it. I love that people are binge watching and just discovering it 8 years after it ended, so we're getting new fans all the time. I love that you can do that now. The West Wing was just extraordinary, Aaron [Sorkin] wrote a beautiful show and he picked such amazing actors to play these roles. I think it's deserving of new fans.

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ETonline: Often with popular shows, the audience will demand reunions. Has there ever been any talk of revisiting The West Wing in any way?
Janney: Unfortunately, The Jackal is about as much as I can do -- Aaron's gotta be the one who decides to make that happen. We don't own those characters. And he's a little busy right now, so if he ever gets the desire to do it, we'll probably all been in wheelchairs.

ETonline: Turning to Masters of Sex, who do you play?
Janney: I play Beau's wife, Margaret Scully. It's a wonderful storyline I got to do, these writers are so talented, and I was incredibly excited to work with Beau. It's really an emotional, sad, lovely journey I get to go on. It was delicious. I'm really proud of it.

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ETonline: Before signing on to a show called Masters of Sex, what are the conversations with the producers like?
Janney: We talked about my one sex scene and what I wanted to do. They were so respectful of what I felt comfortable doing; I love the DP, and everyone was so professional. I think everyone who does a sex scene on that show is made to feel incredibly comfortable ... or as comfortable as one can feel doing a sex scene, which is still horribly embarrassing. Honestly, it's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I mean, to maintain your composure while thinking, "Oh god, my nibbles and bits are showing" is the truest test of your acting [laughs].

Mom airs Mondays at 9:30 p.m. on CBS while Masters of Sex airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.



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