Not My Job: 'Bad Education' Star Allison Janney Gets Quizzed On 'Dad Education'

Jul 4, 2020
Originally published on July 4, 2020 8:49 am

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Finally, the pandemic caught some people in places they didn't expect to be. This spring, Oscar-winning actress Allison Janney was supposed to be walking the red carpet at the premiere of her hew film, "Bad Education." Instead, she ended up having to talk to us from a spare bedroom in her parents' house in Dayton, Ohio.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ALLISON JANNEY: (Evil laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

LUKE BURBANK: I suspected that.

SAGAL: She's lovely. I actually...

MO ROCCA: "Svengoolie" (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I actually looked up - I hadn't seen it since it happened, but I looked up your Oscar acceptance speech for playing Tonya's mother. And it began - you began with the greatest line I've ever heard. Could you repeat it for us now? So she gets up. She's in her beautiful gown. She wins an Oscar for best supporting actress. And she says...

JANNEY: I did it all by myself.

FAITH SALIE: (Laughter).

BURBANK: Thank God.

SAGAL: Which was great.

BURBANK: A breath of fresh air.

SAGAL: And if you had had any gumption, you would've turned and walked away.

JANNEY: I know. I would've won that jet ski or whatever they were offering...

SAGAL: (Laughter).

JANNEY: ...For the shortest acceptance speech...

SAGAL: Oh, yeah - right.

JANNEY: ...You know?

SAGAL: You would've been a legend.

JANNEY: I chickened out. But it would've been - you're right. It would've been unforgettable.

SAGAL: I - we always - we're checking in with our guests. How are you doing, Allison Janney, during all of this?

JANNEY: Listen. It's been an incredibly challenging time. I decided to come back to Ohio to be with my folks, to ride this through with them and look after them. And so I feel really, really good about that decision.

SAGAL: I mean, I was about to ask you if it was weird to walk around a city in Ohio as a nationally - internationally famous actress. But then I realized you're not walking around anywhere, are you?

JANNEY: Nope. Nope. I mean, I go to the market, but nobody knows who I am because I've got my mask on. I've got my sunglasses. I've got a hat on. You know, I'm incognito everywhere I go, so...

SALIE: Do you sometimes just have to ask your parents, do you know who I am?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Here. Let me take off my mask. So we were talking about "I, Tonya." That was an amazing role for which you won an Oscar. And it was written specifically for you, right?

JANNEY: Yeah. Steven Rogers and I went to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City together back in the '80s. And he wrote that part knowing that I would be able to inhabit that kind of lady and make her plausible. I guess that's the right word - real. Or...

SAGAL: For those who haven't seen "I, Tonya," first of all, what's wrong with you?

JANNEY: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Secondly, the character that Allison plays is Tonya's mother, who is truly the worst mother ever committed to film. And was it weird when someone says, oh, I wrote this part especially for you. I thought of you the whole time I was writing it. Here you go, Allison. And you were, like, thanks?

JANNEY: I did thank him, though, 'cause he knew I like to take characters like that and make them human and make them believable. And having been a figure skater myself, I felt like I understood what a commitment it is for parents because my mother would get up at 5 in the morning and take me to the ice rink before school.

SAGAL: You were actually an ice skater when you were growing up?

JANNEY: Yes. I wanted to be an Olympic figure skater. That was my...

SALIE: Wow.

JANNEY: ...My dreams. So...

SAGAL: And were you actually going to be a - you were, like, on that track? You were...

JANNEY: Oh, God, no. I wasn't that good. I was too tall. You know...

SAGAL: Oh, OK.

JANNEY: It's an acrobatic sport. I'm 6 feet tall. I - the most I could do - I could do a double salchow and a double flip - two double jumps, and that was it. Yeah. I was graceful, though.

SAGAL: My gosh.

JANNEY: I could've been like Torvill and Dean. I could've been...

SAGAL: (Laughter).

JANNEY: You remember Torvill and Dean?

BURBANK: Yes.

SAGAL: Oh, yes, I remember Torvill and Dean.

JANNEY: God, they were just so beautiful. I could've - that's what I should've been. I could've been an ice dancer. That would've been...

ROCCA: Oh, my God. I love that this is like "On The Waterfront" but frozen over.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Did you ever talk to Tonya about your performance as her mother? And if so, what did she say?

JANNEY: Yeah. She was the one who guided me in my performance. I couldn't believe that someone could be this horrible to their daughter, but she - this was straight - these were her stories, and she basically helped me have the confidence to step into it and believe just - you know, it was hard to do it to Margot Robbie, though. It was interesting as an actor trying to figure out how to, you know, be incredibly mean to her and just - yeah. We're going to jump into a scene now, and you're going to throw a knife at Margot Robbie. And go.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

JANNEY: It's just so bizarre what we do.

SAGAL: I do want to ask you about "Bad Education," which is the movie that's coming out on HBO this weekend. Who is more of a prima donna to work with, the parrot from "I, Tonya" or Hugh Jackman?

JANNEY: Oh, Hugh Jackman - biggest prima donna (laughter). He is the loveliest. Yeah, the parrot wins prima donna hands-down - scene-stealing prima donna. Hugh Jackman is delightful, playful and, you know, accessible and generous. You know, he's just wonderful. He would - you know, and he did - he's the kind of guy that thinks about everyone and brings everyone scratchies on Friday - the whole crew - and buys everyone - just a really generous guy, a guy you want to...

SAGAL: Lotto scratch cards - is that what you mean by scratchies, little lotto scratch cards?

JANNEY: Yeah, little lotto scratch cards - yeah, yeah. I don't know what you call them.

SAGAL: That's very sweet.

SALIE: Let me ask you a question.

JANNEY: Yeah.

SALIE: Would you - before there's a coronavirus vaccine, would you film a sex scene with Hugh Jackman?

JANNEY: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Allison, your parents are downstairs. Keep it down when you're talking about this.

JANNEY: No, they can't - I'm on the third floor, and she's - they're on the first floor. I was not...

SAGAL: Yeah, yeah.

JANNEY: I was so disappointed to not get to walk a red carpet with Hugh Jackman. I was finally going to walk down the red carpet with a man...

SAGAL: Sure.

JANNEY: ...Who's taller than me. And it was going to be a lovely moment for me. But we did just speak recently. We had to do a little virtual red carpet like this. And I was dressed exactly what I'm wearing right now. And we just...

SAGAL: Who are you wearing? Is that a Target?

JANNEY: I actually - I'm wearing my mother's cardigan. And I'm wearing...

(LAUGHTER)

BURBANK: Who are you wearing? My mother.

JANNEY: I wore a...

BURBANK: Is my mother's cardigan a hip designer in LA?

JANNEY: My mother's cardigan. I'm wearing a T-shirt I've worn for three days, and I do not smell so good right now. And I fancied it up with this little gold necklace.

SAGAL: Oh, my goodness.

ROCCA: And you should have your father just off-camera as the security guard for your necklace.

SAGAL: It just occurred to me. So you're in your parents' house. Is this the house where you grew up?

JANNEY: No.

SAGAL: OK. Maybe this still happens. Is there anywhere in the house a shrine to Allison Janney? Because you're an acclaimed award-winning actress. Wouldn't your parents, like, put up pictures of you on the red carpet and copies of your awards and stuff like that?

JANNEY: You know, there are a few - there are a bit, but I have - you know, there are other people in the family, and they want to give equal time, equal, you know, spacing in the house to other siblings.

BURBANK: No one cares about Tim's (ph) Amway career.

(LAUGHTER)

JANNEY: I just remember calling my mother and father to tell them when I got nominated for my first Emmy. And my mother and father were up in Vermont. And she said, well, that's lovely, honey, but your father and I are dealing with the septic system right now, so we'll call you back.

(LAUGHTER)

JANNEY: I just think they don't really do Hollywood stuff, so I am always very grounded here in Ohio.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAGAL: That does it for a look back on the first few months of the COVID-19 era. If we have to be stuck inside, well, at least I get to be stuck with you, Bill.

BILL KURTIS: Aw, thanks, Peter. But would it be possible for me to get my own room?

(SOUNDBITE OF POWER UP SOUND EFFECT) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.