In “I, Tonya,” Allison Janney takes on the real-life role of LaVona Golden, the mother of troubled Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). However, as Janney tells us in our exclusive video interview (watch above), the LaVona we see on screen is “kind of an amalgamation” because the filmmakers couldn’t track down the real LaVona. “Tonya said as far as she knew, she was living in a trailer behind a porn shop,” Janney recalls. “So we didn’t have the luxury of finding her. All we had is the existing footage of her in a documentary that this young college student made about Tonya Harding’s life.”
“I, Tonya” is directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Steven Rogers. In fact, Rogers wrote the part of Harding’s foul-mouthed, chain-smoking mom specifically for Janney. “I was actually flattered because I knew he knew that I would take this woman and I would root her in some kind of reality — make her human,” she says. “Even though she was a monster, I felt that I hooked into her sadness. I hooked into feeling like she had a bad childhood herself. I think Steven knew that I would give her heart.”
Janney is earning awards buzz for “I, Tonya,” which is something the actress is quite used to as she’s already a seven-time Emmy winner: four for “The West Wing” (2000-2002, 2004), one for “Masters of Sex” (2014) and two for “Mom” (2014-2015). As for what it would mean to earn a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 2018 Oscars for “I, Tonya,” Janney confesses, “That would be an achievement that I long dreamed about.”
“[LaVona is] my favorite character I’ve ever had to create because she was such an extreme character,” continues Janney. “Just to try to wrap my mind around what kind of a woman wears that fur coat, and has that bird, and has that haircut. She just fascinated me. I got to pretty much make her up in my head because we didn’t have the luxury of having her.”
Also in our interview, Allison Janney admits to having “a girl crush” on co-star/producer Margot Robbie, she reflects on working on “The West Wing” with Aaron Sorkin and John Wells, and she celebrates the upcoming 100th episode of “Mom.”
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.