Allison Janney felt 'empowered' as elderly woman in I, Tonya

Actress Allison Janney uses make-up and costume to help her find the "clues" of who her character really is.

Allison Janney found it "incredibly liberating" to play an elderly woman in I, Tonya.

The biographical film follows the life of figure skater Tonya Harding, as played by Margot Robbie, including her difficult childhood, rise to the top of her sport, and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan.

Screenwriter Steven Rogers focuses the narrative on three different time periods, with Allison finding it especially thrilling to play Tonya's mother LaVona Golden in her later years.

"I went through three hours of make-up for the direct address scenes of LaVona's," she recalled at a London press conference. "It was just extraordinary. I felt so empowered by that look, I didn't feel as horrified as I thought I'd be, seeing myself look so old. I loved it. It made me confident in my choices as an actress in that role. I didn't care about what anybody thought of me."

While Margot met with Tonya before shooting kicked off, Allison didn't get to talk to LaVona, and instead relied on video footage as a starting point for her portrayal.

In the scenes in which she depicts an older version of LaVona, costume designer Jennifer Johnson had her wear a tatty brown fur coat and cheap brown wig - with the star sharing that it is always the costume that helps her to get in the right frame of mind when shooting.

"I love the costume designer to tell me what my part is. I love the hair and make-up too. I look for clues everywhere," the 58-year-old said. "Having that fur coat, auditioning three pet birds (to sit with LaVona), and when I saw the final look I felt like I had stepped out of a Diane Arbus photograph."

Though LaVona was an intriguing and complicated woman, Allison was also determined for her portrayal not to verge onto caricature.

"I found with this one, the challenge was making her real, and understanding her pain and what she lost in her life, and those sorts of things rooted me in who she was and I never know where it's going to come from," she added.

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