Everything We Know About Allison Janney

Allison Janney has slipped into the shoes of dozens of remarkable characters over the course of her career — the acerbic, indomitable C.J. Cregg in "The West Wing," the broken, abused mother-next-door in "American Beauty," the harsh mother LaVona Golden in "I, Tonya," and the complex, endearing mother and grandmother in "Mom" (via IMDb). Anyone who has seen Janney on screen knows she brings a number of unforgettable qualities to her work — her wit, warmth, and acting skill shine through in every role.

Janney's career had a delayed start — she was in her 30s when she got her first real role and 40 when she found fame in "The West Wing." Despite her slow start, Janney quickly caught up with her contemporaries, racking up well over 100 film and TV credits, and nabbing dozens of awards, including an Oscar, six Emmys, and a BAFTA. She may have turned 60 in 2019, but it's clear that Hollywood still can't get enough of Janney — and neither can we! Want to learn more about this incredible actress? Here are some things you never knew about Allison Janney.

Allison Janney once had dreams of being a figure skater

Allison Janney earned herself an Academy Award for her performance in "I, Tonya," which told the famous real-life story of Tonya Harding, the controversial Olympic figure skater. It turns out, Janney actually already had more than a little experience on the rink. In an interview with NPR, she opened up about how, as a child and teenager, she had been a very serious figure skater herself. However, her dreams were crushed after a horrific accident when she was 17.

It all happened at a party, when she fell through a large glass door. "I just — I hit one of the windows, and it was — and sort of the lower part of my body, my right leg, went through," she recalled. "And then the glass kind of guillotined my right leg." At first, Janney was so embarrassed about falling that she didn't realize how bad her injury was. Luckily, her brother was there to elevate her leg. Apparently, she almost lost her leg. "It changed a lot of things about my life and sort of made me a little more fearful I think, unfortunately — just afraid of mortality and losing things, you know — things happening, you know?" she said.

These were Allison Janney's inspirations as she was growing up

Allison Janney may have been focused on figure skating as a child, but she was also developing a passion for comedy. As she told The Gentlewoman, this passion began when she saw "The Carol Burnett Show" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." These women, particularly Burnett, became her lifelong idols.

She explained on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "[Carol Burnett is] the reason I'm an actress. I am so in love with her." Apparently, Janney has actually developed a personal relationship with Burnett over the years. They met backstage at a show, and then, before Janney appeared on Broadway in "9 to 5," Burnett called her to recommend her dresser — who Janney obviously used.

Even though Janney and Burnett have yet to collaborate, Janney thinks it will happen. "I know that I'm going to — I just have a feeling I will because I want it so badly," she said. "She means everything to me."

Allison Janney once went skinny dipping with her co-stars

There's one thing Allison Janney is not — and that is a prude. In a hilarious interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Janney confessed that she once went skinny dipping while shooting a movie. Apparently, it happened when she was working on "Breaking News in Yuba County." As she explained, the director, Tate Taylor, housed many of the actors in his homes in Mississippi. "Everyone would eat together, we would get crazy ... it was like actor camp," she said.

One of the ways they "got crazy" was skinny dipping. "There was skinny dipping and there was some other things that I am not at liberty to share with you on television," she laughed.

Awkwafina, Janney's co-star in the film, also mentioned the skinny-dipping experience in an interview, while Wanda Sykes recalled that "a lot of good dance parties in my kitchen" (via Page Six). Wow, it sounds like the cast certainly had loads of fun making this movie!

This is what Allison Janney did for her 60th birthday party

Allison Janney celebrated her 60th birthday in 2019. Naturally, she was eager to mark the occasion with some kind of special event. As she explained on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," her first thought was to throw a gigantic retro-themed bash called "Studio 60," an homage to the famous Studio 54. "I was going to have, like, guys in red speedos on roller skates ... and do a whole shebang," she explained. She even wanted Chaka Khan to perform.

However, once Janney got the quote, she had second thoughts. She realized that she would probably forget a lot of the event after "a few martinis," so she opted instead for a much more low-key affair with a small dinner for only a few family members. "That was the perfect way to go," she said. Plus, it meant that she could do other things to celebrate with her friends throughout the year.

Allison Janney once thought she was done with love

Allison Janney has never been married — but she has had a few significant relationships throughout her life (via Closer Weekly). As of 2021, she's single, but open to love. However, as she told Elle in 2014, there was a time when she thought she'd never be in a relationship again.

After the final season of "The West Wing," Janney's brother died suddenly. Janney was grieving her brother and had no inclination to look for a relationship. "I felt like, You know what, I'm done," she said. "I just stopped thinking there was going to be anybody out there for me."

Despite this, Janney soon rediscovered the beauty of being in love. She began a new relationship, and while it didn't last, it helped her open her mind to new relationships. "Love is such a powerful drug. And when that's coursing through your system..." she said, trailing off. Still, she noted, "I want to be a player! I'm still single! I want to feel sexy and pretty and young as long as I can."

Allison Janney appeared on this reality TV show

Allison Janney is best known as an actress — but you may also recognize her from an episode of "Celebrity IOU." In 2020, Janney enlisted the help of Drew and Jonathan Scott from "Property Brothers" to completely remodel her longtime personal assistant's home. In a trailer for the episode, Janney explained, "She has become more like family to me than anything else and she's given a lot to me over the years." Apparently, Janney was eager to give something back to her (via People).

The episode was pretty spectacular. Janney showcased her sense of humor as she helped break down walls in an evening gown. She also showed just how much she cares about her friends. Plus, in the end, her assistant's house ended up looking seriously stunning, complete with a bright open plan and a beautiful wine cabinet. We just wish Janney would come round and fix up our homes, too!

Allison Janney's real breakthrough came very late in life

Allison Janney might be a superstar these days, but this certainly was not always the case. In an interview with The Gentlewoman, Janney recounted her agonizingly slow rise to stardom. After attending the famous Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in England, it took a while for Janney to get her foot in the door. The first few years of her career were spent with roles in tiny plays. Apparently, she was ready to quit numerous times, but something always seemed to come up. In her 30s, she began acting in a few films and TV shows. Then, Aaron Sorkin, creator of "The West Wing" saw a performance and immediately called her in for an audition. The rest, of course, is history.

The first season of "The West Wing" aired when Janney was 40, and yet, she still thinks of it as her big break. While C.J. Cregg may have been her first big role, she quickly proved herself to be a star in the making. As her co-star Bradley Whitford recalled, "There were a lot of good actors on that show, but I think everyone knew she made them a better actor." And as of 2020, it's still her favorite role to date (via Entertainment Weekly).

Here's how Allison Janney stays healthy

Allison Janney may be in her 60s, but she always seems to be full of energy — and that's because she's careful to stay in great shape. As she told The Gentlewoman, she gained a significant amount of weight in her teens while recovering from a traumatizing accident. As a young adult, she began exercising. Since then, she's developed more and more healthy habits over the years.

As she told the Chicago Sun Times, one strategy that worked was simply cutting out carbs. Her main diet consists of healthy foods, as she put it — usually, this means a lot of vegetables and protein. However, she doesn't restrict herself too much. "What helps is I know that I can have that treat. I'm not denying myself," she said. Plus, on the rare occasions when she does get a little carried away with sugary foods and drinks — like cocktails or chocolate — she doesn't let it upset her. Sounds like Janney has a very mature, clear-headed approach to eating — and we can hardly say we're surprised!

Allison Janney feels fine about having no children

Allison Janney will probably never have children. In fact, as she explained on "The Drew Barrymore Show" in 2021, marriage and children aren't something she's actively looking for. "I think if I'd found the right guy at the right time who wanted to have kids, I probably would have with the right partner because I wasn't ever really confident that I wanted to have kids," she said, "and I would rather regret not having kids than have kids and regret that." She added that not having kids was something was completely "okay" with.

After all, it gave her the space to really get to know herself and her own company. While kids aren't in her future, she is still hoping to meet a special someone who could become a life partner. What a grounded outlook on kids and family — after all, starting a family isn't the goal for everyone.

Here are the props Allison Janney grabbed from the Mom set

Allison Janney starred as Bonnie in the CBS show "Mom" from 2013 to 2021 — it was a long-running show, so it's now wonder Janney became attached to her character. When "Mom" was canceled in 2021, Janney wrote on Instagram, "Getting to be part of MOM these past 8 years ... showing the laughter, love and hope that can come with recovery, has been one of the great honors of my life."

Clearly, the show, on which she starred with Anna Faris, meant a lot to her — so, we aren't surprised to learn that she grabbed a few souvenirs from the set before bidding the show farewell for the last time. As she told Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show," she took her character's wig, which she had worn for every season of the show (apparently, no one knew it was a wig, until Janney let her gray roots grow in!) and she took some of Bonnie's clothes. "A few pairs of sweatpants," she said, "because my character Bonnie loved to be comfortable as does Allison Janney." It sounds like Janney plans on walking about the house looking an awful lot like Bonnie, even though the show's over!

Allison Janney had to get a daily COVID test while filming Mom

The CBS sitcom "Mom" kept on filming through most of COVID. However, the cast and crew did need to get used to a few changes due to the pandemic. For one thing, Allison Janney and the rest of the cast had to get COVID tests almost every day. She explained to late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, "I get tested almost seven to eight times a week depending on whether or not I'm going to be doing kissing scenes."

While most people hate getting COVID tests, Janney actually admitted that she loved them, so the daily tests weren't a problem for her. "Everyone laughs at me, but I really love the way it feels," she said. Apparently, she sometimes even asked the nurse on set to do the test for longer. "It's like a puppy getting scratched or something ... it relaxes me, I don't know," she said. Well, it's safe to say that Janney is in the minority on this one!

Allison Janney grew out her gray hair during the pandemic

If you've seen any pictures of Allison Janney since the pandemic began, you've probably noticed something a little different about her. Janney, who has always been recognizable for her striking brunette bob, has now transitioned into a stunning gray pixie cut. We have to say, she is looking seriously chic.

As Janney explained on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," the new 'do came about because her roots had started growing out during lockdown. "I just decided I wanted to be free from hair color and hair extensions and so this is the most authentic me," she said. In another interview, Janney told Drew Barrymore that the freedom of having a simple, authentic hairstyle was "amazing." For one thing, she no longer had to worry about hair extensions falling out in public — which, she confessed, had happened before. "It's heaven," she said. "I'm just enjoying this new chapter in my hairdo world."

Does Allison Janney stay in touch with her former West Wing costars?

Even though "The West Wing" ended back in 2006, Allison Janney still has a soft spot for the show. In fact, she told Jimmy Kimmel on his show that she absolutely loves talking about the show in interviews and — amazingly — that the entire cast is still in touch on a group chat!

"It's so much fun. We text about absolutely everything," she said. By the sounds of things, the cast has a very playful dynamic. "There's a lot of abuse given on those chains," she said, explaining that Josh Malina was often the target of the lighthearted jokes. She even showed a hilarious picture of Malina on the beach as a young man that Dulé Hill had posted as a joke, with a comment from Bradley Whitford saying, "Haven't we been through enough this year?" Wow, this cast seems just as close and as funny as ever!

Allison Janney has some very interesting dance moves

Of all of the actresses in Hollywood, we think that Allison Janney would definitely be one of the best people to party with — she's funny and laid back, and, by the looks of things, she's got some great moves, too. In an appearance on "Conan," Janney even revealed some of signature moves.

"It's all about the dance at my house — I don't like to talk, I like to dance," she said. She went on to explain that all of her moves were inspired by different jobs. "I do a dance about being a stewardess, I do a dance about being a gardener," she said. Wow, that's definitely more interesting than the classic awkward shuffle most of us do at parties.

Luckily, Janney even showed off her favorite occupation dance — the stewardess. It consisted of a groovy seat buckling and exit sign demonstration — and we think it was totally amazing. We're hardly surprised that Janney turns out to be a wonderful (and hilarious) dancer!

Allison Janney says she has her 'father's legs'

Allison Janney is tall. Like — exceptionally tall. Six feet tall, to be precise. Throughout her career, her height sometimes got in the way. "I felt like my career started late and I think it was because of my height — and maybe some of my confidence issues," she confessed to NPR in 2014, adding, "It's made me definitely more of a character actress in terms of my love of doing comedy."

As the actress told InStyle in 2018, her height is inherited. Her father is "6 foot 1 or 2," while her mother, as Janney put it, "was tall; some people shrink when they get older, I'm told." Apparently, she was around 5 foot 9 at her tallest. "She was known for her legs," Janney said. "She used to be an actress and got a review specifically focused on her beautiful legs. It was amazing."

Like her parents, Janney has some very, very long legs. However, she didn't inherit her mother's famous dancer's legs. "I got my father's legs but some of my mother's shape," she said, adding, "I think my legs are better-looking than my father's." 

She's made appearances in popular shows

While Allison Janney may be best-known for her appearances on shows like "The West Wing" and "Masters of Sex," the actress has appeared as a guest star in many other popular TV shows. One of her first roles was in an episode of the soap opera "As the World Turns" in 1993. Then, in 2002, she appeared in one episode of "Frasier" as Susanna, an artist who briefly dates Frasier. Funnily enough, one year earlier, she had voiced another character on the show. She has also appeared on "Law & Order" as two different characters — in 1992, she played Nora, and in 1994, she played Ann.

In 2007, Janney landed a guest star role as Beverly, a woman who meets Alan on a dating site and ends up being a little unhinged, in "Two and a Half Men." In 2010, you may have spotted Janney as "Mother" in one episode of "Lost." In 2013, she appeared as Janet Ryland, a confrontational TV host, in one episode of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy about a fictional Vice President.

She made her mark on Broadway

Over the years, Allison Janney hasn't only proven herself on screen and made her mark on stage. Her Broadway debut came in 1996 when she played Liz in Noel Coward's "Present Laughter" (via Playbill). A year later, she originated the role of Beatrice in Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" — it was a performance that earned her a Tony Award nomination for Lead Actress in a Play. 

When Janney became a TV star, she stepped back from the stage. She returned to Broadway in 2009 in a production of the musical "9 to 5," in which she played Violet. She earned another Tony nomination for the role. In 2017, she starred in the play "Six Degrees of Separation" as Ouisa.

Even though Janney has shown herself to be more than capable of commanding a Broadway stage, there was a time when she thought it might never happen. In fact, one potential agent reportedly even told her she'd never make it. But Janney didn't let that stop her. "I did off-off-Broadway for a while and was happy as a clam, but I suppose the big one was [Broadway's] 'Present Laughter' [with Frank Langella]," she told Broadway.com. "As far as I was concerned I was proving her wrong just by working at all."

Allison Janney has had a few serious relationships

These days, Allison Janney is happy to be single. As she told Drew Barrymore in 2021, "I'd love to eventually find someone to share my life with, but if it doesn't happen, I think I'll be just fine" (via YouTube). However, Janney hasn't always flown solo; over the years, she's had quite a few relationships.

She reportedly dated actor Dennis Gagomiros in 1994. Rumor has it she considered marrying him. However, their relationship ended in 2001. She was later liked to her "Our Very Own" co-star Richard Jenik. The pair became engaged in 2004, but broke up two years later. Her third serious relationship came in 2012 when she started daring Philip Joncas, production manager of "The Way, Way Back." Even though Joncas was 20 years younger than Janney, they seemed to be a good match. Unfortunately, as she told "The Meredith Vieira Show," there was still a double standard when it came to an older woman dating a younger man. "I don't think it's ever going to get better," she said. Their relationship ended after five years (via Showbiz CheatSheet).

She's an activist

Allison Janney isn't just the actress behind "The West Wing's" Press Secretary, CJ Cregg — she's also a dedicated political activist in her real life, too. "It makes so many people sad what's going on," she told the Independent in 2018 during the Trump administration. "It's even more important that... [she sighs] I wish that we could come back and do 'The West Wing.'... I never thought I'd see our country in the place that it is now and be divided like it was back in the Civil War. It's crazy."

In addition to speaking out in interviews about politics, Janney is also an active advocate for change. She was part of a campaign by Women For Women to ask Biden to support Afghan women. She also participated in a NowThis campaign with her fellow "West Wing" cast-mates to advocate for voting rights in America (via Twitter). In 2016, Janney even appeared at a White House press briefing in a "West Wing" spoof (via YouTube). In 2018, Janney participated in the Women's March in Los Angeles (via Page Six).

Allison Janney transformed into an action star for Lou

In the 2022 action film "Lou," Allison Janney took a role that was slightly different from her usual casting. As Lou, she played a fierce, dangerous loner who says things like, "The world's not a playground," and takes on a kidnapper. Transforming into an action star wasn't exactly easy. 

"I left all vanity at the door," she told AV Club. "I love leaving vanity at the door... It's freeing to not have any makeup on and be muddied up to look messy and dirty and unkempt." The role also required hardcore training, including boxing, strength training, and fight choreography. Apparently, she and her trainer worked for three hours a day. "I couldn't wrap my mind around that," she said. "Three hours a day? I don't even work out one hour a week." While the training may have been tough, by the time Janney had to film her fight scenes, she could not have been more ready. "It was in my muscle memory when we went to film those fight scenes," she recalled. "I was so excited to do them and was totally ready and just went at it."

She's no stranger to voice acting

According to IMDb, Allison Janney lent her voice to 23 projects. In other words, she's pretty comfortable in a recording studio. You may have heard her voice characters such as Peach, the adorable pink starfish, in "Finding Nemo," Gladys, the evil businesswoman in "Over the Hedge," Charlene, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz's ex-wife in "Phineas and Ferb," Madge, the curly haired wife woman who gives a ride to Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, in "Minions," or Henrietta, the cruel founder of Plast-a-Ware, in "F Is for Family."

Perhaps one of the reasons Janney has been so successful in the voice-acting world is her open approach. "I just come in ready to work," she once told Collider. "I come in open to taking direction and basically being willing to make a fool of myself and just do all different kinds of crazy voices and try to find the right voice." Her only goal? Be playful. "That's the only thing I have to bring is my sense of play to doing an animated picture," she said.