Perfect strangers when they were first cast on the hit show by sitcom swami Chuck Lorre, Mom leading ladies Anna Faris and Allison Janney went from 0 to BFF in one season flat, and they’re not the only ones who enjoy their chemistry: last year, Janney won her second Emmy for Mom, and the show, which continues to find new ways to make dark subjects a little lighter, is returning for Season 4 on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 9/8c on CBS and CBS All Access.
So, what better time to bring them both to Paris, where they opened up over lunch at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée about their dream guest stars (hint: one may or may not be Faris’ husband, Chris Pratt) and the best way to prank said guest stars (hint: it happens on show night, so don’t say you weren’t warned, Mr. Pratt).
Hello, ladies. Have you two ever been on an international adventure together?
ALLISON JANNEY This is our first! Well, we went to London once. On this trip, our director, Jamie Widdoes, happened to be coming to Europe so he got on our flight and we all dined together on the lovely Air France.
ANNA FARIS On that huge-ass plane.
ALLISON I actually had a rocky entry into the country, a little bit of a stomach situation.
ANNA Poor Allison! On the record, it was morning sickness.
ALLISON Sans the baby. Well, maybe a food baby. But last night we went for a beautiful walk on the Seine and then walked all the way back on the Champs-Élysées.
And then Allison popped the question.
ALLISON I did, and she said no! [Laughs.] But there’s always tonight.
ANNA Well... there’s just a lot to consider. Because I do love Chris, but I think he would be totally fine with it. He loves you so much. The three of us living together...
ALLISON I think he would welcome having another wife.
ANNA Oh, I know he would. And rumor has it you’re an excellent lover.
ALLISON Yeah, let’s get that going!
Let’s talk about Mom a little. When did you find out about Season 4?
ALLISON Right before we got on the plane, which made it very exciting to come here knowing we were coming back.
ANNA For a multi-camera show, we’re doing some pretty daring things and we feel really lucky that we get to keep doing that.
It definitely hits different notes than the other multi-cams out there.
ALLISON We have the funniest of moments and we also have some really dark, sad, poignant moments that make the laughs that much richer. I feel like multi-cams get such a bad rap because of the laugh track, and to this day people don’t understand there’s actually an audience there. Those laughs are real that they hear.
ANNA I’ve never really done anything athletic in my life, but this is what I think it would be like to be on a baseball team. Where we’re all working as a team, we’re all connecting, but we don’t have the luxury of spending 10 hours working out the scene and doing a bunch of improv. We just have that one moment to really perform.
What has surprised you the most about this experience?
ANNA It’s truly more collaborative and more exhilarating, and at times, a lot more stressful than other jobs I’ve been a part of. I feel embarrassed that before I was a part of this show, I underestimated the level of skill it takes to do it. In a way, there’s no place to hide.
ALLISON That’s for sure. My first season on this show, I was terrified. I thought this would be the perfect amalgamation of all the different things I’d done, but I was terrified of the audience because when I would mess up they’d stop and everyone would laugh hysterically, but I didn’t think it was funny. I was more terrified than I could even begin to—I can’t believe I’m admitting to it.
ANNA It’s like taking an incredibly fun version of the SATs every week.
Who has been the most unexpected Mom fan?
ANNA Well, Beyoncé is constantly ... [Laughs.] No, but my parents were at a dive bar in Washington state—a tavern frequented by loggers—and they overheard some biker fellas playing pool talking about the show.
ALLISON My favorite people who come up are those in recovery who are grateful for having a show about recovery on national broadcast television. It makes me feel good about what we’re doing, you know? [Looks down at the truffle risotto.] By the way, are you really supposed to eat these shaved little truffles in one bite?
ANNA Let’s try!
ALLISON I’m not making out with you now. Too truffley.
Before you two started working together, how familiar were you with each other’s work? Anna, how many West Wings had you seen?
ALLISON She has never watched The West Wing.
ANNA F**k you, it’s so good! It’s so good.
ALLISON Over the years I’ve watched Scary Movie 1, 2, 3, and 4.
ANNA That’s bullsh*t. You have not seen any of ‘em. [Laughs.]
ALLISON Honestly, I had seen her over the years but I fell in love with her in The House Bunny. She was amazing! I remember falling in love with her in that movie and then this came along and I was like, “Oh yeah, I gotta jump on that.”
ANNA We also had a mutual friend in Lance Bass. Years ago—before Mom was a twinkle in Chuck Lorre’s eye—Lance said to me, “You have to hang out with Allison Janney. You are gonna love her.”
ALLISON That’s so cool. I never knew that!
ANNA You were a part of my world that was just yet waiting to happen.
I listened to the podcast where Allison comes on Anna’s show, Anna Faris Is Unqualified—
ALLISON I hope my father never listens to that episode.
ANNA I’m getting better, I swear. Don’t give up on my podcast. I’m getting better. One of the things Allison said on the show is that Anna gives genuinely good advice.
ALLISON She does! If I’m having a situation and I talk it over with her, she usually makes me feel like I’m not crazy anymore.
ANNA I’m really protective.
ALLISON You’re protective, but you’re also insightful. And very smart and wise.
ANNA I do love giving advice, but I try not to forget how flawed I am as well. And how many mistakes I’ve made. You know? I’ve f**ked up so much.
ALLISON We all have, and we all speak from our experience. You’re good at it. I don’t always follow it, but I know it sounds good.
ANNA I don’t follow it, either!
When you first became friends, who was driving the train and who was playing it more cool?
ALLISON She’s always driving the train.
ANNA You don’t think I freaked you out a little bit?
ALLISON No, not at all. She’s got a bit of a camp counselor in her.
ANNA More than a bit.
ALLISON She likes to be in charge. She’s a little bossy, which is fun. Well... mostly fun.
ANNA I managed to acquire a gavel on set.
ALLISON Season 4, we’re all in for it. "I object to that acting decision!"
ANNA I’m so excited.
ALLISON The crew loves her, though, because she’s always like, “Announcement, I have an announcement to make...” Everyone shuts up and she goes, “I just want you to all know that I love you all very much, and nobody’s told me that I’m sexy today.” She says things like that.
ALLISON Our favorite ritual happens in the makeup room on show night. She comes in and says, “I just talked to Chuck”—and this is more for the guest stars, because we all know it’s coming. She’s done it every single show and it’s what we look forward to.
ANNA You’re so sweet to say that! But remember at one point you were like, “Maybe you shouldn’t...”
ALLISON I wanted to take the pressure off! But the funniest “I just talked to Chuck” was this past year, because she got everyone in the room, even the core women, except for me.
ANNA I couldn’t believe it. Normally it’ll be something dumb like, “So you guys, I just talked to Chuck, and there’s been a little bit of a change of plans. He wants everyone to deliver their lines directly into camera.” Or, “I just talked to Chuck, and we’re gonna stop right after the second act and break down the set and the Blue Man Group is gonna perform.” Or, “I just talked to Chuck, and we’re gonna do a version in Spanish right after we complete the English.”
ALLISON Or, “We’re gonna sing our lines.” But this last time, we were all waiting to hear if we’d gotten picked up.
ANNA I came in and said, “Good news, bad news. I just talked to Chuck, and we got picked up for three more seasons! Bad news: I’m the only one who’s coming back. But I know you guys are all so generous, so you’ll be so happy for me, you’ll always work, you’ll be fine …” [both laugh] I can’t believe our regulars bought it.
Any mother-daughter love triangles in store next season?
ANNA We’ve talked about that!
ALLISON I thought there should be one, too. I thought the chance for it was with Harry Hamlin’s character. He was age-appropriate for me—and in this day and age, for her as well. We would have fun doing that. I just don’t know if Chuck wants to do it.
ANNA We are truly kept in the dark. They don’t give us any clue. Sometimes we have to ask the wardrobe people! Like, “Have you been fitting anybody... interesting?”
What actors would you like to have on the show?
ALLISON We currently love William Fichtner. We’re hoping he comes back. He’s brilliant and wonderful.
ANNA I would love my husband to come on, and I know he would love to do it. But he’s swamped. I love the idea of Anthony Mackie. Allison, I also love the idea of you and I—because we fight a lot—having a common enemy. A neighbor or someone who is crafty.
ALLISON I love that idea, because we’re a fun team. A caper! Anna, say what you texted Chuck when we found out about our season 4 pickup.
ANNA [Laughs.] I don’t know if Chuck will take this into serious consideration, but I did tell him that I was dreaming of an awkward pole-dancing flashback scene. I just want Christy to be a really bad stripper. Just a bad, lazy stripper. Like, the 11 a.m. shift. I was in Vancouver once and I went to a terrible strip club and I remember this stripper came out and she had a cigarette on stage and wasn’t even doing anything other than just holding onto the pole, going in circles. And I just thought, “I want to do that.”
By Hudson Morgan | Photography by Patrick Demarchelier | Originally published in Watch! Magazine, October 2016.
Watch the Season 4 premiere of Mom on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 9/8c on CBS and CBS All Access. In the meantime, catch up on episodes on CBS All Access.