When Allison Janney stepped into view on Playbill’s Facebook LIVE on opening night, it was difficult to believe she was ever nervous about her return to Broadway.
The seven-time Emmy Award winner—four for The West Wing, two for Mom, and one for Masters of Sex—and two-time Tony nominee—for A View From the Bridge and 9 to 5—is back on Broadway in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, directed by Trip Cullman. The play, which premiered on Broadway in 1990 starring another West Wing alum, Stockard Channing, is a raucous night of theatre examining the connections between us all. John Benjamin Hickey and Allison Janney portray Flan and Ouisa Kittredge, a couple of Upper East Siders conned by Corey Hawkins’ Paul.
Janney proves she’s a delight onstage and off as she goes into a mini stand-up routine on the red carpet. (Fast-forward to 47:30.) But her humor is not for lack of investment in this play—she’s having the time of her life. “It’s not a long run, but it depends on the day,” said Janney. “Right now it’s too short, but talk to me after a Saturday matinee that didn’t go so well, and I’ll be like, ‘Oh my God.’”
It's an hour and 29 minutes, no intermission, and you're off going to dinner with friends. It's the best experience in the theatre,” Janney continued. “There are naked people, there's sex, there are a lot of attractive young people. JBH and me and it's John Guare's brilliant play and if you didn't see it in the ’90s, come see it now because it's even more profound.”
Janney has the tendency to disappear into her characters, and Ouisa is no exception. “I just like to find what resonates with me as a person as a human being, what rings true to me. What can I bring of myself to the role? That is what grounds me in the work I do. I remember somebody saying, ‘Don’t drag the character down to your level; you must aspire to the character.’” Watch above to find out how she relates to Ouisa and who she conjures from her own life to create her performance.
Inside the Six Degrees of Separation Opening Night on Broadway
Of course, you could argue the play succeeds because she and John Benjamin Hickey did their homework. Hickey revealed to us that the duo worked on this long before rehearsals. “Allison Janney and I started in November. We didn’t start rehearsals until January,” said Hickey. “She and I got together in L.A. twice a week and started learning the lines, and I swear to God, if we hadn’t done that, we'd still be like, ’LINE!’”
To hear from Tony-winning playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist John Guare, director Trip Cullman, Corey Hawkins and cast members from the acclaimed new revival, watch the video above.