Allison Janney knows from awards. A six-time Primetime Emmy Awards winner already, with two Tony nominations to boot, she’s now in line to add another two Emmys to her collection, with noms this year for both Masters Of Sex and Mom – the latter of which has already snagged her a Critics’ Choice award. She talked to AwardsLine about the new season of Mom, awkward sex scenes, and returning for Masters of Sex Season 4.
After The West Wing you’ve said you were nervous about being typecast as a kind of alpha female–but you’ve avoided being cornered. How did you do it?
I think I just kept sneaking into the back door. From my work in New York theater, people knew that I was comfortable in both doing comedy and also drama. I think that’s why I kind of escaped. I was cast by Alan Ball–I did this play called Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, which is a really funny comedy and I did that with Alan Ball and he put me in American Beauty, so I feel like my friends and people I’ve worked with in the theater knew, so some people gave me the opportunity to play these other roles.
Also, I think, not to be overly humble, but the parts that I get, it’s not like I’m the star of the movie where people are falling in love with me. I’ve been a character actress and I think as a character actress you get to have more opportunities to play different kinds of roles.
Do you agree that TV is much more women-friendly than film?
Oh my god, yes. I mean you know what? I was sitting in our table read of this week’s Mom episode, and I’m looking around the table and Ellen Burstyn is in this episode and there’s Mimi Kennedy and Jaime Pressly and Octavia Spencer and Anna and me. I’m just so grateful to look around and see all these amazing women, and you know we’re all over 35. Mom especially is an opportunity the writers are giving to some amazing women and it’s just fantastic. And the Paul Feigs of the world are giving women a lot more opportunity, for the middle-aged especially. Television has definitely been more friendly to women, especially women over 40. It’s a great place to be and I, frankly, love an opportunity to be in great films but I like working on Mom and going to work and going back home. A lot of my life was sitting in trailers waiting and waiting to be called to set.
You have some pretty racy sex scenes in Masters Of Sex…
The sex scenes are unbelievably uncomfortable and funny and, like my poor mother said, “Well, bravo dear girl. That must have been incredibly challenging and you just rose up and met the challenge. Now I just have to tell you I don’t have to like everything you do, but I am proud of the work you do and I don’t think I’m going to have your father watch these episodes if that’s all right with you.” And I said, “That’s absolutely fine with me, I absolutely do not need my father to watch anyone go down on me.” Oh my god, I can’t even, even the thought of having my father watch that makes me want to….
Obviously not with the sexual component, but you’ve said you took some inspiration for your Masters character from watching your mom when you were growing up–does she know that?
I don’t know if she knows that or reads everything. I hope she doesn’t. She still doesn’t know how to use her iPhone, so I’m not sure if she’s reading these things that I say. She grew up in a time that Margaret Scully grew up and I think some of the things that are important to her I think were important to Margaret Scully and she was a well-educated woman, she was very graceful and manners were important to her. Anything, any problems you have at home, you keep at home.
Have you confirmed you’re returning for next season of Masters?
I want to. I’ve told Michelle (creator Michelle Ashford), I’ve told them all that I want very much to come back and continue to tell the story. Fortunately CBS and Showtime are under the same umbrella so they are very happy to let me do that. I definitely want to know where it will go. I loved the storyline of Margaret you know just swinging the absolute opposite way. You know having been in this, not loveless marriage, but a sexless marriage, and feeling that she was undesirable and going into this swingers situation, trying to be OK with it and experience the other side of life and just not being happy there either. Just trying to find her way through her life, which everybody is. I love her because that’s where I am, trying to find my way through my life and find a good relationship and find happiness and know who I am and what I want. At one point in Michael’s scene, we were laughing, like, ‘You know, she should become a sex therapist!’ There are so many interesting ways they can go with her. I hope they continue to do that. I think that you know they want to have me back and I want to be back, so I think I’ll have the opportunity to come back and do more Margaret Scully, really, that’s just got to happen.
What can you say about Season 3 of Mom?
Well, the thing that’s really exciting is this episode that I’m filming tonight–it has my stomach in knots though. Bonnie’s biological mother comes into the picture, played by the brilliant Ellen Burstyn. She’s such a wonderful actress, and we did some pretty emotional episodes of Bonnie talking about her childhood, how she was given up and thrown around into the foster care system and her mother abandoned her when she was 4 years old. Her biological mother comes back into her life in Season 3, which sort of splits up Christy and Bonnie’s relationship once again. They were starting to come back and be on the same team for once, then this woman comes in and divides them again. For people in recovery, this episode happens to be one dealing with forgiveness, which is a huge theme, and something that everyone has trouble with doing. But it’s so imperative if you’re to get on with your life and not be held back. Also, I think there are some different men coming down the pike for Bonnie and Christy. They’ve got to be bad choices because, I mean women love to make bad choices in men.
Any other guest stars?
Apart from Ellen, there’s Emily Osment, who is just so freaking brilliant. She plays an addict who comes onto the show–just an amazingly talented actress. Beyond that I’ve heard some rumors that I don’t want to say in case they’re not true. But some really cool women…Let’s make something up, let’s say Meryl Streep. I’ll have to call her. I think she owes it to herself to at least do one you know half hour, just to try her chops at that. I’m going to challenge her on Twitter or something.