April 29, 2016 / 10:12 PM / a year ago

'West Wing' actress gives White House press briefing

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (R) and actress Allison Janney, who played a fictional press secretary in "The West Wing" television show, stand together at the lectern before the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For a few moments at the White House on Friday, “The West Wing” TV series came back to life as actress Allison Janney who played fictional White House spokeswoman CJ Cregg took the podium at the daily press briefing.

Janney’s appearance was a stunt meant to highlight Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner, a glitz-filled annual event which draws celebrities and powerbrokers alike.

Janney, whose character served as press secretary to fictional president Jed Bartlett in the televised drama, peppered her remarks with inside jokes from the show as she beat White House press secretary Josh Earnest to the briefing.

“Josh is out today. He has, I believe it’s a root canal,” she said, referencing a root canal that sidelines her character. “But let’s be honest: I‘m better at this than he is.”

She said she had a message from President Barack Obama.

“The president is still working on his jokes for the White House Correspondent’s dinner. I don’t have any details on that other than he intends to be funny. Very funny,” said Janney.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (R) and actress Allison Janney, who played a fictional press secretary in "The West Wing" television show, stand together at the lectern before the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Earnest later told reporters not to rule out surprises from Obama, who will be making his last appearance at the annual dinner before his term ends in January.

NBC’s “The West Wing,” which ended in 2006, drew legions of devoted fans with its depiction of power plays in Washington.

Slideshow (3 Images)

The return of “CJ” whet the appetites of Washington media ahead of the dinner, known for its playful ribbing of both politicians and the news media and headlined this year by Comedy Central late-night host Larry Wilmore.

It also quickly became one of the top-trending items on Twitter in the United States, with “CJ Cregg” trending on the social media platform.

In seriousness, Janney, who now appears on CBS’s TV show “Mom,” used her brief appearance to highlight the nation’s opioid epidemic and efforts to fight substance abuse.

Before Janney exited, reporters pressed her on the 2016 presidential race, asking her who the show’s fictional president was supporting in the real-life Democratic primary between former secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Janney answered, having already mastered the art of the Washington dodge: “I think you know the answer to that question.”

Additional reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay

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