Anna Faris is incredibly flattered — and maybe a wee bit insulted — when people who know her well insist she’s the perfect actress to star in the new CBS sitcom Mom, premiering 8:30 p.m. Monday on CBS.
“I take it as a compliment, of course, because here’s this very complicated character whose life is a mess,” Faris says. “She’s dealing with problems of alcoholism and recovery, of being a single mom.
“Now that she’s in her 30s, she’s coming to terms with the consequences of having been a teen mom and a high school dropout, her dreams not realized at all. She’s a waitress having an affair with her boss, her married boss. She’s flawed in so many ways.
“What an intriguing and exciting challenge as an actress. What an amazing opportunity.”
Then an undermining little thought pops into the back of her brain.
“There is maybe 2 percent of me that wonders, ‘What exactly are you suggesting about me when you say this character is so me?’” Faris says. “I mean, I’ve got it more together than that, don’t I?”
Most of the time, however, Faris doesn’t question it, because she’s enjoying the work so much.
Faris, perhaps best known for starring in the “Scary Movie” comedies, plays Christy, a waitress and single mother of two. She’s four months sober and trying her best to overcome a history of bad choices.
She’s also just now figuring out, to her horror, that she has become a second-generation copy of her estranged mother.
Bonnie, played by Allison Janney, is a recovering drug and sex addict. Bonnie was a horrible single parent when Christy was growing up. And now she’s back, chock-full of passive-aggressive insights into Christy’s shortcomings but never accepting any of the blame herself.
It’s enough to drive a girl to drink. Again. Which, of course, is a problem.
“Here’s what I love about the premise,” Faris says. “Over the years, I’ve been involved in developing a number of projects. And the feedback from the studio has often been, ‘We want the girl to be more likable.’
“I think our industry still feels that it’s very risky territory for a woman in a TV series or in a movie to be unlikable. So they say, ‘We want women viewers to be her friend and guys to have a crush on her.’
“And what you end up with, after you make too many compromises to please an audience, is a very lukewarm kind of character whose only flaw, maybe, is that she’s clumsy. Well, I’m proud to say that that hasn’t been an issue with this character and this show.”
Faris — who is 36, married to actor Chris Pratt and mother to their 13-month-old son — was beginning to embrace the idea that she might not work for a while when the Mom script showed up.
Super producer Chuck Lorre (the man behind Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly) sent it over directly, cutting out her agent and manager as middlemen, hoping she would consider. She instantly fell in love with the character.
“The most fulfilling moments in my career,” she says, “have been when I’m playing lunatics.”
That, by the way, is why people who know her have suggested that Christy is “so her.”
One troubling thought has occurred to Faris, however.
How will she react if viewers start coming forward with true stories of addiction within their own families, stories she’s not equipped to hear?
“I do hope this show can explore what being in recovery is about and the gifts it can give you,” she says. “And I hope we can do it with a sense of humor, because most of the shows on TV about addiction that I’ve seen have been very grim.
“But I am not prepared for potential true confessions!”