Due to her decision to switch her Emmy category placement to Best Comedy Actress from her previous three nominations (and two wins) in the supporting category for her work on “Mom,” Allison Janney is now in a position to make history in a unique way. She could become the first performer ever to win an Emmy in both the lead and supporting categories for both comedy and drama. On top of that, Janney also has an Emmy for Best Drama Guest Actress for “Masters of Sex,” but that is just icing on a pretty impressive Emmy cake.
Janney is currently tied with the esteemed likes of Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asner, and her current Best Comedy Actress rival Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the second most awarded performer in the history of the Primetime Emmys. They all have seven trophies for acting, while Cloris Leachman has the most with eight.
Now Janney is employing the same Emmy strategy she did when she was a cast member on “The West Wing.” After winning Best Drama Supporting Actress twice for that show (2000-2001) she switched categories and moved up to the lead contest to make way for costars like Mary-Louise Parker, Stockard Channing and Janel Moloney to compete in the supporting race. And it worked out for all involved: in 2002 Channing won, Parker was nominated, and Moloney received the first of two nominations in the supporting race, while Janney surprised many Emmy pundits by winning as a lead actress in 2002, and then again in 2004.
Eight years after “The West Wing” ended in 2006, Janney won Comedy Supporting Actress for the first two seasons of “Mom” (2014-2015), but lost last year to Kate McKinnon in a rare acting win for a regular cast member from “Saturday Night Live.” Perhaps that factored into Janney’s decision to switch categories, but that doesn’t mean she has moved into an easier field — far from it. It remains to be seen if Janney will be able to take down Louis-Dreyfus, who has monopolized the Comedy Actress award for the last five years in a row for her role in “Veep,” which is the two-time defending champ for Best Comedy Series and has more TV academy support than ever before with 17 nominations.
Janney suffered one awards setback earlier this year when she was unexpectedly left off the list of Tony nominees for her performance in the play “Six Degrees of Separation” on Broadway, but perhaps that stage role will strengthen her candidacy here by demonstrating her dramatic range, even if voters aren’t in New York to see the show but are familiar with the famous play. Then again, voters could already infer quite a bit of range from a performer who has was Drama Supporting Actress, Drama Actress, Comedy Supporting Actress, and now potentially Comedy Actress — a grand slam for the history books.
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