Anna Faris and Allison Janney
Like mother, like daughter. That's the premise of CBS' new sitcom Mom, which stars Allison Janney and Anna Faris as dysfunctional mother-daughter pair Bonnie and Christy, who are both recovering addicts and less-than-exemplary parents. But they're working on it.
"Christy and her mom Bonnie are funny, intelligent women that have a bit of mess to them," Faris tells TVGuide.com. "I love that [Christy's] just hanging on by a thread. I love playing messy characters. ... She's been a really selfish person for a long time, and now she is really trying to turn over a new leaf, be a very present mom."
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"I like those wounded-bird characters," Janney agrees. "I like that [Bonnie's] trying to be a better person, and I like that she's still so flawed and still has no idea of how annoying she can be to other people. ... She only sees the good side of everything that she's done, and fails to see what a terrible mother she was. But in some ways, I think instinctively she knows that she needs to make up for her bad choices, and I like that she's really trying hard to mend fences with her daughter. And I think she sees her daughter's new sobriety as her perfect opportunity to get back into her life."
After reuniting with Christy at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Bonnie tries to repair their relationship and also forge a bond with her grandchildren, Violet (Sadie Calvano) and Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal). Not that Bonnie's exactly a responsible adult herself — after all, some old habits die hard. "She's such a child," Janney admits of her character. "It's like, who's the mom? Who's playing whose mom?"
It might be a lot to ask of viewers to sympathize with characters like Bonnie, whose reference in the pilot episode to running a meth lab out of her home is played for heavy laughs; and Christy, who viewers quickly learn is having an affair with her married boss (Nate Corddry). But both actresses are aware that they face an uphill climb in making the women sympathetic, and say they're up for the challenge.
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"I'm sure there will be people who might not take a liking to Bonnie, but I think she's very likable in that she has a big heart. She's grounded in some reality of wanting her family back," Janney says. "I think people like to root for people who are trying to be better. ... There's so many people addicted to all kinds of things out there, and this explores that and lets people laugh at it a little — which is the best medicine for life, is just to be able to laugh and get through it."
"It's not always the most flattering portrait of a character," Faris admits. "Christy's flawed and I think a lot of times she's very relatable but she might not always be likable. And I just love the complexity in that. And then of course, there is the challenge of not necessarily making light of these hugely serious issues, but bringing humor to them."
Both actresses said they jumped at the opportunity to work with creatorChuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men). "I love the idea of exploring the mother-daughter relationship," says Janney, who had been on the lookout for a multi-camera comedy. "There's an endless amount of material to mine there."
The real-life relationship between Janney and Faris is far less acrimonious than their on-screen one, however.
"I just fell in love with her from the minute I saw her," Janney says of her co-star. "I just love her as a comedian. I think she's very honest and truthful, and she has a lot of humanity. She appealed to me on so many levels, and I was so happy she was as kind and generous and talented in person." Faris, in turn, calls her on-screen mother "a dream" to work with.
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Faris says being a fairly new mom herself (she and husband Chris Prattare parents to a 1-year-old son, Jack) has allowed her to identify with her character on another level. "I don't know what I'm doing in terms of parenting," the actress says. "In terms of having a child and being a part of this show, I think without me really being conscious of it, I feel a little more maybe protective and defensive of my on-camera kids."
For Janney's part, the veteran actress says that she finds the portrayal of Bonnie to be refreshing.
"I like that she's an older woman and she's still attractive and sexually active," Janney says. "Bonnie has a very active love life, and I'm hoping and expecting that they will write lots of parts for very handsome men opposite me. [Laughs.] I love to see an older woman being represented on television as being a catch and still dating, and just having a big old life. It's fun to play."
And, in good news for fans of The West Wing, Janney's appearance onThe Arsenio Hall Show last week may not be the last viewers see of "The Jackal." Is there a chance Bonnie will offer her own spin on the song?
"God, yeah," Janney says enthusiastically. "I think there's always room for 'The Jackal' to show up."
Mom premieres Monday at 9:30/8:30c on CBS. Watch a clip below:
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)