"MOM" Is the Show Allison Janney's Been Waiting for Her Whole Career
Last night’s Emmy broadcast on CBS gave the network an opportunity to showcase their stars -- including actors appearing in their new shows. This is why we saw the presenting team of Allison Janney and Anna Faris, who are starring in MOM, a situation comedy premiering on the network tonight at 9:30 PM.
CBS has high expectations for MOM, and no wonder: It’s the latest series from executive producer Chuck Lorre, whose track record for the network includes Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, and Mike and Molly. MOM is a bit of a departure from those hits in that it is centered around three generations of strong, female characters -- and that the series was co-created a woman: writer/producer Gemma Baker, who got her comedy training as a member of The Groundlings.
Baker notes that the writing staff is also mostly female -- a rarity in Hollywood, especially in comedy. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the writing staffs nominated for Emmys last night. I counted as many as three on the late night comedies (and that’s a big improvement over the situation I encountered when working in the business over 20 years ago). This is reason enough for me to want to watch MOM.
But I am also intrigued by the show’s premise: The title actually refers to two moms, newly sober single mother Christie (played by Faris), who is doing her best to break a family tradition of dysfunction -- and her recovering addict mother, Bonnie. Both gave birth as teenagers, and now Christie’s 15-year-old daughter Violet is in a relationship that has become “serious.”
As part of their campaign to promote the show, CBS invited several local bloggers to visit MOM’s set at the Warner Brothers studio in Burbank. I have not yet seen a full episode of the show (I’ll be watching the premiere tonight along with millions of others). But we did get to watch Janney and Faris rehearse two scenes from a future episode. I can’t tell you what those scenes involved (they swore us to secrecy!), but what we saw and heard was pretty funny: these two actors have great comic timing. This was also evident in the Q&A session held with us after the rehearsal.
“We are so honored to have this incredible cast who take these sort of flawed characters and make them really likable,” said producer Gemma Baker.
Janney seems most excited about her first sitcom and playing a role that is a huge departure from C.J. Cregg, the White House press secretary from The West Wing.
“It’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole career. It’s the perfect blend of all the things I love about acting and theater and being in front of an audience and I love doing movies. I love that we get rehearsal in this. It’s a little but every day but it’s fun just being on our feet and winging it and the writers change it and it’s on the fly. And the schedule allows you to have a life outside.”
Faris, who is known for playing ditzy characters in her movies, was asked how she felt about portraying someone who was more grounded in reality.
“There is a thing where I feel insecure,” she admitted. “Is my own personality going to be enough? It makes me insecure because normally I’d be able to hide behind my stupidity or craziness or whatever other characters. But I love it. She’s a dimensional character and I am so grateful.”
When asked about her own insecurities, Janney got a laugh from the group by replying, “Going through menopause.” Then she got serious:
“I’m not afraid of Bonnie. I love how far out she is and wish I was more like her in terms of men, really. She’s sort of fearless with me and thinks she’s the most attractive, desirable woman on the planet. That would be fun to feel for a week. So she’s fun, I love it. I always get insecure before we do the live audience thing; pleasing people. I definitely have that gene but I ignore it and move on.”
MOM looks like it will be funny, relatable - and perhaps another juggernaut hit on the CBS schedule. I’ll be watching.
In a previous life, Donna Schwartz Mills worked in television production, and writes about those experiences occasionally on her blog, SoCal Mom. She talks about current TV as co-host of the Agents of Zeitgeist podcast.
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