Allison Janney is an American actress best known for her role as White House Press Secretary (and later Chief of Staff) C.J. Cregg in the television drama series The West Wing, from 1999-2006.
She also starred as Crystal Cohen in the short-lived sitcom Mr. Sunshine, in 2011.
Janney was born in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Macy (née Putnam), a former actress and homemaker, and Jervis Spencer Janney, Jr., a real estate developer and jazz musician. She has two older brothers, Jay and Hal.
She attended The Miami Valley School in Dayton, where she was named a distinguished alum in 2004 and the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. She then attended Kenyon College.
She went on to study drama at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. She attended The Neighborhood Playhouse the same years as actor Dylan McDermott.
Janney's first roles on television were as comedic foils on soap operas: she first played Vi Kaminski for a short time on As the World Turns, following up with a two-year stint as one of the Spaulding maids, Ginger on Guiding Light.
In the spring of 1994, she appeared in the season finale of Law & Order, as a reluctant witness against a member of the Russian mob. This episode was also notable as Michael Moriarty's final episode in the series. His on-screen resignation at the episode's end came in part as a result of his having to coerce testimony from Janney's character, with fatal consequences for her.
Janney has appeared in a number of films with roles of various sizes, including the 1990s films American Beauty, The Object of My Affection, Big Night, The Impostors, Drop Dead Gorgeous, The Ice Storm, Primary Colors, 10 Things I Hate about You, and Private Parts, and the 2000s films Nurse Betty, The Hours, The Chumscrubber, How to Deal, Winter Solstice and a considerable role in the animated movie, Finding Nemo, voicing Peach, the starfish.
In 2006, Janney had carried notable roles in the movies, Margaret and Over the Hedge, an animated comedy. Also, she took the role of Prudy Pingleton in the 2007 film Hairspray.
In 1999, she was cast in the role of presidential press secretary C.J. Cregg on the television drama The West Wing, for which she has won four Emmy Awards.
Two of the Emmys were for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Drama Series in 2000 and 2001, and two were for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Drama Series in the years 2002 and 2004.
She was also nominated in 2003 and 2006 for the Best Actress award.
She is one of six cast members from The West Wing to have won an Emmy for their work, the others being Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, John Spencer, Stockard Channing and Alan Alda - however, Janney is the only one who has won more than once.
Janney was honourably nominated, in 2002, for American Film Institute's Actor of the Year. A nomination of Actor/Actress of the Year from the AFI is regarded as a very high honour in acting.
Several weekend trips to Washington, D.C. were frequent to Janney's schedule, and for the rest of the cast as well. Many outdoor scenes on The West Wing were actually filmed in the nation's capital.
Janney also met several times with former White House Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers, who served in the Clinton Administration from 1993-1994. Janney met with Myers in New York City to help portray her character more authentically.
Janney's starting salary was $70,000/episode in 1999. Since that date, negotiations were made for increased salaries for all the critically acclaimed actors on The West Wing.
The West Wing was cancelled in January 2006, and the last episode aired in May of that year. Even though the latter seasons were plagued by declining ratings, the overall rating of Janney remained a relatively positive one, touted by Entertainment Weekly as "one to watch," "uncommonly beautiful and infinitely expressive".
In January 2006, The West Wing's cast was also nominated by the Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast. Janney, Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Janel Moloney, and other members of the cast appeared at the SAG Awards to honour their late castmate and friend, John Spencer.
In July 2006, she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series.
In 2006, she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her performance in the film Our Very Own, which also stars Keith Carradine, Jason Ritter, Hilarie Burton, Cheryl Hines, Autumn Reeser and Mary Badham.
Many of Janney's long time friends were involved with Our Very Own including its producer Shannon McMahon Lichte and cast member Allison Mackie. All three were in the same class at the Neighborhood Playhouse. The Writer/Director Cameron Watson, also a longtime friend, wrote the role of Joan for her.
Janney has remained active in theatre. In 1998 she was nominated for a Tony Award for her role in Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. Her first Broadway role was in Present Laughter opposite Frank Langella.
In 2004, Janney began lending her voice to television and radio spots created by Kaiser Permanente in the health maintenance organization's broad "Thrive" media campaign, and in a radio campaign for the American Institute of Architects.