But starting Friday, you can see her on the big screen playing Mandy Moore's mother in the new film "How To Deal."
She talks to The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm about the romantic teen movie as well as her fourth Emmy nomination for her work in "The West Wing."
About the nomination, Janney says, "I can never watch the announcement. I just try to forget that they're even coming out. I get very nervous. Obviously the first time was completely new and wonderful. It doesn't lose the thrill."
Without "The West Wing" creator and writer Aaron Sorkin, Janney says she expects the show to be different. "That doesn't necessarily mean it won't be good."
And why not? Janney herself as been doing well, coming out of a performance in "The Hours" and now being cast in "How To Deal."
The film is a coming-of-age story about a family dealing with divorce. Janney says, "That's what I loved about it, the parallel journey the mother and daughter go on. They both start the movie and the relationship of Mandy's mother breaks up, the marriage breaks up. They're both in a place of being disillusioned by love and not trusting men and not wanting to go there and closing down. They slowly open up and start dating other people. And finally, they can love again. It's a lovely journey and a lovely movie."
And notes she had a great experience working with Mandy Moore. She says, "She taught me a thing or two. I was intimidated by her because she's so young, so accomplished and so grounded. At the beginning of the scenes, she did a little improv and I thought that was so brave of her. She wanted to get the scene going before the cameras rolled. So when the cameras rolled we would be in the middle of the scene, things would be happening and alive. I loved her for that. She wasn't afraid to make a fool of herself. I'm always afraid to make a fool of myself."
But she was not afraid to be a starfish. Janney is the voice of Peach in this summer's blockbuster animated film "Finding Nemo."
Janney says, "I did it because I have a niece and nephew. And I wanted them to go see it and not know that I'm in it. They saw it and they didn't recognize my voice."
About Allison Janney:
- Born in Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 19, 1959.
- Attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio (1978-82). There, she won role in a play directed by Paul Newman (a Kenyon alumnus). She also took a summer course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England. In 1982, after graduation, moved to New York to attend Neighborhood Playhouse.
- In 1994, made her feature film debut with bit role in "The Cowboy Way." She also had her first prominent stage role, in "Fat Men in Skirts" by Nicky Silver. It was the first collaboration with Stanley Tucci.
- From 1994-1995, had recurring role of wisecracking maid on the CBS daytime drama "Guiding Light." Guest starred on "Law & Order," "New York Undercover," "Lateline," "The Wright Verdicts," and "Cosby."
- In 1996, had her breakthrough screen role as Ann, the floral shop owner, in "Big Night," co-written and co-directed by Tucci. Also made her Broadway debut opposite Frank Langella in revival of Noel Coward's "Present Laughter."
- In 1997, appeared in the films "Private Parts" and "The Ice Storm." Janney returned to Broadway opposite Anthony LaPaglia in "A View From the Bridge" and received Tony nomination.
- In 1998, she reunited with Tucci for "The Impostors;" she played a con artist aboard a luxury liner in this period comedy. She had featured roles in "Primary Colors," "The Object of My Affection" and "Drop Dead Gorgeous."
- In 1999, she tackled her first Shakespearean role as Kate in "The Taming of the Shrew," opposite Jay O. Sanders in New York's Central Park and was cast as what she described as "the most depressed woman ever" in "American Beauty".
- Also from 1999-Present, made her primetime series debut as regular playing a presidential press secretary in the NBC series "The West Wing;" earned 2000 and 2001 Supporting Actress Emmy Awards. In 2002 she won the Emmy for Best Lead Actress.
- In 2000, she had a memorable supporting role in "Nurse Betty" as an acerbic soap opera writer-producer.
- In 2001, joined the all-female cast of the comedy-drama telepic "A Girl Thing". The following year, she played Sally Lester, the lesbian lover of Clarissa Vaughn (played by Meryl Streep) in the film version of the award-winning novel "The Hours."
- And in 2003, she voiced Peach the Starfish in the Pixar-animated feature "Finding Nemo."