Fiction blurred with real life at Friday’s White House press briefing, as Allison Janney took to the podium as her character C. J. Cregg, the Bartlet administration’s press secretary on the TV drama The West Wing.
She quickly broke character to draw attention to the opioid epidemic and celebrate those who are helping others to combat substance-use disorders.
Janney announced that 10 people from across the country will be honored as "Champions of Change" for their leadership preventing prescription-drug abuse and heroin use, increasing access to treatment, and supporting their fellow Americans in recovery. The group was selected from more than 900 nominations.
"This is a disease that can touch anybody, and all of us can help reduce it through evidence-based treatment, prevention, and recovery," she said. "Research shows it works, and courageous Americans show it works every day."
Although Janney’s message was a serious one, she started the presser on a light-hearted note, saying real-life White House press secretary Josh Earnest was out with a root canal, adding, "I’m better at this than he is."
Still in character as Cregg, she said the president is working on jokes for Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and he intends to be "very funny." It wasn’t until Earnest, who was in on the joke, interrupted her speech that Janney broke character to get down to her real aim.
Janney now appears on the CBS series Mom, which deals with people in recovery.
C. J. Cregg and The West Wing trended on Twitter immediately after the event on Friday afternoon.
Earnest also tweeted an image of "Cregg" helping him with briefing prep.
The video of the presser can be seen below.