A version of this story about Allison Janney first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
Allison Janney could make history at the Emmys this year, but she doesn’t want to hear about it.
For starters, a win in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on “Mom” would be her eighth Emmy, tying her with Cloris Leachman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the most performing wins by an actress. (Her tally to date: four for “The West Wing,” one for “Masters of Sex” and two for “Mom.”)
In addition, she could complete an Oscar-Emmy double play so rare that only two other actresses, both of them named Helen, have accomplished it.
Helen Hunt did it in 1998, winning an Oscar for “As Good as It Gets” and then five months later picking up an Emmy for “Mad About You.” Helen Mirren repeated the feat in 2008 with an Oscar for “The Queen” and an Emmy for “Prime Suspect: The Final Act.”
And now Janney, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “I, Tonya” in March, can win both awards in the same calendar year if she takes another Emmy for “Mom.”
“Oh, my gosh!” she said when the potential landmark was first brought up. “Should I change my name to Helen?”
But then she quickly ended that line of conversation. “I can’t think about that,” she said. “Maybe I’ll think about it after, but I’m not gonna think about it now.”
In both “Mom” and “I, Tonya,” Janney plays a woman who hasn’t been the best mother to her daughter, and a woman who at times can be considered a monster. But she loves her “Mom” role, Bonnie Plunkett, she said, because the character has changed over the years, albeit in stops and starts.
“She’s actually becoming a better person in a lot of ways, and she’s not even aware of that change, which is a lot of fun,” she said. “She still thinks she’s a narcissistic, selfish, demanding monster, and some of the time she is. But she can also be selfless. I love seeing her tool kit, and the funny way she has of dealing with things.”
She laughed. “There are so many great stories to be mined from people who are in recovery. And we haven’t even explored who she was — the writers will drop a line in the script about something she did in the Philippines, and I’ll think, ‘What the f— were Bonnie and Christy doing in the Philippines?’”
The bottom line, she says, is simple: “Bonnie never bores me. I think of her as this giant baby, and sometimes I relate to her more than any other character I’ve ever played. Sometimes I think I’m a giant baby, too.”
To read more of TheWrap’s Down to the Wire issue, click here.