Oscar winner’s debt to Dame Edna
Listen closely and Oscar-winning actor Allison Janney brings an unexpected Australian connection to her work on animated flick The Addams Family. It turns out Janney has long been a fan of Aussie comedy royalty Dame Edna Everage. That is how the alter ego of actor Barry Humphries became the inspiration for her character Margaux Needler, a sly and greedy reality TV host and homemaking guru.
"(We tried a southern US accent) and then we were looking at Dame Edna videos on YouTube and my God, I just love Dame Edna so much," Janney says of how she came up with the character even though she has never visited Australia.
"I don't know what about Dame Edna inspired me to do Margaux but she did somehow. Just her sensibility, I love Dame Edna and it made me love Margaux to think of her having a little Edna in her."
Appropriate to its big budget, The Addams Family features an all-star voice line-up, including Charlize Theron as Morticia Adams, Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Chloe Grace Moretz as Wednesday and Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley.
Bette Midler plays Grandmama, Snoop Dogg is Cousin Itt and Schitts Creek star Catherine O'Hara is Grandma Frump.
Interestingly, most of the actors never crossed paths while shooting, recording their voices in studio sound booths with directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan guiding the scene.
"It is so funny because I've been doing a lot of press and for the first time in this process today I met Elsie Fisher, who plays my daughter Parker Needler," Janney says.
"We found it so odd that we'd done this whole movie together and it is about to be released and we are only meeting each other right now. It is weird, you are kind of in a bubble with Conrad Vernon, one of the directors, and I had the best time finding Margaux's voice and exploring all the different avenues and boy did we."
The only exception for Janney was a scene she recorded with Nick Kroll, who voiced Uncle Fester.
"We got to sing a song together and that was hilarious but that was the only time," she says. "Charlize and I didn't cross paths … no one. It was a bit sad not to get to hang out with Bette Midler or Snoop. What a great cast though. If they did a live action, it would be a great cast to do this with."
The Addams Family of course is a fictional family created by cartoonist Charles Addams back in 1938.
There have been many versions of the family brought to life on TV and in film.
"It really is an institution, they are as iconic as the Kennedys for heck's sake," Janney declares. "They are a great American family. I love how unapologetic they are about who they are and I just think that is magical to love everything about yourself and love your family and support them and help them find themselves as opposed to Margaux, who is kind of the exact opposite of the Addams Family. She wants everybody to be the same and there has to be order and sameness and everything must be pastel."
The relationship between Margaux and her daughter Parker is one Janey believes many parents and children will relate to.
"Watching Parker find herself and step away from her mother's apron strings and Wednesday Addams helps her. She feels a little outcast at school and I think a lot of kids will relate to Parker's story and finding this friendship with Wednesday, experimenting with trying to find who she might be," she says.
"It is a lovely relationship that unfolds between them and ultimately for Margaux, she learns to let go. It is good to remember the lessons the Addams Family can teach us and remind us about love and acceptance."
Janney, who has just celebrated her 60th birthday (November 19), has been prolific across film and television over the past three decades with more than 70 movies to her name. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2017 for I, Tonya, in which she starred alongside Australian Margot Robbie, and has seven Primetime Emmy Awards to her name for her work in The West Wing, seven seasons of Mom and Masters Of Sex.
Janney makes movies during her production breaks from shooting Mom. Next on her slate for the big screen is comedy Bad Education with another Aussie in Hugh Jackman, and drama Bombshell, for which she reunited with Robbie although the pair didn't' shoot any scenes together.
"It is a great confidence reminder," she says of winning the Oscar.
And has it opened new doors in Hollywood?
"I am sure in some ways yes." she says. "I don't change my behaviour. It is really great to have it and I am sure more opportunities have come my way but I am not afraid to help a friend out and do a two-line part here or whatever.
"I don't let it go to my head is what I am trying to say. I appreciate and love that I have it but I am still very grounded in my choices and the reasons I do things. I don't have to be number one on the call sheet going forward, I just like to be involved with good projects with good people with good writing and good stories and good characters. And for that, I will go wherever god takes me."
The Addams Family is in cinemas nationally from December 5