Born on November 19, 1959 in Dayton, Ohio, aspiring athlete Allison Janney eventually pursued an acting career, earning accolades for roles that would encompass stage, film and television. She won four Emmys for her part as press secretary C.J. Cregg on the acclaimed series The West Wing, and later won additional awards for Masters of Sex and Mom. In addition to stage work like A View From the Bridge and 9 to 5, Janney has appeared in scores of films, including American Beauty, The Hours, Juno and Away We Go.
Early Career and Famed Mentorship
Allison Janney was born on November 19, 1959 in Dayton, Ohio. She was an athlete who played field hockey and ran track with aspirations to be a champion figure skater as well, though an accident that badly hurt her legs during her teens prevented her from continuing. She went on to attend Kenyon College, graduating in 1982.
At Kenyon she pursued acting and was able to work with school alum Paul Newman in a play he was directing. He and his wife Joanne Woodward provided mentorship to Janney, encouraging her to attend the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City. Woodward also directed Janney in stage productions.
Multi-Emmy Winner for 'West Wing'
A statuesque actress at 6’, Janney faced outright prejudice over her size in terms of landing roles. At times questioning if she should remain in the industry, she persevered and eventually began to earn major honors.
Janney was featured in the 1993 TV movie Blind Spot, which starred Woodward and Laura Linney, before going on to co-star in a variety of film projects that included Wolf (1994), Big Night (1996), The Associate (1996), The Ice Storm (1997), The Object of My Affection (1998) and American Beauty (1999). Keeping her feet on the stage as well, Janney earned a lead actress Tony nomination for her role in the 1998 Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge.
Then in the following year, she began to play press secretary C.J. Cregg in the award-winning presidential series The West Wing. Janney herself won four Emmys for her stint on the program, in both lead and supporting actress categories.
Array of Film Roles
While finding major success in TV, Janney maintained a formidable big-screen presence as well. She gave a nuanced, steadfast performance as the lover of Meryl Streep’s character in The Hours (2002), and later as a Jersey woman who becomes the apple of her widower neighbor’s eye in Winter Solstice (2004). In 2007, audiences came to know her as the direct, dog-loving stepmother of Ellen Page’s titular character in Juno, with Janney portraying less lovable moms in ventures like Hairspray (2007), Away We Go (2009) and The Way Way Back (2013). She has also done voiceover work as seen with Finding Nemo (2003), Over the Hedge (2006), Minions (2015) and Finding Dory (2016). Nearly a decade after they first co-starred together in Juno, Janney teamed up with Ellen Page again in the 2016 Netflix indie film Tallulah.
Record-Setting Award Recognition
Showcasing her singing chops, Janney was nominated for another Tony for her role in the 2009 musical 9 to 5. The actress continues to receive accolades for her projects: In 2014, she won two Emmys—one for her role in the sitcom Mom, which debuted the previous year, and another for her guest role as Margaret Scully in the Showtime series Masters of Sex. She was nominated again for both of those roles in 2015, winning for Mom and receiving her seventh Emmy. She's thus tied with Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore for the second highest number of Emmy wins (seven) for performances, with Cloris Leachman leading the way with eight awards.
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