The West Wing
American actress of film and television Janel Moloney is best associated with her role as Donna Moss, assistant of Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, on the Golden Globe winner “The West Wing” (NBC, 1999-2006). For her bright effort, she netted two Emmy nominations and shared two SAG Awards. Prior to her series success, she had had guest roles in several television series like “ER,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Sports Night,” as well as acted in television films. She has appeared on the television movies Bang, Bang, You’re Dead (Showtime, 2002) and Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution (CBS, 2005). On the movie front, Moloney has collected numerous credits, including Safe (1995), ‘Til There Was You (1997) and The Souler Opposite (1998).
Off camera, Moloney is now residing across the street from “The West Wing” co-star Allison Janney. In the US Presidential campaign in 2004, she was actively supported John Kerry. She even made public appearances for Kerry’s campaign.
Childhood and Family:
Janel Moloney was born on October 3, 1969, in Woodland Hills, California. She was raised in a tight-knit family and has a fraternity twin named Carey. Actress Christine Ebersole is Janel’s aunt. She took dance lessons from age five to fifteen, and frequently attended local theater productions as a young. After high school, Janel moved to New York City to attend the acting conservatory at SUNY Purchase, but left after a year to study with well-known acting coach Roy London in Los Angeles.
Growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills, Janel Moloney began studying dance at age 5, but knew from the start that she wanted to be an actress. She spent her early days performing in front of her family and attending local theater productions when she was a little older. However, the girl did not receive her own taste of the stage until high school where she participated in many school productions, including playing Bianca in Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” The protégé of the famed coach Roy London, Janel, broke the small screen in 1991 with roles in the movies To Save a Child and ...And Then She Was Gone.
A small part in the television film Double Edge (1992), as well as guest spots in such shows as “Bakersfield P.D.” (1993), “ER” (1995) and “Murder, She Wrote” (1995) followed, and in 1994, she made her film debut in Dream Lover (1994), starring James Spader. She went on to land roles in such movies as Safe (1995), Wild Bill (1995), ‘Til There Was You (1997), opposite her aunt Christine Ebersole, Desperate Measures (1998) and the critically acclaimed independent The Souler Opposite (1998). During this period, the struggling actress also worked as waitress to support herself and depended on the backup of her family to keep her going.
Her luck started to change when Moloney guest starred in an episode of the ABC comedy series “Sports Night” (1998), as Monica Brazelton. It was there that she met writer-creator Aaron Sorkin and executive producer Tommy Shlamme, a contact that led to her landmark role as Donna Moss on the NBC series “The West Wing” (1999-2006). She started with a small role as a White House staffer in the pilot and went on to snatch a larger part after giving a convincing work. In 2000, Moloney eventually joined the show in her regular role of the assistant of Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (played by Bradley Whitford). For her outstanding acting, she was nominated for two Emmy (2002 and 2004) and also jointly nabbed two SAG for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Moloney teamed up with Thomas Cavanagh, Ben Foster and Randy Harrison for the Showtime movie Bang, Bang, You’re Dead (2002), and acted in the award-winning short Just Pray (2005), as Cheryl Lawson. She also had a featured role in the made-for-television drama Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution (2005), directed by Peter Werner.