18 Movies & TV Shows You Forgot Allison Janney Was In

Have you ever learned a new word, and then suddenly started hearing that word everywhere you went? This uncanny experience is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, and it very well could happen to you after reading this story. Once you start paying attention to Allison Janney, you'll realize she's in everything.
Janney won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her amazing performance as LaVona Golden in I, Tonya. With a cigarette in her hand and a parrot on her shoulder, LaVona mercilessly undermines everything her daughter, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), has to say for herself. For those of us used to seeing Janney as a kooky neighbor or C.J. on the West Wing, she was virtually unrecognizable as LaVona.
Janney has 120 screen acting credits to her name, and counting. Here's the evolution of her career, from the small appearances in '90s rom-coms early on, to her Oscar- and Emmy-nominated performances.
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Walking and Talking (1996)

Walking and Talking is one of those delicious little indie comedies from the '90s that, once you find it, you will watch over and over. In the movie, Amelia (Catherine Keener) is a woman in her 30s, looking for a date, helping her friend Laura (Anne Heche) plan her wedding. Janney briefly appears to help Amelia through a traumatic incident – her cat falls out of the window.
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Big Night (1996)

Food, in Big Night, is love. It is the topic that ties two immigrant brothers, Primo (Tony Shaloub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci), together. And it is also what is making their Italian restaurant in New Jersey, called Paradise, go out of business. Primo is so devoted to his craft that he refuses to give the people the kind of food they want — chicken parm and manicotti are beneath him. Janney briefly shows up to play Primo's love interest.
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Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

Like Janney's 1996 movie Walking and Talking, Drop Dead Gorgeous turned into a cult classic in the years after its theatrical release. The mockumentary follows aspiring pageant queens in a downtrodden town of Mount Rose, Minnesota, and what happens when they all start dying mysteriously. Janney's character, Loretta, lives two trailers down from Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst), one of the pageant participants.
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Primary Colors (1998)

In 1998, while Bill Clinton was still president, a movie came out based on the story of Clinton's rise to power. Instead of being called Bill Clinton, the charismatic politician's name was Jack Stanton — and he was played by John Travolta. His wife, based on Hillary, was played by Emma Thompson. Within the movie's first two minutes, we're introduced to Marianne Walsh, a school librarian played by Janney. In a later scene, the movie insinuates that Marianne and then-governor Stanton had a brief tryst in his hotel room.
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10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Janney's romance novel-writing high school guidance counselor, Ms. Perky, is one of the great highlights of 10 Things I Hate About You. Kat (Julia Stiles) interrupts Ms. Perky just as she's trying to come up with a good synonym for "engorged." Janney also completely improvised one of the scene's funniest moments — she points to a mug with a cat on it, and purrs.

“I ad-libbed, ‘Kat. Meow,’” Janney told Buzzfeed. “That was me. I do that on some movies when I feel like the atmosphere is right, and [director] Gil Junger was open to it and just let me do whatever I wanted to do. I was really thrilled about that one.”
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American Beauty (1999)

Janney gives a haunting performance in American Beauty. Her character, Mrs. Fitts, has been beaten down by her marriage to a cruel, abusive former Marine, and subsumed by relentless domestic responsibilities. Mrs. Fitts' individuality and personality have eroded away to the point that she appears to float through life like a ghost.
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The Hours (2002)

Today in little known cinematic facts: Meryl Streep and Allison Janney share an on-screen kiss. In The Hours, Janney plays Sally, Clarissa's (Meryl Streep) long-term partner. They live together in the nicest West Village townhouse ever.
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Finding Nemo (2004)

Of course, you already knew that Ellen Degeneres provided the voice for Dory in Finding Nemo – but did you know that Allison Janney played Peach, the starfish? She's responsible for the iconic exclamation, "The tank is clean!"
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Hairspray (2007)

Allison Janney and John Travolta's characters had a brief affair in Primary Colors. In Hairspray, their characters' relationship couldn't be more different. Travolta and Janney play mothers who have to respond to the social progressivism of the '60s. Travolta's Edna is all in; by the end of the movie, she's singing and at the front lines of a march. Janney's Prudy is exactly what her name suggests — a prude.
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Lost (2010)

As any Lost fan can tell you, the show was always weird — but it started getting really weird in the last season, when the showrunners tried to tie up all the loose, confusing strings in one season. Though Allison Janney's character only appears in the final few episodes, she's meant to be the person who kickstarts the show's entire narrative arc by turning two twin brothers — Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) and the Man in Black (Titus Welliver) — against each other.

Janney told Buzzfeed that she felt unmoored while filming the ending of Lost. "I was so lost and so confused on that show. And when I talked to [executive producers] Damon [Lindelof] and Carlton [Cuse], they were no help either. They didn't give me a definitive answer, so I just played it like a fucking crazy lady who killed a woman who just had a baby. That might have been a mistake doing that. I had no idea what I was doing."
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The West Wing (1999-2006)

The West Wing revealed the mechanisms that allow the executive branch to function, and highlighted the individuals who helped President Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) get the job done. One such person was White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, played by our girl Allison. Over the course of the West Wing's seven years, Janney won four Emmys.
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The Way Way Back (2013)

The best coming-of-age movies are set in the summer, when empty days can be filled up with adventure. In The Way Way Back, Duncan (Liam James) is spending the summer in Cape Cod with his mother and her boyfriend. His new next-door neighbor is a kooky, warm woman who's typically tipsy by three in the afternoon. Yep, that woman is played by Janney, fitting nicely into her "kooky neighbor" category of roles (see: Drop Dead Gorgeous).
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Mom (2013-2018)

Christy Plunkett (Anna Faris) is following in her mother, Bonnie's (Allison Janney), footsteps. After getting sober, Christy decides to relocate to Napa with her kids, where Christy's mother, who also struggles with addiction, is waiting. Janney won two Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Mom.
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The Help (2011)

We know where Skeeter (Emma Stone) got her independent streak from – her mother, Charlotte (Allison Janney). When Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) stops by with the express purpose of being a mean old bully to Skeeter, Charlotte intervenes, and makes a point of knowing exactly what the secret ingredient in Hilly's pie was.

Though Janney had been in all of director Tate Taylor's prior films, she wasn't guaranteed a spot in this one at first. Janney told Buzzfeed that originally, the studio wanted someone with more instant recognizability.

"I really thought I was not going to play the part," she said. "I don't think [Taylor] knows how close I was to not getting that part. Even Octavia was scared she wouldn't get her part. The studio wanted someone else. They wanted known people.
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Days and Nights (2014)

Despite her long career, Days and Nights was the first time Janney was first on the call sheet, a schedule that governs each day of production. Essentially, this meant Janney was the primary actress in the movie.
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Spy (2015)

At some point in their lives, everyone should have a boss like Allison Janney's character in Spy. Yes, she's tough and dismissive and scary. But when she recognizes talent — as she does in Melissa McCarthy's character — she cultivates it, and makes sure that person rises to meet her potential. Janney was playing against type in Spy, and it worked.

Janney and McCarthy also appeared alongside one another in Tammy (2014).
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The Girl on the Train (2016)

Detective Sergeant Riley (Allison Janney) is the first to suspect Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) might have been involved in Megan Hipwell's (Haley Bennett) disappearance.
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I, Tonya (2017)

LaVona Golden is a hard character to empathize with. She encourages her daughter, Tonya Harding, to take up skating and become a champion, but provides no love or nurturing along the way. "Poor fucking you. I didn't stay home making apply brown Bettys. I made you a champion, knowing you'd hate me for it. I wish I had a mother like me, instead of nice. Nice gets you shit," she tells an adult Tonya, who has just confronted her after years of abusive behavior. And being a terrifying character gets you an Oscars nomination.
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