Since it’s a show about a pair of recovering alcoholics, “Mom” was bound to do a story where one of its lead characters has a relapse.
That episode comes Monday (Nov. 18), and the character who falls off the wagon, Allison Janney‘s Bonnie, does so pretty spectacularly.
“We kind of set that up a couple episodes back,” Janney tells Zap2it. “My character was the obvious choice for that relapse because I’m one person removed from the kids, so I think that was kind of important that you didn’t feel worried about the kids’ safety. And Bonnie is the obvious choice because from the pilot episode, you could tell she was not fully committed to her sobriety with taking Xanax. She got a nudge from the judge but is trying to play it fast and loose.”
Bonnie loses both her job and her apartment in the episode, which sends her over the edge, as you can see in the clip above. She’s forced to move in with her daughter, Christy (Anna Faris), which will likely put an even greater strain on their already complicated relationship. On the surface, it’s not exactly the stuff of laugh-a-minute sitcoms, but for Janney that’s part of the appeal.
“We go places you don’t expect to see in a half-hour sitcom, but what I love about how we’ve done it is it’s not just joke to joke,” she says. “We’re finding the humor within the pain, and I think that’s very true to life. Bonnie starts to talk about how she grew up and when she started drinking, and as she’s telling the story there are real tears, and then she’s making jokes — and they’re funny. I think that is so honest and real, and we’re not skimming along the surface of it. We go deep and find the comedy in it, and that makes me thrilled as an actress to get to do a job like this.”
Bonnie’s setback forces her to move in with Christy, who is not at all thrilled to have a new roommate. Still, Janney thinks mother and daughter are at least starting to understand each other after years of estrangement.
“I think Anna’s character is probably going to have a lot further to go in terms of forgiving her mother, but they’re on the right track. I think the relationship will always remain complicated and loaded,” Janney says. “I’m hoping there are some flashbacks to their relationship growing up, because every episode it’s alluded to — Anna’s character [says] ‘I never had a birthday party’ — you get this picture of this awful childhood she had. So they have a long way to go, but they are committed to at least trying to [reconcile]. And now that Bonnie has to live with her, things are going to get a little more intense.”
It starts fast, as you can see in the clip below. Bonnie tells Christy that she’ll do anything to get sober again, and Christy takes her mother at her word, bringing in fellow addicts Marjorie and Regina (recurring guest stars Mimi Kennedy and Octavia Spencer, Janney’s “The Help” co-star) to watch over Bonnie.
Janney’s role on “Mom” is one of two she’s currently playing on TV. The other, Margaret Scully on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” is pretty much the anti-Bonnie. Production on the two shows didn’t overlap much, Janney says, but she’s excited they’re airing at the same time.
Margaret is a “buttoned-up, repressed, very thin-skinned, sensitive, pure woman, and Bonnie is thick-skinned and not her first time at the rodeo and sassy and saucy and just completely the opposite of Margaret,” she says. “I’m thrilled that I got to both of those women. That’s what I love about where I am in my career, what I’ve been able to do. I haven’t been stuck in one type of role. That’s what makes me feel really happy and proud, that I get to play such diametrically opposed women.”
“Mom” airs at 9:30 p.m. ET Monday on CBS.