BARCLAY: Are you aware of how many gay women admire your character?
JANNEY: It’s not just lesbians. I think all women love C.J. because she’s a woman in power and she’s strong and sexy and still a woman.
And she wears great clothes.
And she wears great clothes.
Whom do you think you’re patterned after? Are you [original Clinton press secretary] Dee Dee Myers meets Katharine Hepburn?
I love that. I think it’s Dee Dee Myers meets Rosalind Russell, maybe with a little Eve Arden thrown in there. Maybe some Maude.
Of the stories that have been told on The West Wing that deal with gay issues, has there been one that touched you?
Well, actually there have been a couple. But the main one was the storyline that was similar to the Matthew Shepard incident. It touched me emotionally on many different levels because of the horrendous, horrible thing that happened—the actual act of what happened—and then the perception of the president [on the show] and of the people around him, who were assuming that the father’s silence was because he was ashamed that his son was gay. C.J.’s instincts were that the father has just lost his son and he’s speechless. It turns out that C.J.’s instincts are right—the father is incredibly upset. But he’s also furious at the president for not standing up for his son’s rights and that the president doesn’t consider his son fit to serve to fight for his country because he was gay. C.J., of course, wanted [the father] to be there at the signing of the hate-crimes bill for public relations reasons, but he couldn’t, because he was angry with the president. It was a great example of the conflicts that people must feel in the White House, having to let politics get in the way of what seems right.
We’re trying to figure out how Aaron Sorkin can write so many different perspectives, including gay people, so well. You’ve been working with him for a couple of years—can you give us any clue?
He’s the most interesting person I think I’ve ever not known. It would be fun to be a fly on the wall in his writing room, because I know the rhythms that he writes in are so specific—I know that he says them out loud and figures out how it comes out of your mouth. Every word is thought out, every “uh” is there for a reason, every “and, if, but.” I don’t know—I guess it’s just incredible intelligence.
How do you feel when people say, “Allison Janney— she’s so fabulous, she must be gay”?
Oh, that’s a compliment, I think. I love that. I’m very flattered. A lot of people think I’m gay, because I’m tall and I’m not married. I think the Star said I was gay because I was dancing with Ellen DeGeneres at a party, which I was. I had the best time dancing with her. Whatever. They can think whatever they want. I’m, you know, a sexual woman.
And you’re happy to be who you are.
I’m happy to be who I am, and people are going to think what they think. If it makes them happy to think I’m gay, let them think I’m gay.