Emmys: On the Set of 'Mom' With Anna Faris, Guest Star Octavia Spencer

 

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Maybe she was inspired by playing a sober mentor in the 2012 indie Smashed -- or she wanted to work with her longtime friend and The Help co-star Allison Janney. But Octavia Spencer, 44, seemed as beloved as a castmember when she filmed her Emmy-contending guest role Feb. 20 on CBS' Mom, about a Napa, Calif., single mom, Christy (Anna Faris, 37), juggling sobriety and her sober meddling mom, Bonnie (Janney, 54).

On this winter morning inside stage 20 on Burbank's Warner Bros. lot, Spencer shoots the final of her four season-one episodes, culminating with her money-manager character, Regina (Christy and Bonnie's friend from AA), going to prison for stealing millions from her clients.

PHOTOS On the Set of 'Mom'

Under the eye of creator Chuck Lorre, 61 -- who, despite three other CBS comedies (Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly and The Big Bang Theory) is present for every moment of Mom's filming -- a greenscreen scene unfolds in which Spencer, Faris, Janney and actress Mimi Kennedy drive Regina to prison. Despite winning an Oscar for her work in The Help, Spencer is candid about the challenges of multi-cam television work. "It's not easy -- a comedy like this is as precise as baking," she says. "One part brilliant writers plus one part gifted actors equals a deliciously sweet experience."

Speaking of sweet, later in the afternoon Lorre and the crew surprise actor French Stewart (Rudy the chef) with a birthday cake. Then it's back to work on a scene featuring guest star Kevin Pollak, who plays Christy's estranged father, Alvin. Says Faris of the series' impact on fans: "They come up to me and say, 'I've been sober for two years.' " She says. "It feels amazing to touch people on a personal level."

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On June 1, the TV Academy feted Lorre and Mom co-creators Eddie Gorodetsky and Gemma Baker at its annual Honors event for portraying -- with humor -- the impact of alcoholism on three generations of women. "To do a show about people trying to redeem [themselves] and repair the damage they've done … it's an opportunity for me to apologize for Two and a Half Men," Lorre quipped at the ceremony.

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