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Allison Janney at the 90th Annual Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, USA on Marc


Video version of this Article

Photo/Video: Allison Janney at the Academy Awards 2018/Starfrenzy/Hollywood Insider YouTube Channel

When we think of Hollywood’s sweethearts, we create a certain standard for women in media. On-screen women must be sweet, loving, iconic, witty, acclaimed, beautiful, all while having name recognition. Allison Janney challenges the notion of a sweetheart by fitting the criteria and always taking roles a step further. Instead of sweetheart characters, Janney gives us real women with ambition and motivation. Janney’s characters often laugh instead of giggle, curse instead of shriek, and talk with their mouths full.

Four Emmys in her first go – Allison Janney’s C.J. is just a starting point.

Janney found her breakout role as the White House Press Secretary in The West Wing, C.J. Cregg. We see the sort of versatility Janney has in the first fifteen minutes of the show, as she demonstrates C.J.’s dedication to her high stakes job, while also being a total goof in her free time. She’s flirty in a very forward way, and her slapstick never fails to provoke a laugh. C.J. is the perfect introduction to Janney, who we would never replace with another performer in any role. The image of C.J. is a career-focused, single woman who navigates tense situations with ease and a sense of humor. She is certainly an inspiring role that Janney nails. 

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We see many of Janney’s unique talents in C.J., priming us for the career to come. For one, Janney laughs on-screen better than anyone else. Critics and show mates seem to think so as well, mentioning Janney’s laugh in The West Wing Weekly, a podcast by Josh Malina and Hrishikesh Hirway. When discussing the episode titled, “The Crackpots and These Women,” the hosts and their guest, Eli Attie, briefly speak of Janney’s clear on-set talent for laughing. They also mention her consistency, as someone who never did a first take, quote, “that you couldn’t have used in the show.” As an actor, this sort of talent requires a strong vision for a character and knowledge of how a scene will play out from reading it on paper. Janney’s strength and precision as a performer landed her four well-deserved Primetime Emmys as C.J. Cregg. Of course, C.J. also provides a medium for us to view one of Janney’s most phenomenal trademarks: The Jackal

Oh before I forget, Allison Janney has also won the Hollywood Insider Best Dressed Award over three times. So she is definitely quite the fashionista and style icon. Is there anything that Allison cannot do? Glass ceiling who?

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Never a bad performance, Allison Janney makes us laugh and cry.

From totally inappropriate guidance counselor/aspiring adult novel writer Ms. Perky in 10 Things I Hate About You, to up-tight, racist mother Prudy Pingleton in Hairspray, Janney is a character actor like no other. There is no type of role she can’t play in any medium. Careful listeners can even recognize her voice as the space flight attendant droid Aly San San at Disney theme parks’ “Star Tours.” In each portrayal, Janney brings something that can only be described as “Janney-esque.”

Jan·ney·esque (jan ‘ nee ‘ EHSK) adjective – 1. Having qualities that resemble assuredness and inspire slight unease. His opera performance was Janney-esque, considering his fly was down. 2. Stellar. I just finished reading my new favorite book. In one hyphenated word, it was Janney-esque.

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An odd timbre that makes her hard to miss.

Even if you didn’t recognize Janney by name, she’s the kind of performer that makes you say, “Hey, I know her!” She never fails to make an impression on an audience. The way she carries herself, speaks and smiles all have a subtle, weird quality that makes Janney squirm into a dark part of our brains. She disarms us. We lose that feeling until we see her again in another film or television series and remember her beautiful oddness.

Notably, her unique “x-factor” makes her the perfect straight-laced, heinous troop leader in last year’s Troop Zero. The story of a raggedy gang of weird girls (with names like Christmas and Hell-No) on a quest is a touching and hilarious one. Janney’s character works as a force against these girls, but the heart of her character seems to be with them. You rarely, if ever, get to see stories about a ragtag team of weirdo girls. Stories like The Goonies, Revenge of the Nerds, and even Stranger Things immortalize the oddball boy crew. Troop Zero provides the same opportunity to some bed-wetting, guitar-smashing girls. Giving power to weirdness is, at its core, perfectly Janney-esque and we see this as a popular theme throughout Janney’s career. Redefining “weird” is a crucial point in so many of the works Janney appears in. We can admire her clear vision of the forces for and against change.

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Janney makes the world better.

When we think of actors and actresses we admire, we generally wonder what they do for our communities. There is a lot to admire about someone with a cause. We even tend to align ourselves with specific celebrities and fight for causes that our most admired performers promote. Allison Janey fights to call attention to opioid addiction. She lost her brother to addiction and suicide, which is always a difficult and personal way to lose a loved one. Her acceptance speech for her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (in a performance where she played LaVona Golden in I, Tonya) concluded with a dedication to her brother, Hal.

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Janney’s role as Bonnie on Mom, a recovering addict, also feels very personal and intentional from Janney. As poised and inspiring as she is on screen, she is just so non-fictionally. Throwing back to her days on The West Wing, she made an appearance at a real-life White House Press Briefing to speak directly to President Obama’s press room about opioid addiction and celebrate those who make an effort to save lives. Her work is a vehicle to make a change in society.

Allison Janney brings us the missing part of Hollywood we search for in our spare time. We browse through Netflix looking for that story we can really click with, and we chase characters we can never get a hold of. We face titles that never really vibe with our mood as we scroll and scroll. Janney is that mood. She is the hearty laugh we need when we want things to feel funny. She is the righteous protector of what is sacred in the world. She is the cool aunt with awkward one-liners. When we have the pleasure of watching Janney act, we get sucked into a totally unfamiliar but relatable world.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s free, confidential helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the SAMHSA website https://www.samhsa.gov/.

By Dan Considine

Click here to read Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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