Allison Janney on Celebrating Her Golden Globe Nomination and Meeting the Real Tonya Harding (Exclusive)
By John Boone
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for NEON
Remember that bit from the Golden Globes a few years ago, when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joked that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was too good for her TV friend after she'd been nominated in one of the show's film categories? Well, get Allison Janney an e-cig, because she's a crossover nominee now.
Janney has been Golden Globe-nominated five times already (four times for The West Wing and once for CBS's Mom) but her Best Supporting Actress nomination for I, Tonya marks her first for a film. (I, Tonya was also nominated for Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical and Margot Robbie for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.) ET spoke with Janney shortly after the nominations were announced to discuss how she would be celebrating, staging a The Help reunion at the Globes and meeting the real Tonya Harding.
ET: When you know it's Golden Globes morning, do you wake up early for this?
Allison Janney: I actually just flew in to New York last night for I, Tonya press, and so I had to get up at 6:00 a.m. this morning to get into hair and makeup. I sort of had forgotten that that was happening this morning, I was so on L.A. time still and trying to get to Good Morning America where I did the morning segment and had forgotten about it until someone said, "Are you excited about today?" And I said, "What's happening?" [Laughs] They said, "It's Golden Globe morning" and I had just completely forgotten because of my travels. I was glad I didn't have that on my mind as I went to bed last night, because I don't think I would have slept. I would have been nervous and excited.
I feel like some of the magic of getting that call from your agent or friends and family is different now that you probably get a billion Twitter notifications first.
I didn't, actually! Because we were about to do the morning show, so I was in their building and I didn't have my cell phone with me. My publicist came into the room with a really huge smile on her face and told me and I jumped out of my chair. I was so excited and immediately wanted to know, Did the movie? And Margot? I was very happy that they recognized both Margot and the movie, because I think it's such a great movie. I'm so proud to be part of it and it has a special meaning for me because my dearest friend wrote this movie and wrote this part for me to play it. So, it really has extra special meaning for me.
Have you had a chance to text or call Margot or anyone yet?
I've been texting with everybody. [Screenwriter] Steven Rogers is getting on a plane, about to come out here to see me. I'm seeing him tonight for some Q&As after screenings of I, Tonya. Craig and I have texted each other. I've reached out to Margot, I'm sure she's swamped. We're all just really happy for the recognition because this is such a labor of love and passion. Everyone involved on this movie was there because they believed in it and worked so hard. We had no time to do it. I mean, I filmed my whole part in eight days! It was fast and furious and with Craig Gillespie directing us, who was so brilliant at putting this whole thing together and keeping up the pace. He was the perfect person for this movie. I'm just really proud.
Will you have time to celebrate a little today or do something special to mark the occasion?
Oh, absolutely! Steven and I are doing a Q&A tonight and Margot is going to be with us too, so we'll hopefully go out after that and have a celebratory champagne toast or something tonight. We're definitely going to celebrate. But I have to get up early the next day for more press, so I can't celebrate too much just yet! [Laughs]
So we have to cut it off at one or two glasses of champagne at most.
Yes. We'll split a bottle, you know. A bottle's about four glasses, I don't know! [Laughs] We'll be moderate drinkers this evening.
You've attended the Globes a number of times now. Do you have a favorite Golden Globes memory or a celebrity run-in that stands out for you?
You know, you always run in to absolutely everybody at this event. I mean, I was there when Christine Lahti won, when she was in the bathroom. I was there for that one. [Laughs] Which is memorable. But every one is memorable, because it's such a fun night. Everyone lets loose, a little bit too much sometimes. It's overwhelming people are there and that they recognize everyone in television and in movies. It's just a huge room filled with people. I remember sitting next to Viola [Davis] a couple years ago and we had the seat up above the first railing and looking down on everybody. We just felt like we were at home on our couch watching it. It was really fun. A great perspective to watch everybody.
That was the year with Prince, right?
With Prince, yes! Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was my Prince shot when he came out and I was like, Ohh myyy-- I was just floored. I was so excited just to be seeing Prince. That was just a thrilling moment for me.
I think you became a GIF for that moment.
I think I might have too. It was a GIF-able moment, truly. My face was just huge. I mean, I had as big an expression as anybody. I couldn't contain my thrill and excitement seeing him. He's one of my favorite artists.
Besides Margot, obviously, and the I, Tonya team, who would be your dream tablemates to sit with this year?
Oh god... Well, Octavia [Spencer]. My dear friend, Octavia, who also got nominated would be exciting. I'll tell you who! It would be a great Help reunion-thing. Mary J. Blige got nominated, Octavia got nominated, Emma [Stone] and Jessica Chastain. That would be fun to sit with all those women again.
At the very least, you have to promise me right now you will get all those people in a reunion picture and tweet it out.
Oh, I'm definitely going to get that reunion picture, absolutely. Octavia and I will make that happen.
I did! I hadn't met her the whole process. I didn't get to meet with her, so I was just sort of thrilled to see her there on the red carpet and I saw her at the after-party. She was so lovely and so overwhelmed and so appreciative of the movie and was very complimentary to me in a way that made me want to hug her. Because, gosh, it was such a brutal, harsh portrayal of someone's mother, and she thought it was spot on. I just said, "I just want to hug you," because I felt it was a hard mom to have had to grow up with. I didn't speak to her at length, but she was very appreciative and loving and I was so happy to meet her husband. She seems like she's found a bit of peace in her life after all that.
I saw an interview with the real LaVona Golden in which she reacts to your playing her. ["She doesn't even look like me."] Have you heard if she'd been trying to get in touch with you at all since the movie's come out?
No, no. Steven Rogers, who wrote this script, tried to find her while he was writing it. He wanted to interview her and get her take on everything, but Tonya didn't know where she was or if she was alive or dead and didn't really care. So, every trail he went down, it went cold. He couldn't find her anywhere. He wrote her from the stories that he heard from Tonya and Jeff [Gillooly] with a little artistic license thrown in there and then I had to put the pieces of the puzzle together for myself to find out what made her human and what made her real and relatable. It's a pretty extreme character to find. But she too is a person and is complicated and layered and is not just one thing, so I had to do that without her.
And now that I've done the movie, I don't think I need to meet her. I would have loved to have met her beforehand. But I didn't get that opportunity. But now I don't think I need to. Unless they do the sequel of I, Lavona. [Laughs]
I think everyone would watch that! As long as Little Man [LaVona's pet bird] signs on for the sequel too.
Exactly, yeah. That would be in my contact. I'm not doing anything without him.
It feels like we're in full awards season swing now and I feel safe saying you're one of the frontrunners for the Oscars. Does this nomination feel like one step closer to the Academy Awards?
It's the closest I've ever come to that, having my name bandied about in that circle. It's certainly an exciting, thrilling thing to think about. I'm cautiously optimistic. It's just a really, really wonderful time to have this happen, especially because of my dear friend, Steven Rogers, that this attention is coming from a movie that he wrote for his friend. It's just really special. It's a really special time.