Any time you see Janel Moloney pop up in a guest role on a TV show, do you think to yourself, "Hey, it's Donna!" If so, you are — like us — a true West Wing fan and you're about to be stoked to see Moloney pop on HBO's The Leftovers this Sunday. The 44-year-old actress is most famous for portraying Donna Moss, the Senior Assistant to the White House Deputy Chief of Staff on The West Wing and her semi-romantic relationship with boss Josh Lyman was a centerpiece of the show's seven-season run. Plus, she earned two Emmy nominations for portraying the headstrong, intelligent young woman. Score.
Since her years on Aaron Sorkin's show, Moloney has appeared in a number of small films and guest starred on several TV shows, including House, 30 Rock, and The Good Wife. But mostly she's committed herself to real-life politics — as an active supporter of John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid — and motherhood — her son Julian was born February of 2010.
Now, Moloney is returning to television with a recurring role on HBO's newest drama, The Leftovers . The bleak drama full of uncommunicative characters may seem like the exact opposite of The West Wing, with its hopeful tone and talkative cast — but we're excited to have Moloney back on our screens regardless.
Who exactly will Moloney be playing on The Leftovers? Someone deeply depressed and "ready to f***ing explode," no doubt. She plays Mary Jamison, someone who should be vaguely familiar to those who have read the Tom Perrotta novel the show is based on. That's because Matt Jamison is a significant supporting character in the book: a former reverend who, after The Departure, took it upon himself to prove that the mysterious event wasn't the religious Rapture by digging up dirt on The Departed and printing their dirty secrets in a self-published newsletter. He's something of a pariah, having turned everyone in the town against him by disgracing the memories of those who were lost. He's even driven away his own wife and family, who abandoned him before the start of the book.
Presumably, Mary Jamison is Matt's wife. (Matt is portrayed on the show by Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston — above, with Justin Theroux's Kevin). Mary never appears in Perrotta's novel, but it makes sense that the writers are expanding on the author's world, since they're turning one 300-page book into a multi-season series. Given that we know the writers are changing aspects of the source material, it remains to be seen if Mary's relationship to Matt remains the same onscreen. Will she be estranged from him, like in the book? Or will she perhaps be more supportive of her husband's actions in this iteration? We'll learn Mary's true nature when Moloney makes her first appearance in the show's fourth episode, titled "B.J. and the A.C."
Images: Giphy; HBO