Thursday, July 17, 2003

Dayton's Janney deals with fame just fine



By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Allison Janney took her time becoming famous after she left her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to study acting in New York and London. But when her career took off, it headed in just the right direction.

After acclaimed movie roles in Big Night, American Beauty and others, in 1999 she took the role of press secretary C.J. Cregg on The West Wing, where she found serious fame, critical praise and a heap of awards, including three Emmys.

She still makes movies - last year, The Hours; this year, she is the voice of Peach the starfish in Finding Nemo. Friday, How to Deal opens, in which Janney plays Mandy Moore's divorced mother.

Here is a sample of her thoughts on subjects from hometowns to action flicks:

On the Ohio connection among the "The West Wing" cast (Martin Sheen and former cast member Rob Lowe are also Daytonians): It's so ironic. Our paths never crossed in our entire time growing up. Although Rob swears he saw one of my first plays, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, at Miami Valley School.

How actors from the Midwest are not like coastal natives: I always find people from the Midwest to be open and friendly and grounded and salt-of-the-earth kind of people. Spuds, right?

On why that is so: Good clean living? Maybe because things are simpler there. ... There's lots of land and you're not right on top of your neighbor. Things are at a slower pace. You have time to stop and smell the roses. Maybe it is the water.

What she liked about "How to Deal": I responded to the role because of the difficult situation Lydia was in with her husband leaving her for a younger woman, yet having to be a mother and be strong.

On the difference between movie and stage acting: Huge. If you learn through the theater, you know acting is pretty much a team sport. Film acting lends itself for actors to be a little bit selfish.

On "Nemo": Who knew it was going to be such a big hit? ... To go to this and see this lovely starfish and not have to see my face on camera, it was so much fun.

On action movies: I want to do a Charlie's Angels! A Sigourney Weaver Aliens kind of movie. I would love to do that. That's an untapped resource in me.

E-mail mmcgurk@enquirer.com




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