Here's How Much Allison Janney Is Really Worth

Allison Janney has been working as an actor since 1989 and has not stopped since. It's no wonder, as she knows how to bring humor and depth to every character she portrays. Fans know her best for playing the indefatigable C.J. Cregg in the political drama TV show "The West Wing." She's also known and loved for her character Bonnie Plunkett in the sobriety-themed comedy "Mom." What about her role of Margaret Scully in the racier TV show "Masters of Sex?" Janney never fails to deliver, and there's a reason that BuzzFeed calls her "that actor in everything."

While these are some of the shows she's most famous for, Janney has been unforgettable in movies like "I, Tonya," "Bad Education," and "Bombshell," to name a few. So it's not surprising that she's amassed a net worth of $14 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. What's most impressive about the star, or at least one of the many reasons that makes her so inspiring, is that she had a slow start in the world of Hollywood and is candid about being her own worst critic. We'll explain. So while Janney is a stunning success now, she worked hard for everything she has. Here's how she made it.

Early inspirations

Allison Janney was born in Boston, Massachusetts, because her father was attending Harvard Business School, but the family moved to Ohio when she was a baby, according to The Gentlewoman. While a life in Ohio might not initially lead to thoughts of the theater and screen, Janney's mom was her first introduction to the world of acting. "My mom was an actress. She went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, did Summer Stock, and was roommates with Eileen Brennan and Rue McClanahan," she told BuzzFeed in 2014. "So, growing up, we'd go see Eileen whenever she was performing in different plays. I was too young to actually go to the theater, but I remember waiting up for her to come over afterwards and romanticizing her life a lot," the actor added.

With her mother as inspiration, Janney also looked to Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett as her career role models. She told The Gentlewoman why she loved watching "The Carol Burnett Show.."

"It just made me laugh, and to make people laugh is a great gift." And the actor loved Moore because she was "a woman living by herself, divorced and starting her own life. I thought, 'That's going to be me.'" Janney added, "I was never the girly girl, and wanting to be." It was certainly enough to pique her interest. A huge breakthrough happened for Janney when she went off to college.

Paul Newman's influence

Considering Allison Janney had been brought up in Dayton, Ohio, it makes sense that she began her university life at Kenyon College, situated nearby in Gambier, Ohio. The college choice was critical for her career because there she met both Paul Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward. "Paul Newman went to Kenyon," she told BuzzFeed. "During my freshman year they built this beautiful theater and he came back to christen it by directing the first play. I met him and Joanne when he cast me in the show and she said I had to come to New York and go to The Neighborhood Playhouse, where she went."

After college, Janney did what Woodward had suggested, studying at the Playhouse for two years. She also performed in some plays there, saying that it "pretty much sealed my fate."

The actor's choice in attending the Neighborhood Playhouse was hugely impactful for her career, even decades later. As IndieWire notes, it was at this conservatory where Janney met Steven Rogers, who eventually became the screenwriter for "I, Tonya." While this certainly makes for an impressive start, Janney had a tough time landing her first role. 

Early struggles

While Allison Janney has become an iconic part of American TV and movies, her introduction into the industry was a slow, and at times frustrating, process. As The Gentlewoman notes, the actor began auditioning at 23 years old, but it wasn't until she was in her mid-30s that she appeared on screen. Janney said to the outlet, "I just had so many tearful subway rides home after auditions."

This rough start has become something of a badge of honor for her, as she freely talks about it in interviews. She told BuzzFeed that her entryway into acting was basically "a lot of off, off, off, off, off, off-Broadway stuff." Her story is really one of resilience, as she added: "Every time I tried to leave, every time I would quit in tears when things didn't work out, something would pull me back in." The star went on, "Somebody was looking out for me up there, like, 'Don't give up yet!'"

It's no wonder then that Janney's advice to burgeoning actors involves persistence. "Keep studying improv or scene study classes, or keep yourself involved with a group of people who are doing the same thing that you're doing," she told Backstage in 2017. She encourages aspiring performers to surround themselves with likeminded people, as this type of networking can lead to their big break.

A harsh critic

Allison Janney finally landed a role in 1996, in the Broadway revival of Noel Coward's "Present Laughter." She spoke to BuzzFeed about the moment: "I was 36 years old and that was the first time I got a big break — and it was on Broadway!"

While she obviously has perseverance, no one is tougher on Janney than herself. "I'm so hard on myself and a really harsh critic of my work," the actor told Backstage. "Steven Rogers used to say, 'Allison, you get to act today. That's how you should look at it.' But people were going to be judging me. I got too nervous for the process, and as a result, I didn't feel I did my best and I'd come out and cry." She learned that when she was herself, she landed parts. So she realized that she had to be herself, finding that was how she felt most comfortable. Still, she admits, "That took me a long time to learn."

But self-criticism stayed with Janney. She spoke to The Gentlewoman about playing the cruel mother in "I, Tonya" and how easy it was to access that character. "It's terrible to admit this, but I could connect with that woman, because that's who talks to me in my head," the star explained. "We all have those voices that we use to shame ourselves, and we hate ourselves."

Allison Janney's first acting paycheck

While Allison Janney landed a role in "Present Laughter," she had her first on-screen part playing the character Miss Penny in the 1989 film, "Who Shot Pat?" She told BuzzFeed about this part. "I know that was the first role I ever did on camera because I was so nervous I threw up in the sink in the dressing room," she explained. "I've never been so nervous in my entire life. I think we were out at some school out in Queens ... or Brooklyn. I don't know where we were, but we were there so early." Amazingly, Janney didn't even watch it. "I never saw the movie. I don't even know what I did it in it. I was just so nervous."

She moved up a notch with a casting to play Ginger, a maid in the soap opera "Guiding Light." Janey told BuzzFeed: "That was the first paying job where I ever got to actually act — and I was thrilled. Soap operas always have a stigma for bad acting, but it was actually great training." Janney spoke about the financial significance of "Guiding Light," noting: "It was the first time I was able to pay my own rent. My father and mother were very, very pleased because I don't think they thought it was going to work out for me before this."

Following this, Janney appeared on a few episodes of "Law & Order." But everything changed with "The West Wing."

The West Wing

Aaron Sorkin, the writer of "The West Wing," saw Allison Janney in a brief part in "Primary Colors," where she played a teacher. "She made an immediate impression on me with a simple trip on a flight of stairs," Sorkin said of her, according to The Gentlewoman. He asked Janney to audition for the role of C.J. Cregg.

"There were tons of auditions. I auditioned for [executive producers] Tommy Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin, and I read that first press briefing that C.J. gives, saying, 'The president has run his bicycle into a tree.' And they were like, 'Thank you.' They didn't even want to talk to me about anything," the actor recalled to BuzzFeed. "I came out and said, 'Well, that's not going to happen.' Then I went in three more times, and had to test for the network."

Did Janney identify with her whip-smart, mouthy character? "I don't have that. I don't have that razor wit that C.J. had. Politics scared the crap out of me," she told NPR. "I had no idea what I was talking about half the time. And I have to — you know, I would study my lines and read, like, going, what the hell am I talking about?" The show ended up being great for Janney's net worth. As Entertainment Weekly notes, along with the other major cast members, Janney was earning anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000 per episode.

I, Tonya

After establishing herself as a major name thanks to her time on "The West Wing," Allison Janney took on the role of playing Tonya Harding's mother, LaVona Golden, in the 2017 film, "I, Tonya." The film covers the story of figure skater Tonya Harding and the scandal that ensued with rival Nancy Kerrigan.

When Janney was a teenager, she was a dedicated figure skater, but that all changed when she got injured. "I was 17, and I was at a party that my friends and my parents were throwing," she told NPR. "It was an outdoor party, and there were these sliding doors — some of them open, some of them closed — right by the band. And I just — I hit one of the windows, and it was — and sort of the lower part of my body, my right leg, went through. And then the glass kind of guillotined my right leg."

The actor spoke about the impact of the accident: "Well, it definitely took out the possibility of being a skater." But Janney's history with skating informed her role in "I, Tonya." She told IndieWire how it shaped her character: "[S]he has this daughter who has this unbelievable gift, and she sees a way out for both of them, and is fiercely trying to get it and let nobody stop them." Janney said her accident took her out of skating and led her to college, where she met Paul Newman and became an actor.

Her brother's death

Allison Janney's brother, Hal Janney, committed suicide in 2011, after an ongoing struggle with alcoholism and depression, according to Good Morning America. When Janney won an Oscar for "I, Tonya" in 2018, she dedicated her award to Hal.

In 2018, when she spoke with NPR, she was asked about how his death impacted her character, Bonnie Plunkett, in the sobriety-themed sitcom "Mom." "[T]he loss of my brother was a huge moment — life-changer for me," Janney began. She added that she had tried to "help him get sober" by sending him to one rehab after another. For her, when the show "Mom" came along, it was just what she needed.  

"I've gone to many Al-Anon meetings, many open AA meetings ... And I felt like I wanted to be a part, and I didn't feel that there was anything — anyone was making fun of this process at all. I thought it was time to show a family struggling with this because it just seems like these days everybody is struggling with being — you know, recovering from something. And I wanted to be part of that. I want to show what that's like." The sitcom was deeply meaningful to Janney.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Mom's money issue

"Mom" provided a deep link for Allison Janney to her late brother, Hal Janney, but the show also plumbed the rich depth of family life. Janney spoke about what being in "Mom" meant for her in terms of her career and showcasing her acting chops alongside Anna Faris.

"This writing on this show gives us so much to do as actors, which is more rewarding and real," she said to BuzzFeed. "When people ask if I like doing comedy or drama more, I say that I like to do things like this. Real life is messy and complicated and that's the most fun stuff to play. I love playing Bonnie. She's so selfish and bawdy and doesn't give a f*** what anybody thinks about her. Plus, it's such a nice schedule and I love Anna so much. I really like this job a lot."

The salaries for "Mom" became a huge topic in the gender pay gap in Hollywood. In fact, Janney surmised that it was money that led to Faris' exit. During the show's sixth season, Deadline reported that Janney and Faris were being paid under $200,000 an episode, and both stars were negotiating for more. To give some context, the five leads of "The Big Bang Theory" were making $1 million an episode by Season 8. The outlet noted that the negotiations were expected to be heavily scrutinized, since there was much talk of equal pay for men and women. Also, the show was unique, with a cast led by two women, not common for comedies.

The end of Mom

Anna Faris was a part of "Mom" for seven seasons when she decided to leave the show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The writers worked around Faris' exit for Season 8, focusing primarily on Allison Janney's character, Bonnie Plunkett. However, just as they were getting in their new groove, producer Chuck Lorre found out that Warner Bros. wouldn't be continuing with the series at all once Season 8 wrapped.

Janney spoke about everyone's surprise at the abrupt cancellation of "Mom" with James Corden on his "Late Late Show" in March 2021. "I wish that we'd had at least another year for the writers to have that much time to ramp up to the ending. We sort of found out sooner than we thought we would," she said. "We thought, 'Surely, they're gonna want more Mom.' And they decided not."

The star clearly didn't want her time on the sitcom to come to an end. "I'm having a lot of moments where I'm just standing on set, taking it in and looking at all the faces I've looked at for eight years," she said. When Corden asked why the show was being canceled, Janney didn't offer a definitive answer but said that the reason is "probably money" (via People). One fan on YouTube captured a pretty universal sentiment: "Huge mistake for CBS to cancel 'Mom,' it's an amazing show with great characters who are poignantly funny ... I can't believe that the only reason is financial."

The actor's charitable causes

Despite Allison Janney's uncanny skill at playing larger-than-life characters, in real life, the actor is much more subdued. In fact, Janney's incredible physical presence (she's 6 feet tall) was actually an inhibiting factor. "I felt like my career started late, and I think it was because of my height and maybe some of my confidence issues," Janney candidly shared with NPR.

She has waffled between her own penchant for privacy and her desire to do good. In honor of the Time's Up movement, which addressed Hollywood's ongoing sexual harassment issues, Janney wore black to the Golden Globes but said to The Gentlewoman: "I'm not very comfortable being a spokesperson for anything. I just get too self-conscious. Definitely I'm more comfortable with a script and a part."

Nevertheless, in 2017, "Mom" creator Chuck Lorre and Janney announced that they were donating the show's Emmy campaign budget of $250,000 to Planned Parenthood, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Janney said in a statement: "It makes sense because our show is all about women, and we don't shy away from issues that affect women and families. And Planned Parenthood is such an important organization that helps give health services to millions of women and it's in danger. The House of Representatives voted to defund it. And it's such a critical time. It made sense that we stand up now and say something." It was a meaningful stance to take, and one that supports the old adage: money talks.

Career first

Allison Janney has openly shared that her career came first, even before her personal life. She spoke to The Gentlewoman about how intense her schedule was when filming "The West Wing."

"I didn't have any life outside of work for many years -– all of my childbearing years," the actor said. "But I have always known that I never had a strong desire to have kids." The outlet called Janney a "serial monogamist," noting that she has been proposed to three times but chose not to get married.

However, Janney is still open to love. In 2014, she told Elle that when "The West Wing" wrapped, she had been single for a spell and wasn't looking for a relationship. "I felt like, You know what, I'm done. I just stopped thinking there was going to be anybody out there for me." But Janney explained how that changed: "And then I met somebody who kind of turned my head around and woke me up, like, 'I'm not done yet. "

The star went on: "Love is such a powerful drug. And when that's coursing through your system ..." Janney explained that the relationship didn't last, but it did open her eyes again to the appeal of dating. While this certainly makes for a peppy outlook, it's clear that Janney has always put work first.

The star's real estate

Allison Janney, in classic Hollywood style, opted for a California home for many years. As Variety notes, in 2014, she purchased an exquisitely refurbished home in Studio City for $3.25 million. The house was 4,829 square feet with five bedrooms and five bathrooms. It boasted vaulted ceilings, an indoor-outdoor vibe via French doors in the dining room, and an in-ground pool.

In 2018, when she spoke with The Gentlewoman, Janney was still living in her California home, but she shared that she was dreaming of something else, especially as she thought about her retirement years. The actor explained that she'd love to live in the country, either in California or in Massachusetts, but she said she'd like to be with someone. "So I either have to find my true love and make that happen late in life or face facts that it might be a little pied-à-terre in New York City," Janney said. We'll have to wait and see what she decides for this next real estate move. 

Allison Janney's awards and nominations

For Allison Janney, money came first, and later came the awards. As The Gentlewoman notes, the actor has been successful, earning a six-figure salary for each "Mom" episode. She was financially able to pick up the dinner tab when out with friends, but now it was time for her to receive recognition for her work.

Janney has won seven Emmy awards, for her roles in "The West Wing," "Masters of Sex," and "Mom," per Emmys. She's won several Screen Actors Guild Awards (via E Online) and has been nominated twice for a Tony. But most famously, in 2018, Janney won an Academy Award as well as a Golden Globe for her performance in "I, Tonya."

When the announcements for nominations came in, Janney was filming "Mom," and Anna Faris yelled to their live audience: "I usually don't do this," she says, "but my best friend was just nominated for an Academy Award!"

This wasn't the end of the celebrations. Steven Rogers, who wrote and produced "I, Tonya," flew from New York to California for a huge surprise party in honor of her nomination. "When I showed up at her house, it was packed with people, and everyone was thrilled," Rogers said, per The Gentlewoman. "And Allison was so happy. When you're nominated for an Oscar, they can't take that away from you." Allison Janney may have gotten a late start in Hollywood, but she has a career and a fortune to be proud of.