‘The West Wing’ Star Allison Janney Didn’t Feel ‘Comfortable’ Having C.J. Cregg As Chief of Staff: ‘The Comedy Wasn’t There’

Actors don’t always like what happens to their characters. Case in point: Allison Janney and C.J. Cregg on The West Wing

For seven years, Janney played Cregg, the White House Press Secretary on the acclaimed political drama from Aaron Sorkin. She, along with the cast of the series, won multiple awards for her performance including numerous Golden Globes, Emmys, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. The show ended in 2006 after seven seasons with Cregg as the White House Chief of Staff who took over for Leo McGarry (John Spencer) after he had a massive heart attack before later dying.

Allison Janney ‘liked the dynamics the way they were’ on ‘The West Wing’ between characters

Janney didn’t want things to change between the characters on The West Wing which is why she didn’t like playing Leo’s replacement as chief of staff in later episodes. 

During interviews with Sorkin and a number of other cast members in Empire’s Definitive History of The West Wing, Janney explained why when the change happened she wasn’t on board with it

“I liked the dynamics the way they were,” she said. 

In the days before C.J.’s promotion, she’d been known for bringing humor to the seriousness that came with their high-pressured jobs. In Season 1 of The West Wing, Janney’s character lip-synced to a song called “The Jackal,” which has since become one of the show’s most memorable and light-hearted scenes.

Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg on 'The West Wing'
Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg on ‘The West Wing’ | NBCU Photo Bank

Other instances included her dissolving into a fit of laughter having to make up an award to give to a dignitary, having a bad reaction to a root canal, and cracking jokes with the White House press corps during briefings. 

When C.J. became chief of staff, she, and by extension Janney, had to tone down the humor. The move didn’t feel like a natural progression but rather a weird pivot for the now-60-year-old actress. 

“Me having to be the boss of everyone wasn’t as fun for me in the room and the comedy wasn’t there,” Janney said.  

She continued, saying she didn’t feel completely at ease in the role: “When C.J. became chief of staff it was a strange shift for me on the show and I wasn’t comfortable in that shift.”

What happened to C.J. Cregg at the end of ‘The West Wing’?

Janney played chief of staff to Sheen’s president starting in Season 6 until the series ended with a new administration taking over in the White House.

Martin Sheen as President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet and Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg on 'The West Wing'
Martin Sheen as President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet and Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg on ‘The West Wing’ | Steve Schapiro/NBCU Photo Bank

Audiences learned C.J. pursued a romantic relationship with White House reporter Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield) and the two had a baby together. After C.J. left the White House, Danny did too and they both moved to Calif. after years of not being able to have a relationship because of work. 

Allison Janney continues to star in movies and TV shows


After The West Wing ended, Janney continued her acting career starring in numerous TV shows and movies, according to IMDb. In 2017, she played the mother of former figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, which earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

She also starred in the Oscar-winning film, Bombshell, starring her I, Tonya costar Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, and Charlize Theron. Since 2013, she’s starred opposite Anna Faris in the sitcom, Mom, from CBS. From the project, she’s gained a friend in Faris and two Emmys.