Allison Janney reveals why C.J. Cregg on The West Wing is her favorite role
"She's the one I most want to be like and the most I'm not like," the actor tells EW during the cover story roundtable.
When Allison Janney got the call to work in the (fictional) White House, she knew "it was a good thing" right away. And over 20 years later, she still counts playing White House press secretary and later Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg on The West Wing as her favorite role.
"I was afraid to admit how much I wanted it," Janney says of when she first landed the role. "She is my favorite character I've ever played because she's someone that I aspire to. I wish I could be C.J. People come up to me all the time and say they changed their majors in college, they went into public service because of C.J. — and I get it. She's a wonderful character who is not afraid to speak truth to power, and is a woman in a traditionally male-populated arena in the White House, and she was given the president's ear. It's a great role to champion women. Whenever I'm asked, she's the one I most want to be like and the most I'm not like."
Janney gets nostalgic not just about her character but also about the iconic series during EW's West Wing reunion, where the original cast and creator gathered to help get out the vote in this crucial election year — and to reminisce about filming the show as well as the upcoming West Wing special (set to air this fall on HBO Max) to benefit When We All Vote, Michelle Obama’s nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to registering everyone to vote. During the roundtable chat, she reveals she loved listening to all the "great minds" get together on set and discuss important issues, and was always so impressed with how "prescient" creator Aaron Sorkin's scripts were. When she comments that Sorkin never wrote about anything that's currently happening in politics, her fellow cast members laugh. "That would be bad writing," Bradley Whitford quips.
"These characters, what is so beautiful about them is that they're all flawed but they all have these unbelievable moral compasses... that's why everyone wants to watch this show now because they're people who actually care and are willing to listen to the other side," Janney adds. "It's just heartbreaking and makes so much sense why people are gravitating towards it now, even for the first time, for the second time, for the third time, for the fourth time people are watching it. I get so many text messages saying, 'I'm binging West Wing again! I'm starting at season 1.'"
Janney's been thinking about rewatching the entire series herself, especially after taking part in EW's reunion. "I fell in love with everyone, everyone in these little Brady Bunch squares, I miss them all," she says during the Zoom call. "I miss the work we did so much. I wish that we could do it again."
For more on The West Wing cast reunion and EW's 30th anniversary, order the September issue of Entertainment Weekly now. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
And to register for the upcoming election and find other voting resources, visit When We All Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring everyone is registered to vote.