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20 Questions With… Allison Janney

Even now, eight years after The West Wing’s final episode, Washington could still learn a thing or two from the show’s quick-witted White House press secretary C.J. Cregg, a role which garnered Allison Janney four Emmys. The multifaceted actress has also played colorful characters in a slew of critically acclaimed films, including American Beauty, Juno and The Help. In addition to starring on CBS’ sitcom Mom and popping up on Showtime’s Masters of Sex, this month sees Janney opening two new flicks—the animated Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Jason Bateman’s Bad Words—and on March 31, she’ll be honored at the annual Miscast Gala at Hammerstein Ballroom (311 W. 34th St., mcctheater.org), a night celebrating Broadway’s brightest stars. Here, she wings it through another press grilling.

What’s been your favorite role to date?
C.J. Cregg on The West Wing—she was a great character and role model, and being part of the show opened doors for me professionally. Without that opportunity, I’m not sure I’d be answering these questions right now.

Favorite Broadway performance of all time?
I can’t get over Mark Rylance in Jerusalem. Let’s just say Mark Rylance in anything.

If you had to choose: theater, film or TV?
I feel like, with doing Mom, I don’t have to choose, because it’s a wonderful combination of all three: I get to perform in front of a live audience and on location, and it happens to be on TV.

Which five iconic figures would be at your dream dinner party?
Noël Coward, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Peter Sellers, [legendary 19th century Italian actress] Eleonora Duse and, if I were allowed a sixth, Tom Carvel, because at a Janney dinner party there would always be cake, and I really love a good Fudgie the Whale.

Worst job you’ve ever had?
I was a busgirl at a restaurant in Ohio where the waitresses were mean to me and never shared their tips.

Who’d play you in your biopic?
I should play myself—but they’d probably make me read for it and I wouldn’t get the part.

Favorite president?
Bill Clinton because he’s the only president I’ve ever met, and I find him to be one of the most intelligent and articulate people.

Favorite and least favorite things about NYC?
Favorite: the subway and the Halloween parade. Least favorite: crosstown traffic during rush hour.

What always surprises you about New Yorkers?
Nothing.

Favorite word?
More. Because more is better.

What are you afraid of?
I’m afraid of being boring. (See above answers!)

When are you happiest?
When I have friends over at my house who’ll cook for me and do the dishes and make me laugh.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Stand up straight.

First celebrity crush?
Davy Jones from the The Monkees.

First concert you attended?
Stevie Wonder.

What’s in your refrigerator right now?
Can I answer this at 2am, when I’m binge-eating?

What dish do you prepare best?
I make a great Portuguese kale sausage soup.

What’s the last thing you Googled?
Gigantic teddy bears—don’t ask.

What’s your TV guilty pleasure?
I don’t feel guilty about any TV I watch. I watch [HGTV’s] Love It or List It and I’m proud of it!

Do you prefer comedies or dramas?
I prefer things that are messy—like life.