With a near-record seven Emmy wins over the course of three different series, Tony nominations, and finally Sunday a Golden Globe after five previous attempts, Allison Janney is riding high to say the least. And it is her newly minted Golden Globe-winning role as LaVona Golden, the mother from hell in I, Tonya, that is virtually guaranteeing her a first crack at Oscar. When she visited the studios of my Deadline video series The Actor’s Side recently, it was all just starting to happen for her and the movie, which is now expanding nationwide this month just as Academy Award nominations will be announced.
I started out our conversation by showing Janney the endless Wikipedia list of her awards nominations and wins over the years which truly seemed to surprise her, but we quickly jump from that to her unusual beginnings in the business — including a lucky break when she was a freshman in college being directed in a play by none other than Paul Newman. She also talks about the fun she had doing a soap opera, but didn’t really accept success until at age 38 she got her first big Broadway break in Present Laughter, as well as a gig with the Naked Angels theatrical company where she did an off-Broadway play that drew one of the starriest audiences imaginable one night (including Jackie O) and led to a movie career with roles from the likes of Mike Nichols.
We also discuss how Janney avoided the usual stereotyping after a big success like The West Wing, where she managed the rare feat of winning Emmys for the same character in both lead and supporting categories over the run of the show. She’s hoping to do the same thing for her current sitcom Mom, which she loves doing. Finally there is I, Tonya and taking on what might be regarded as an unsympathetic yet fully dimensional role, and of course working with a co-star on her shoulder who happens to be a scene-stealing parakeet.
Check out our conversation above.
To watch past episodes of The Actor’s Side, click here.