Allison Janney, best known for her roles on “Mom,” “The West Wing,” “Masters of Sex” and “I, Tonya,” grew up in Oakwood and attended the Miami Valley School.
Even though she’s become hugely successful in her acting career, she’s remained connected with her roots here. When she became the first Daytonian to win an Oscar, her father said, “She loves Dayton and always talks about all the support it gives her.”
Janney, one of three children born to Macy and Jervis Janney, said she was privileged to grow up with a strong mother.
Credit: Contributed photo
Credit: Contributed photo
Janney’s mother was a former actress who decided to forego an acting career to raise her family. But Macy was “the doyenne of Dayton, Ohio,” with a strong feminist stance and membership on the boards of multiple entertainment, arts and educational programs.
Janney has said her mother supported her in all endeavors, including a passion for figure skating.
In a 2014 Dayton Daily News interview, Janney said, “My mom managed to cook every meal for us. She’d get up, make breakfast, pack lunches. If I needed to go ice skating at 5 a.m., she would get up at 4 a.m. and make sure I got the rink on time. She was always there doing whatever needed to be done for us and I am so grateful for that. My favorite times were family dinners. My mother loved to cook and she always outdid herself with gorgeous meals.”
Janney dropped several nuggets about her upbringing in Dayton during an interview with Forbes Magazine.
“It was (her and) two brothers growing up in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, in a house built by my great grandfather in 1911. A beautiful, big ol’ brick house with a golden retriever and bunny rabbits and cats and kittens and a menagerie of pets; and brothers who would take my Barbie dolls and take their heads off and make them watch their bodies drown in the sink — and do brotherly things and, you know, hold my legs and arms down and spit on my face and we’d cry and scream.”
“We were all 18 months apart so we were all growing up together and being mean to each other and going to a really small private school called the Miami Valley School in Ohio that was first-through-12th grade — under 300 kids, so a really small school. I don’t think I had a date until I was in college because I went to such a small school. No one really dated. We all just hung out together.”
Her first role on stage was as Noah Claypole the undertaker’s son, in “Oliver Twist” at Miami Valley School, where she started honing her singing voice. Janney left the school after her ninth-grade year to attend boarding school at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut.
Janney suffered a serious leg injury at a high school party in Oakwood after high school graduation. Party-goers were planning a balloon game.
“Someone stepped on the back of my dress and it ripped, and I was afraid I was going to expose myself in front of the whole party so I ran inside and hit the plate glass,” said once said.
Janney was forced to take a year off between high school and college as a result of her injury.
Janney, still a supporter of Miami Valley School in Washington Twp., held her first job as a bus girl at the former Holland House restaurant. She later sold handbags and hosiery at now-closed Rike’s department store in downtown Dayton.
Janney spent two seasons with the non-Equity (non-union) performers at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts where she started as part of the Cabaret Corps.
According to a 1986 story in The Berkshire Eagle newspaper, she ended up with acting parts in several productions including “Hawthore Country.” About the experience she said, “I was very nervous ... Everyone wished me well and (actor) Richard (Thomas) helped me relax enough for me to be able to do what I know how to do.”
Her first ever musical, “Eleanor,” was also during her time at the Williamstown Theatre.
Janney is a graduate of Kenyon College in Gambier, where she majored in theatre and also took classes at the Dayton Ballet.
She went on to study her craft at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York and then received a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in 1984.
Janney has been very vocal about her love for Ashley’s Pastry Shop in Oakwood and often treats her crew on sets to her favorite Ashley’s cookies.
Janney worked with fellow Daytonians Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe on “The West Wing.” Janney played Dayton native C.J. Cregg.
The movie and television star joined a long list of Dayton innovators when she was inducted into the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame on Sept. 28, 2018, at Sinclair Community College in downtown Dayton.
“I am proud to be from Dayton,” she said. “I am really happy that I will be forever part of Dayton on the Walk of Fame and at the Miami Valley School, where I started my whole education and I learned about theater.”