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Pilot

Original Airdate 09-22-99 Rerun 12-08-99 and 08-07-00 10 p.m. and 02-25-01 and 05-14-06 7 p.m.


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Descriptions  |  Credits  |  Information Links  |  Awards  |  Media Quotes

Descriptions

From TVGuide.com:
Sam (Rob Lowe) spends the night with a woman (Lisa Edelstein) he met in a bar; Josh (Bradley Whitford) is in hot water because of something he said on TV; Bartlet (Martin Sheen) deals with a religious group.
From NBC:
The entire White House staff bristles with activity when it's learned that the President (Martin Sheen) injured himself during a bicycle accident, and his absence becomes a factor as chief of staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) must juggle a host of impending crises, including a mass boat lift of Cuban refugees approaching the Florida coast and the reaction of conservative Christians to a controversial televised comment by deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford). Meanwhile, Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), the trouble-prone deputy communications director, unknowingly spends the night with a call girl (Lisa Edelstein) and then makes another critical error during a children's White House tour.
From Warner Bros.:
Summoned at dawn in Washington, D.C., five members of the White House staff rush to the west wing for a meeting. Authoritative Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, tireless Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, high-profile Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, sleepless Communications Director Toby Ziegler and womanizing Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, who all worked diligently to get the President elected, convene to talk about two crises: Hundreds of Cubans are on their way across the Atlantic Ocean in search of freedom; and klutzy President of the United States Josiah Bartlet accidentally sprained his ankle riding a bicycle into a tree.

Some members of the staff experience crises of their own. Sam discovers the law student he slept with last night also works as a high-priced call girl. Josh's former lover and fellow campaign worker, Madeline "Mandy" Hampton, now dates and works for a senator who might vie for the office of President. Also, a rumor persists that Josh will be terminated because of a remark he made on a TV show. The comment offends the Christian fundamentalists and upsets Reverend Al Caldwell, an influential religious leader and necessary Presidential ally. Toby arranges a meeting with Caldwell and Josh apologizes, but one of the fundamentalists makes an anti-Semitic remark, infuriating the usually calm Toby.
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Credits

Rob Lowe as Sam (Samuel Norman) Seaborn Deputy Communications Director
Moira Kelly as Mandy (Madeline) Hampton Public Relations Consultant
Allison Janney as C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg Press Secretary
Richard Schiff as Toby (Tobias Zachary) Ziegler Communications Director
John Spencer as Leo Thomas McGarry Chief of Staff
Bradley Whitford as Josh (Joshua) Lyman Deputy Chief of Staff
and
Martin Sheen as
Jed (Josiah Edward) Bartlet President of the United States
     
Guest Starring    
Annie Corley as Mary Marsh  
Lisa Edelstein as Laurie (Brittany Rollins) Call Girl / Law Student
Suzy Nakamura as Cathy Assistant to Deputy Communications Director
Allison Smith as Mallory O'Brian Teacher / Leo McGarry's daughter
Marc Grapey as Billy (Bill Kenworthy) Wall Street Journal Reporter
Janel Moloney as Donna (Donnatella) Moss Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff
F. William Parker as Reverend Al Caldwell  
     
Co-Starring    
Kathryn Joosten as Mrs. Landingham President's Secretary /
Delores (first name)
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper (last name) /
Assistant to Chief of Staff
Devika Parikh as Bonnie Communications' Aide
David Sage as John Van Dyke  
Jana Lee Hamblin as Reporter #1 Bobbi
Mindy Seeger as Reporter #3 Chris
Ossi Taylor as College Student #1  
Tressa DiFiglia as College Student #2 Jennifer
Wendell Wright as Economist #1 Fred
Hamilton Mitchell as Economist #2 Luther
Molly Schaffer as Senior Staffer  
Melissa Fitzgerald as White House Staffer Carol
Wendy Blair as Flight Attendant 2 / Voiceover  
Elizabeth Greer as Flight Attendant 3  
Peter James Smith as Congressional Liaison 1 Ed
Bill Duffy as Congressional Liaison 2 Staffer Larry
Marlene Warfield as Maid Ruth
Dean Biasucci as Man  
Diane Michelle as Woman's Voice Over  
Marcus Boddie as D.C. Cop  
Dafidd McCracken as USS Officer Mike  
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Information Links

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Awards

Emmy Awards

Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series Win for
Jon Hutman
Tony Fanning , Art Director
Ellen Totleben
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series Win for
Thomas Del Ruth, A.S.C.
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Win for
Thomas Schlamme
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Nomination for
Aaron Sorkin
Submitted for consideration for Outstanding Drama Series Win

Artios Awards

Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Pilot - Drama Win for
Barbara Miller, C.S.A.
John Levey, C.S.A.
Kevin Scott, C.S.A.

ADG Awards

Excellence in Production Design for a Television Series Episode of a Single-Camera Series Win for
Jon Hutman
Tony Fanning

ASC Awards

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Mini-Series'/Pilot Nomination for
Thomas Del Ruth, A.S.C.

DGA Awards

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series Night Nomination for
Thomas Schlamme

Eddie Awards

Best Edited One-Hour Series for Television Nomination for
Christopher Nelson, A.C.E.

Shine Awards

Scene Stealer Win
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Media Quotes

"It wasn't my intention to paint the entire religious right with one brush, ...On the other hand, I admit that there are moments when I take a personal passion of mine and get up on a box and let you all know about it." - Aaron Sorkin

"'Wing' and a Prayer"
by Don Kaplan
July 31, 1999
New York Post

"The West Wing" was supposed to have debuted last fall, says co-exec producer John Wells ("ER"), but the timing was unfortunate and NBC changed its mind. It received the script in January 1998, just as the Monica Lewinsky scandal was exploding.

"There was some justifiable concern over the political climate and whether this show would pass 'the snicker test.' Would anybody be able to take a show about the president and his senior staff seriously, given what was going on with the actual president and his senior staff? NBC asked us to wait."

Ironically, the script for the Warner Bros. show was later "slipped" to then-WB Entertainment boss Garth Ancier, now president of NBC Entertainment. He passed. "It was a very expensive risk; it didn't feel like a WB show." (Duh. The actors were over 16.)

Politically, "The West Wing" will have to mix it up to succeed, Ancier says in an interview.

"I told Aaron if it was going to be a liberal soapbox, he'd have problems. Any kind of soapbox is inappropriate -- though you can't do a White House that's completely moderate -- because it would alienate roughly half his audience."

...

"When the dust settled from our initial hiring, I said, 'Gee, we're looking awfully white here,'" Sorkin says. "We didn't want to replace people, so we added more roles. Believe me, we get it. We're in no way resentful of the NAACP tapping us on the shoulder and pointing it out.

"NBC's 'West Wing' runs political gamut, holds the scandal"
by Gail Shister
August 2, 1999
Philadelphia Inquirer

On why he lets a woman use the term "bitch slapping" in the pilot:
"I would never have a man saying it to a woman . . . but in that character, and in that actress, frankly I find it endearing. (laughs) " - Aaron Sorkin

"The brains behind the shows"
by Eric Deggans
August 17, 1999
St. Petersburg Times

Aaron Sorkin, creator of NBC's "The West Wing," which launches Sept. 22, was asked at a press conference earlier this summer about a scene in which one character, on learning that his former girlfriend is dating her new boss, a senator, tells her, "I always thought he was gay."

When she denies it, he says, "He always seemed effeminate to me ... I think he's a woman."

Realistic dialogue or homophobia?

Even Sorkin's not sure.

"I apologize if it came off as homophobic," he told TV critics. "I must tell you my wife warned me that it was coming off as homophobic. And nearly every time I don't listen to her, I get in trouble for it," he said.

Nevertheless, he said, "It wasn't intended that way. None of these characters are homophobic."

"The gay joke is becoming a staple of network TV"
by Ellen Gray
September 1, 1999
Philadelphia Daily News

He [Aaron Sorkin] based "The Lambs of God" in "The West Wing" on "The Lambs of Christ," a real-life group Sorkin said does "violent things and they harass people."

"Sheen for president: Just another Clinton?"
by Rob Owen
September 19, 1999
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"You can look at the pilot and think, gee, this is a left-leaning White House or certainly a left-leaning writer who took that kind of roundhouse punch at the religious right, but anybody who might be upset by the politics of the pilot episode, all you need to do is wait a week and you'll likely be standing and cheering. I'm looking forward to being unpredictable on this show." - Aaron Sorkin

"Drama shows politics can succeed on TV"
by Tom Feran
September 22, 1999
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Leo McGarry is on his way to work.

"Nice morning, Mr. McGarry," says the guard in the lobby.

"We'll take care of that," says Leo, as he passes inside, through a corridor, an office,another office, a corridor, an office, five corridors, an office, a corridor, an office, a corridor, two offices, a corridor and two more offices, before settling behind his desk, 3 minutes and 26 seconds later.

The camera is with him all the way, as he has 12 separate conversations, and 133 people (maybe more - they go so quickly) pass in and out of the picture. That's more extras than populate some series in a whole season.

"White House is setting for highly touted NBC drama"
by Jonathan Storm
September 22, 1999
Philadelphia Inquirer

"Having to (give tours) on a regular basis, and frankly not knowing if that room was named after Teddy Roosevelt or Franklin Roosevelt I mean, I'm pathetic, I haven't gotten caught yet, but I've made up a few things." - Joe Lockhart [former press secretary for President Clinton]

"NBC's White House drama 'The West Wing' is generating buzz in Washington"
by Naftali Bendavid
September 28, 1999
Chicago Tribune

"After they put the pilot together, they realized that people might catch on that I'd be there only once a month. So they talked to me about a longer commitment." - Martin Sheen

His three-year contract takes President Bartlett [Bartlet] through re-election. "Maybe we'll go four more, who knows?" he said.

"For a pacifist, Martin Sheen plays a pretty good president"
by John Kiesewetter
October 17, 1999
Cincinnati Enquirer

"As hard as it may be to believe, that happened because of thirtysomething," Walden says of his West Wing creation. "I didn't know Aaron [Sorkin, the creator and executive producer of The West Wing], but he had been such a thirtysomething fan that when he sold Sports Night, he called and asked me to score it. Later, he called again and said, 'We've got this other pilot [episode] about the White House.' "

According to Walden, the final rendition of the theme song for The West Wing has quite a different flavour from what had initially been planned.

"Originally, they were thinking about using just a guitar and piano," he says. "But that was before they shot the pilot. Once that happened, they started putting [temporary] music against it, and a more orchestral sound really brought it to life.

"High notes"
by Jay Bobbin
November 1, 1999
TV Times

In order to get this kind of talent against that kind of backdrop, you need a pretty terrific script -- of the pilot, Lowe says, " It was as good as any movie I've ever read, and certainly better than any TV show I've ever read."

Sheen adds, "I read it and say [to Sorkin], ' I'm not nuts about doing a TV series. I've never done one. But I will do this has long as you write every script that I'm involved in.'". Sheen was only supposed to appear in one out of every four episodes until all involved realized, as Sheen puts it, that "one of the rings in this three-ring circus was not be used enough."

"Wing Commanders"
by David Kronke
November 20, 1999
TV Guide (Canadian edition)

While making the pilot for NBC's "The West Wing," Lisa Edelstein practically had to pinch herself to believe she was doing a morning-after bedroom scene with the object of a long-ago crush -- Rob Lowe.

"I said to him, 'If I could just go back and tell my 16-year-old self that I'd be nonchalantly lying in bed with you, I think I would have died on the spot,'" [Lisa] Edelstein says with a laugh.

"A Capitol Hill liaison"
by Virginia Rohan
December 15, 1999
Bergen Record

"By the end of the first day of filming, as I saw Martin's work and heard him say the words, I knew I had to keep him," - Aaron Sorkin

""ER," "West Wing" rush to replace departing cast"
by Elaine Liner
January 18, 2000
Corpus Christi Caller Times

It was not a universally endorsed decision [to cast Martin Sheen]. Sorkin's co-executive producer, John Wells, afraid that Sheen would inject his own radical left-wing politics into the role, told Sorkin, "Oh boy, this is a mistake."

Nevertheless, Wells says he has been pleasantly surprised at how responsible Sheen has been when it comes to the series. "Martin is really great. He calls us and tells us he's going to be arrested [at a protest] over the weekend but not to worry about it. He's arranged for someone to make his bail and he'll be back on the set on Monday morning."

"Sheen at home in West Wing"
by Tom Jicha
January 19, 2000
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"Originally, I wasn't going to have the character of the president in the show at all, ... I really wanted the show to be about the senior staffers, and had the fear that the character of the president would necessarily skew the show in a different direction. And I very much wanted to write ensemble drama."

... As Sorkin originally envisioned the show, the staff would work in the shadow of the president, but he would never be seen on camera except for the occasional glimpse.

"I then felt like that would quickly get hokey," Sorkin said. "That we will constantly be just missing the president. As he walks around the corner, we'll see the back of his head. He'd be like the next-door neighbor on 'Home Improvement,' somehow, and that was going to be silly."

So he decided to make the character of President Josiah Bartlett [Bartlet] an infrequent visitor to the show, and Sheen was contacted about playing the part -- and signed to appear in just four episodes.

"When we had originally spoken about it, we would see the president every few episodes, and that was going to take care of my hokey problem," Sorkin said.

The pilot was an indication of how Plan B might have gone. After spending most of the episode with the staff, the president appeared only in the final few minutes of the program. But Plan B quickly gave way to Plan C.

"We all had such a good time making the pilot that we decided to become more steady," Sorkin said.

And it was soon after shooting on the pilot began that Sorkin and his fellow executive producer, John Wells, decided to make the change. Very soon.

"When we saw Mr. Sheen's dailies," Wells said. "At the end of the first day, we all sort of looked at each other and said, 'Oh, boy, this is a thing.'

"What can happen is you put an actor into a show in a guest part or a part that you only expect to see occasionally, and you look at the dailies and realize that that's someone you want to see all the time -- that you want to write for. And we went back and said,'We had a great time. Did you?' "

"And so I agreed to join the cast," Sheen said.

"What would 'West Wing' be without a chief executive?"
by Scott D. Pierce
April 12, 2000
Desert News

Martin Sheen got the hang of being president pretty quick.

A year ago, he was shooting the final scene for the pilot episode of "The West Wing," NBC's White House drama in which he stars as President Josiah Bartlet. The president is in the Oval Office on a grueling day that seems to be nearing its end. But then he calls out to his always-within-earshot secretary, "Mrs. Landingham! What's next?"

"The first take I said it with a kind of dread," Sheen recalls. "Like, 'Omigod, I can't imagine what's going to fall out of her face now."'

Aaron Sorkin, who created the series and wrote the script, dashed up to Sheen.

"He said, 'No, no, no! Bartlet LOVES being president! He LOVES the pain! He hates to go to bed, he can't wait to get up in the morning! You've got to ENJOY every part of this job!'

"And I thought, 'Omigod, yes!' And that was it. That was when I found it."

"Hail to the Chief of The West Wing"
by Frazier Moore
May 8, 2000
Associated Press

[Thomas] Schlamme says when they screened it for test audiences, the approval scores "went through the roof" the instant Sheen appeared. Once the producers realized that not every scene with the president in it had to revolve only around the president, "it made sense to put Martin in the show as often as possible."

"Mr. Sheen Goes to Washington"
by Matt Zoller Seitz
May 14, 2000
Newark Star-Ledger

I think any director will recognize that a pilot is different from any episode. It's like making a movie because you're starting with just the script - in this case, a brilliant one. I think there were better episodes of West Wing this year, but for awards consideration, I would still put up the pilot because we really did start with nothing and I'm very proud of what we ended up with. - Thomas Schlamme

"Behind the Scenes with Thomas Schlamme"
by Darrell L. Hope
July 2000
DGA Magazine

But co-star Rob Lowe, a friend of Sheen's family since age 13, says he always expected Bartlet to dominate the series.

"The irony is, if you look at the first show, he's got the best part in that one, too," says Lowe, who has been denying reports that he was miffed by Sheen's growing role for months. "How could you have a show about the White House without having the president in it? I just assumed it would be like that every week."

"Popular politics"
by Eric Deggans
September 10, 2000
St. Petersburg Times

Aaron asserts that it was a coincidence the pilot was written, after all, over a year before they did the casting. "When Rob auditioned it didn't even occur to me to make the connection." He was uneasy about Rob as Sam at first "because the first part of Rob's career was built on, well...um...well, that nine year-old girls were in love with him," but that when he did audition he was so good Aaron figured "the hell with it." He then said that it wasn't a problem until the second episode, when Sam wants to go off and find Laurie and reform her, and Rob came to Aaron and said (Aaron starts a perfect Rob Lowe impersonation), "'Oh, oh no, We can't do this! We can't!' I said to Rob, 'You just did the episode where you actually SLEPT with her....did you forget that scene?"

Posted at TheWestWing@egroups.com
by Jenn
September 26, 2000
Message 6797
Notes from the Harvard Law School Forum with Aaron Sorkin

"Apparently ... after I read for them they saw no more Leos. And I was the first person cast. So that made me feel very good." - John Spencer

October 6, 2000
Fresh Air with Terry Gross

"In the season premiere I saw a little bit of myself in the absolute look of disdain on C.J.'s face when a dumb question was asked. Maybe you can't learn that; you have to have it naturally. That was a pretty good dirty look. I liked it." - Joe Lockhart [former press secretary for President Clinton]

"SHOPTALK: To Tell the Truth"
by Alexandra Starr
October 22, 2000
New York Times Magazine

For the pilot there was a 4 1/2-minute opening sequence that went into another 3 1/2-minute orchestral sequence. The first time I looked at it my jaw dropped. I went: "How are we going to do this?" Because in television you would never be able to get a budget for that size of orchestra. They said to me: "Why can't we do it?" "Because it cost too much money." And they said:" How do we go about doing it?"

[Executive producer] John Wells asked in one meeting: "Why don't we get the Musicians Union to make a deal with us?" I started a conversation through orchestrators and union people I knew, because you couldn't do it directly. All of a sudden I realized that everybody was going "OK, let's see if we can." We actually pulled that off. That's how we managed to do the pilot. The Union made a special low-budget agreement with "West Wing" for the pilot and the first year on a trial basis. Which they have now ratified for all of television. It allowed us to go in four or five times [a season] with a big orchestra and score the show.

...

We actually scored the pilot, which was re-cut. The original pilot that we sold to the network was a hybrid of some big orchestral temp music and a score I did. Once it got picked up, we went back in and scored the show.

By the time it actually went on the air, the first couple of episodes had an electronic version of the theme, not the orchestra. It was the same arrangement, because by that time it had been orchestrated but 'the theme wasn't finished by the first scoring session. We actually recorded the main title theme during the second orchestral session, for Episode #3, I believe. But we dropped it back into the early episodes so that if you see it now, it has the new orchestral theme. - W.G. Snuffy Walden

"Interview with W.G. Snuffy Walden"
by Mel Lambert
December 2000
INSIGHTS

"The show was originally based on the relationship between Sam and Josh, ... But we kept finding other interesting characters, and by the time the pilot was written, it was pretty much the way you see it now." - John Wells

"Corridors of Power"
by Andrew Ryan
December 16, 2000
The Globe and Mail

"I didn't know Janel at all," Whitford said. "And we shot one take of this thing and I went back to (creator/writer/executive producer) Aaron (Sorkin) and I said, 'I love her!' I just thought she was funny without knowing she's funny.

"Sometimes she knows," he said as Moloney gave him a look.

And Moloney said that she, too, knew there was something there from the start - despite the fact that something has never really been expressed by either character in any episode.

"When I got the script, I felt like there was a special relationship," Moloney said. "I didn't really know what it was going to be. In the pilot, I think I had maybe two small scenes, and I had a very strong feeling that there was something to be said about them, this relationship."

"TV relationship takes 'Wing'"
by Scott D. Pierce
December 20, 2000
Desert News

Allison Janney said in an interview that you don't get to ad-lib--that Aaron Sorkin's words are like a musical composition, and he wants it played a specific way. Does this limit you? Or do you see the method behind the madness, so to speak?

Absolutely. Now I see the method to the madness. During the pilot, we got into arguments about being such a stickler for every syllable. Ad-libbing has been important to my work, and most writers appreciate my input. When I did "The Practice", David E. Kelley was the same way. Aaron Sorkin was a playwright, so he really understands the importance of the script. It's timed, like Alison said, like a musical composition. So for what I want to say with his words, I work within that. The limitations can often be more freeing than the freedom itself. - Richard Schiff

NBCi Online Chat
January 18, 2001

"But very early on, Aaron saw something in the chemistry between Brad and me," says [Janel] Moloney, referring to "West Wing" creator-writer Aaron Sorkin. "In the pilot, there's a scene Aaron wrote one morning and passed on to us to shoot the same day."

The scene begins as Donna barges into Josh's office.

"I say, 'Put this shirt on.' And he says, 'No.' And I say, 'Josh, you've been wearing the same clothes for 31 hours. Put it on.' And he won't. And then I say, 'All the girls think you look really hot in this shirt.' He puts it on.

"I really think that scene sparked something."

"Cupid Has 'West Wing' Pair in Limbo"
by Frazier Moore
February 12, 2001
Associated Press

"We hear in the pilot episode, that he doesn't like abortion and that he goes around the country encouraging young women not to have them, but that he absolutely does not believe that is something that the state can legislate." - Aaron Sorkin

"A true believer in 'The West Wing'"
by Nancy Haught - Religion News Service
March 31, 2001
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Schlamme recalled negotiating with Sorkin over the pilot episode. The writer wanted to end it with the door closing on the Oval Office as staff members walked out; the director wanted to focus on the president left alone in the office, a shot proclaiming "this is the arena we're going to be playing in from now on," [Thomas] Schlamme said. "That is the biggest push and tug, how far visually can we go where Aaron feels it doesn't get in the way of what he's writing," [Thomas] Schlamme said. "My reason isn't 'Isn't that a cool shot?' It's that I think we can tell the story even better this way."

"West Wing director part of new wave of TV makers"
by Lynn Elber
May 19, 2001
Entertainment Today

"The role of C.J. in the pilot wasn't huge. We knew it was going to be -- she was the press secretary, one of the regulars. But after the third or fifth episode, everybody started saying the same thing at our meetings: 'Allison is just going to be a break-out, huge part of this show.'" - Aaron Sorkin

"'West Wing' spokeswoman can talk the talk"
by John Kiesewetter
October 10, 2001
Cincinnati Enquirer

"Aaron told me over lunch about his project, which was sort of an offspring of his successful film The American President," Wells said. "I loved the idea of a political drama set in the White House, so we prepared our pitch.

"NBC initially was cold to the idea because past series dealing in politics had failed miserably. But we were relentless. We finally got the go-ahead in the spring of 1999."

Wells compares The West Wing to a passionate lover: "terrific and complicated."

"We have a lot of talented actors to integrate logically into the plots. It's important to be timely and yet not directly mimic what we read in the papers about the White House," he says.

"And day-to-day production is difficult because we must create the White House without filming there."

"Drama King"
by Dusty Saunders
October 13, 2001
Rocky Mountain News

And a rediscovery, of sorts: Rob Lowe. "His agent wanted him to come and audition. I don't think all of us were on the same page when we were working on that role. We finally agreed, 'Let's give it a shot.' His was one of the most amazing readings I've ever been witness to," Scott explained. "In my mind, there was nobody else who was right for it. He had 'it.' There was no comparison."

"Casting Qs with Kevin Scott"
by Bonnie Gillespie
November 1, 2001
Back Stage West
Full Interview in Casting Qs

"It was very, very difficult to get this show on the air. [NBC] only ordered the pilot,"[Llewellyn] Wells remembered, surprising [John] Spencer.

...

"We were all set to dump all over it," he said, adding that the only big difference between the real White House and the one portrayed on NBC is that "you all are a little nicer to each other than we were ... and you walk faster, too."

"GU Goes Behind The Scenes With 'The West Wing' Cast"
by Adam Jones
February 26, 2002
Hoya

The pilot episode was originally supposed to end with Sheen's President Bartlet giving a pep talk to his staff in the White House mural room, followed by a hard cut to black. Schlamme suggested to Sorkin that they take the opportunity to bring the audience into the Oval Office for the final scene, which might end with a crane shot of Bartlet's desk and the presidential seal on the rug.

"Aaron said, 'I don't know if we need that crane shot, do we?'" Schlamme recalls. "I said, 'I think it will convey a sense of where we're going in future episodes, the idea that here's this guy in this famous room asking what's next?, and you see the seal on the floor. It's a very powerful image.'"

Sorkin acquiesced to Schlamme, and the more elaborate final scene worked beautifully.

"'Wing' man: Producer-director helps shape a hit"
by Alan Sepinwall
March 3, 2002
Newark Star-Ledger

As [Aaron] Sorkin explains it, WW's pilot was "expensive to make" and the producers didn't know it'd be a hit from the outset. So Lowe and co-stars Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford were asked to "significantly reduce their [salary] quote" to be in the series. "[They] did, Rob did not," he says.

"West Wing Creator on Rob Lowe's Exit "
by Daniel R. Coleridge
September 6, 2002
TV Guide Online

Sorkin explains it this way: when casting the show, concerned producers asked the core actors (minus Sheen, who was considered a guest star back then) to take a cut in their usual pay to trim costs. Everyone but Lowe agreed, and after efforts to recast his role failed, Warner Bros. went along with his demand.

"Shaking the chill of the attacks"
by Eric Deggans
September 8, 2002
St. Petersburg Times

"When we conceived the series, the president was meant to be a minor character. When he became the focus of the show and Martin was doing 22 episodes, we had to renegotiate his contract and that meant giving him the big bucks so he'd stay." - John Wells

"On a wing and a prayer"
by Louis B. Hobson
September 11, 2002
Calgary Sun

Schlamme knows The West Wing was lucky to have launched before 9/11.

"We had those two years to build a show when America was at a certain place that was open and receptive to that particular show," he said, noting the season one pilot wouldn't work today. That episode ended with a moving speech by Bartlet about opening America's doors to immigrants.

"That's not going to play right now," says Schlamme ruefully.

"Ironically, Bartlet's re-election did The West Wing's ratings no favours"
by Liane Faulder
January 26, 2003
Edmonton Journal

I [Bill Brioux] always thought Lowe's best moments on this series came right in the pilot when his character stumbled into an affair with a hooker. When I mentioned this last month in L.A. to executive producer Thomas Schlamme, he let me in on a little secret.

Lowe was the one who shot that down.

"Truthfully, and this is probably talking a little out of school, Rob wasn't that comfortable with that storyline," said Schlamme.

Remember Lowe's notorious home video? Still bruised by that sex tape scandal, Lowe wanted to distance himself from his own tawdry past and talked the West Wing producers out of pursuing the shady story line.

"By Season Three, he would have loved to sleep with a hooker," said Schlamme. But Lowe felt the timing was wrong that soon out of the gate.

"The Lowe-down"
by Bill Brioux
February 26, 2003
Toronto Sun

Richard Schiff (The West Wing): "I went in to audition for The West Wing, and I was god-awful. I stopped, I giggled, I shook my head and started again. I was so nervous the script was shaking in my hand."

"Casting Ouch! Stars' Terrible Tryouts"
by Unknown
July 14, 2003
People

On SAM:
He really dodged this question. A very brave man asked him to comment on the DE-evolution of the character. All Aaron would say is that the show was never intended to be focused on Sam. It was supposed to be an ensemble show. First without ever seeing the President (he joked like "Wilson on Home Improvement"), then only seeing him every 4th episode, then seeing him every episode (because Martin liked it so much). But it was always ensemble.

On the pilot episode:
"Here was a chance to make our leaders heroes instead of Machiavellian like creatures or total dolts." And then he said something I loved. "Do the helicopter scene first." Apparently that was a MASH reference. What he means is, DIVE RIGHT IN. Leo walks in and BAM. Right into it. Watch the senior staff GO.

Posted at AaronSorkin@yahoogroups.com
by AJ
September 12, 2003
Message 31492
Notes from "A Conversation with Aaron Sorkin" at the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills

[Paul] Begala spoke about NBC's "The West Wing," the character loosely-based on him as well as his own experiences in the real West Wing.

"When my mom saw the show, she said, 'Son, please tell me you weren't the one who left his pager with the hooker," Begala said, showing the crowd his pager. "Only my mom could think I was the character played by Rob Lowe. So I told her it was George Stephanopoulos and Georgie tells his mom it was me."

"Begala: Caucuses about people"
by Greg Jerrett
January 15, 2004
Daily Nonpareil

Alan Swann asked the next question. He started off by mentioned that, in the beginning of the series, a lot of the actors praised Sorkin's ability to write dialogue and talked about how it had its own rhythm, thus making it impossible to ad-lib or replace even a word since you would then goof up the rhythm. Alan wondered if, after the show had been around for a while, did the actors suggest alterations since perhaps, after reading and saying Sorkin's dialogue, they would have a better feel for it. Sorkin acknowledged that during the table reads, this would happen. He mentioned that Richard Schiff would sometimes say that a word or phrase sounded funny (in an odd way not in a humorous way) to him and would suggest a change. Sorkin said that Brad Whitford has good comedic timing and would suggest perhaps reorganizing the line. And then, Sorkin said, there are just some words Martin Sheen can't say so they'd have to find a substitute word.

...

He admitted that when he wrote a female character badly, it was usually because he was indulging in some sort of male fantasy and he would write the female character only as how she related to the male character. If Josh needed a female who would get him coffee, the female character would get him coffee. If Josh needed a female who was sexy, the female character would be sexy. If Josh needed a female to be snippy and efficient, the female character would be snippy and efficient. He said, unfortunately, it was a weakness in a lot of male writers and he was not immune to it.

Posted at televisionwithoutpity.com Forum
by mjforty
January 29, 2004
Notes from a second L.A. book signing with Aaron Sorkin

What's up with Josh calling Miss Moss "Donnatella"? Is that really her first name? "Yes, in fact. In the first scene of us together in the pilot, he called me Donnatella," Moloney reminds us. "Whenever I get in trouble or he's making a point, he calls me Donnatella. And when I testified [in court], I said my real name."

"West Wing's Love Dilemma"
by Daniel R. Coleridge
May 19, 2004
TV Guide Online

Ironically, [Alan] Alda was one of the original candidates (along with Sidney Poitier and Jason Robards) considered to play the Democrat, Bartlet.

"Decision '05 sure to shake up West Wing"
by Rob Salem
January 25, 2005
Toronto Star

In 2002, Dimitra Ekmektsis told us she'd had a two-year, drug-fueled relationship with Sorkin. But apparently, she left a few stories out.

"Confessions of a High-Priced Call Girl" is the title of the book she's shopping.

...

But no client receives more attention than Sorkin, who she says she met in 1990, when he was 29 and enjoying the success of his Broadway play "A Few Good Men."

Ekmektsis says he'd pay her $2,000 a night for her "almost weekly" visits to his upper West Side apartment.

It was there, she claims, that he introduced her to cocaine.

Eventually, she says, she fell in with the soft-spoken, brilliant writer. "The last three or four times we were together, he didn't pay me at all," she writes.

They lost touch until 1999, according to Ekmektsis, when they started E-mailing. She says he told her he'd written a call-girl character into "The West Wing."

"I wrote it because (I'm serious about this) I've always remembered the way you came over to my apartment," according to the E-mail she reproduces. "I remember looking at you and thinking: I don't understand why this isn't my girlfriend."

Despite that note, she feels ripped off. "Almost every time we were together in his penthouse, he asked me to tell him in minute-per-minute detail about my life as a call girl. Who knew then he was gathering information?"

A rep for Sorkin would say only, "Aaron knew Dimitria for a short time a long time ago."

"Hooker writes of Sorkin 'Wing'-dings"
by George Rush and Joanna Molloy
January 30, 2006
New York Daily News

Cincinnati, Ohio: Is it true the Josh Lyman character in "The West Wing" is based on you?

Paul Begala: When "West Wing" was launched there was some reporting that made that connection. I do know that some of the things that happened to Josh in that first year had come from my life. Some of the consultants on the show were folks I'd worked with in the Clinton White House.

But Aaron Sorkin once said that was nonsense. He is a brilliant and creative man, so I take him at his word. Still, I'm honored that some of the people who viewed the show would have thought Josh was even slightly based on me. But my Mama told me she thought I look more like Rob Lowe. (Only a mother would think that.)

I've had the pleasure to meet Brad Whitford, the actor who plays Josh. He's smart and savvy and political -- and progressive. So I think Josh is actually more Brad than Begala.

"Book World"
by Paul Begala
February 7, 2006
Washington Post

"The idea for The West Wing happened very much by accident. It never occurred to me to try to write a TV show. I had nothing against it I just didn't know anything about it. I watched as much TV as anybody else, but I just didn't know anything about the world of making TV shows. My agent nonetheless wanted me to meet with John Wells, which I was happy to do because John was an important producer who had done ER and China Beach.

"The night before this meeting with John, some friends came to my house for dinner, including Akiva Goldsmith, who won an Oscar for directing A Beautiful Mind. I happened to mention I was having the meeting the next day with Wells, but said we were just having lunch to talk; I wasn't thinking about TV. At some point Akiva and I wandered into a little office I had, and the poster for The American President [which Sorkin wrote] was up on the wall. And he said, 'You know what would make an interesting TV series? That. Forget about the romance between the president and the lobbyist, and just sort of write it about the senior staffers.' I said, 'Akiva, that's a good idea, but I'm not doing a TV show. I'm just having this lunch with John.'

"So I showed up to the lunch the next day and I clearly misunderstood what the lunch was supposed to be about, because I walked into the restaurant and saw that it was John, three guys from CAA, and people from Warner Bros. who were expecting me to pitch an idea. Rather than say, 'Um, you know, I think there has been a misunderstanding' and say I didn't have any ideas to pitch, I said, 'I want to do a TV show about senior staffers at the White House.'

"There weren't a lot of questions because I was kind of spitballing, making it up as I went along. I didn't have a pitch prepared. What I did have was some tiny moments and little shards of stories I had to cut from the screenplay of The American President, or little stories I heard at the White House while researching the movie. Warner Bros. didn't ask for much in terms of 'Will it be this or that' they just let me go away and write, which is always a really nice thing to do. Most of my time spent writing something is spent walking around the room not writing. Once I have an idea to start, it will start going very fast. The typing of the script I probably did in about five days, but there were a couple of months of not writing it, and just being scared of it. I beat Akiva up. I couldn't believe what he got me into.

"Taking 'Wing'"
May 11, 2006
Entertainment Weekly

SCHLAMME When we turned the pilot in, everybody was like, "It's extraordinary. But can it be on TV?"

SORKIN The first time we screened it for the cast, the [feeling was] "We did a great pilot, but we're not going to be able to do this every week." Yet these guys all came back determined to make every episode as good as our best. And they kept it up for seven years.

SHEEN At our worst, we were better than anything else that was out there. We knew it. We couldn't use the F-word. We weren't allowed any overt sexuality. We had no special effects. We depended on the text, each other, and the intensity of that. It was like Shakespeare.

WELLS All good shows get made accidentally. I'm very proud of The West Wing. It was extremely hard to get on the air and extremely hard to make. Every moment from beginning to end.

SORKIN John was the first person we cast. I had to change the character's name, which was originally Leo Jacoby. I pictured Judd Hirsch playing the part, but John was obviously Irish. The role of Toby came down to either Richard Schiff or Eugene Levy.

SCHIFF Eugene told me later that he listened through the door to my audition and since he couldn't hear anything, he thought he was a lock for the role. I started giggling at my own performance. But for some reason I knew I was going to get it.

WHITFORD Aaron told me he wrote Josh for me. Auditioning is hell on earth. Aaron said I hit it out of the park, but then I started hearing that I wasn't funny or sexy. So I auditioned again with Moira Kelly [who was later cast as political consultant Mandy Hampton] and was told she blew me out of the room. I definitely wasn't going to get it.

JANNEY I've always gotten parts who are strong and the glue of the family, so I related to C.J. right away.

SORKIN Allison ended up testing against CCH Pounder, who was fantastic. It was agonizing.

MOLONEY I read for C.J. first, and they said, "Do you want to read for this smaller role? There's no guarantee or anything." I wore gray slacks and a black turtleneck to the audition...which became Donna's outfit for the entire seven years.

The role of President Bartlet was originally intended to last no more than six episodes. According to Sorkin, "I was worried that if Bartlet was the main character in the show, the show would become about him, and I did not want to do what I did with The American President."

SORKIN The first person we talked about to play the president was Sidney Poitier.

SCHLAMME It got far enough to find out what his fee would be, which was very high.

WELLS It was more than just his fee he didn't want to do it. His manager told me to stop calling.

SORKIN Another actor we thought would be great was Martin Sheen. As soon as he said he wanted to do it, we called off the search.

SHEEN I signed on immediately, and went off because I [thought I] would be available for other work.

Sheen ended up staying for the duration of the series, and his contract was renegotiated not long after the pilot was shot. According to Wells, however, NBC still wanted another marquee name.

WELLS NBC wanted to know who else was in the cast. If we are going to make something this unappealing to the public, could we get a bit of a star to drive it?

SORKIN I remember coming into the casting session one day and seeing Rob's name on the sheet. We never said we needed a young, sexy guy because we felt John Spencer could fill that role [laughs] . But there was some difficulty making Rob's deal, so we thought it would be easier to find another actor to play Sam.

WHITFORD My agent called and said they were offering me Sam. I called Aaron and said, "That's not who I am. I want to be Josh."

JANNEY It was very much supposed to be an ensemble show, which I think Rob ultimately didn't like. But he had the most experience in TV and I was deferential to him. He was responsible for getting us big trailers.

Lowe wasn't locked in until the day before production, a development that would ultimately portend bigger problems. (Lowe left the series during season 4 to seek out bigger roles.) Nevertheless, on the morning of March 29, 1999, the cast gathered to begin shooting the pilot on Wing's Burbank set, a gigantic glass maze that best exploited Schlamme's kinetic shooting style and Sorkin's snappy dialogue.

WELLS I remember how much the set cost because it was screamed at me in loud volumes: $1.2 million.

SORKIN Up until the pilot aired, no one knew that the abbreviation for President of the United States was POTUS. Sam says it at the beginning.

WHITFORD I thought it was some sort of sexual euphemism.

SHEEN I said, "I don't really know how you want me to play this and who is this guy, Jed Bartlet?" Aaron said, "He's you, Martin. You don't have to go anywhere. You just have to go inside." That's what I did.

MOLONEY During my first scene, Leo comes in and asks for Josh, so I turn around and scream "Josh!" without getting up from my chair. Leo replies, "I could have done that, Donna." We did a couple of takes, and afterwards John said, "You're going to be here until the curtain comes down. " He was the first person to say that.

SCHIFF I had to recite all this aeronautical nomenclature to the stewardess on a plane after she told me to shut off my cell phone. It was the beginning of a tradition of both drinking in Allison's trailer and being ambushed with a four-page monologue that you'd have to shoot that day after lunch.

JANNEY Martin was always eating. I think he took the job for craft services, because he always had food in his mouth while they were trying to shoot.

NBC and the producers fretted that nobody would watch Wing's Sept. 22, 1999, premiere after all, this was a wonky, dialogue-heavy drama about the inner workings of the federal government. Their fears were allayed when Wing grabbed nearly 17 million viewers. The pilot went on to win three Emmys, and Wing soon became one of the most critically acclaimed series of its time.

"PRIMARY SEASON"
May 11, 2006
Entertainment Weekly

WELLS I'm always interested in ideas that sound impossible and haven't worked on the air before.

SORKIN I wanted to do a TV show about senior staffers at the White House. Our leaders are always portrayed as Machiavellian or dolts, so I thought I'd write about government leaders who are trying to do the right thing but who fail sometimes. I thought of it as a workplace drama in an exciting place. Once I have an idea, it starts going very fast. I probably did The West Wing in about five days.

WELLS [Then-NBC Entertainment president] Warren Littlefield purchased the Wing script in the fall of 1997 under a deal I had with NBC. He had to make it by a certain time or give it back, but then he left.

SCOTT SASSA (NBC ENTERTAINMENT PRESIDENT, 1998-1999) My first day, I had a meeting with John Wells. John told us we've been sitting on [the Wing] script and if we don't do it, we wouldn't get his next project.

WELLS They were prepared to make Wing in exchange for me doing something they wanted: a companion piece for ER. I made it a condition of writing Third Watch that they also make The West Wing.

SORKIN I wanted to beat Akiva up. I couldn't believe what he got me into.

...

"As a matter of course, they don't tell you you are picked up until 24, maybe 48 hours before the upfront presentation [where the networks unveil their fall schedules to advertisers] in New York City in May. When I heard that West Wing got a pickup, there was no question that 99.9 percent of me was jumping for joy, but that one-tenth of 1 percent was saying, 'I have no ideas for episode 2 and I have to write another one now. This is going to be a catastrophe.'

"I remember the first time we screened it for the cast there was a feeling of, 'Well, we did a great pilot, but we're not going to be able to do this every week. What will become of the show now?' There was a sense of pride that a great pilot had been made, but isn't it a shame that now it's going to turn into a bad TV show. And yet these guys all came back every week determined to make every episode as good as our best episode. And they kept it up for seven years."

"The Political Party"
by Lynette Rice
May 11, 2006
Entertainment Weekly

Back Stage: How did you land the roles of Josh and Donna? Is it true you both auditioned for other parts originally?

Janel Moloney: I auditioned for C.J. [played by Allison Janney].

Bradley Whitford: You're kidding!

Moloney: But I don't think anybody was serious about me for the part. I had already worked with Aaron and Tommy, and I think they wanted to give me the chance to audition with a big part.

Whitford: So you'd have a good piece of meat to gnaw on.

Moloney: Right. They just wanted to give me the shot. I think I knew when I went in I wasn't right for C.J.; I didn't feel quite old enough or substantial enough to do it.

Whitford: I originally auditioned for Josh, but after a long process, I was kind of offered Sam [played by Rob Lowe]. I think what was happening was they were having difficulty making a deal on the Sam part, and eventually my agent called and said, "Well, you're in the show, but you're Sam." And I got really upset because I thought I was Josh, even though beggars can't be choosers. So I called Aaron and said, "I love the show and really want to be on it, but I really want to be Josh." He said, "Yeah, I think you may be right."

Back Stage: Didn't you worry you might be talking yourself out of any part?

Whitford: Yeah, and I gave myself room to backtrack. But I felt very strongly about it. It becomes abstract on a television show, because the writing tends to follow the actors' strengths, hopefully. So Sam would have been a different part with me in it. There was just something about the position of Josh and his inappropriate intensity in the pilot that I really wanted to do.

Back Stage: Your characters quickly became fan favorites because of your chemistry. Was the relationship in the script from the beginning, or was it something you decided to hint at?

Moloney: Unfortunately, I was only hired for the pilot. I wasn't part of the regular cast. And I remembered that every day because I would have to walk a half a mile away to my trailer without a toilet. But in the pilot script, Josh was about to get fired, and it showed a dynamic between Josh and Donna that was really important for me as an actor to be able to show, which was fierce loyalty. I think it just stood out. It was this great part; it was a petite part, but there was a funny scene and a little bit of a sexy scene...

Whitford: ...and underneath it all there was a big devotion.

Moloney: I think the whole relationship was kind of there right from the first. And because Aaron Sorkin hadn't written past the script he was shooting, he saw what was happening between us, which I wasn't even aware of.

Whitford: I loved her immediately. I remember going behind the monitor and saying to Aaron and Tommy, "God, I love her."

Moloney: So I think right away we had something that popped and was obvious to everyone. I didn't know it at the time, because I was just so concerned about doing a good job and making my scenes as true as I could and creating a character that was whole, as opposed to someone they were going to send home next week because she wasn't special.

Whitford: I didn't care about the scene; I just liked her. But I think it was in that first episode that I realized [that] part of what was fun about the relationship was kind of an Archie-Edith [Bunker] thing. Archie always thought he was the smartest guy and was always trumped by Edith, who was the wise one. In our relationship, I was always the hotshot Washington kid who needed a lot of ego to function, and people assumed I was in charge when the truth was I couldn't have done anything without her.

"Fearless Leaders"
by Jenelle Riley
May 11, 2006
Back Stage

Funniest Martin Sheen anecdote: When Wells and Sorkin met with Sheen to talk him into doing the show, Sheen acknowledged that he knew and liked Sorkin from their work together on the 1995 film "The American President" -- but said he was skeptical of Wells because he didn't know anything about him. Wells's reply: "Well, we just wrapped a movie together" ("Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story").

May 14, 2006
Washington Post

I was in an acting class and Jeff Roth from Warner Bros. casting saw me. As a result, I got 12 auditions in the Warner Bros. casting department. Those were the first professional auditions of my career and No. 12 was The West Wing. It was the very first pilot for which I ever read, the other 11 were shows already on the air, including Friends and ER. I was only given one page of the script because, after all, I only had one line, and when I read that page I knew for sure it was a very funny comedy. Luckily, before I walked in the door, I was told that it was definitely not a comedy and Aaron Sorkin was the writer. This kind of freaked me out because I am really a comedic actress. So, I walked in the room and there was John Wells, Tommy Schlamme, and two of the biggest casting people in the business, John Levy and Kevin Scott, and I am told that the person I am going to be reading with is Aaron Sorkin. Aaron said to me, and I will never forget it, "This is going to be the shortest audition of your life." He was right. It was the shortest audition and, ironically, the longest job.

...

On the very first day we worked together he said to me, "I'm going to say your name in a way that, if I do it right, people will yell it at you." Five years later, on my wedding day, I was in a room while the guests were entering and even then I heard one of them shout, "Margaret!" Just like Leo would. Let's just say it happens a lot. John was a master. He was my teacher and my friend. This question is very hard for me. I'm sorry. I just miss him so much.

...

WC: At the time of the pilot, did you sense the show was something special?

Robinson: Well, once I realized that it in fact wasn't a comedy and got to set, and Tommy Schlamme gave me a tour of the set - an exact replica of the White House - yeah, I sensed this might be a pretty important show. I'm quick like that.

WC: Seven seasons is an eternity in TV time. Were you surprised at all at the show's success and longevity?

Robinson: No, absolutely not. When you have the combination of Aaron Sorkin writing, Tommy Schlamme directing and John Wells producing, topped off with an awesome ensemble cast (don't forget me, cast member No. 11 on this cast of nine), the success and longevity is not surprising. I knew the potential because I got the whole script, about a week after I shot the pilot, and when I read that script I saw that it depicted politics and government without the usual cynicism.

WC: Margaret has a very unique kind of regal quirkiness. How did you create the character? How do you feel she changed over the years?

Robinson: Don Richardson was my teacher and mentor and he would always say to me, "Think of what everyone else is going to do and then do something different." When I auditioned with my one line, the line was pretty sassy and I thought everyone would go in playing the old-school sassy secretary so I thought I would play the proud and devoted secretary. I guess that would be the regal part. As for being quirky, I have been called "quirky" my whole life and I'm not even sure what it means exactly. Wait, I think that was a quirky answer, right?

...

WC: I know some of your fellow cast members talked to their real-world counterparts in the White House. Did you feel that kind of research was necessary?

Robinson: I did extensive research. When the cast was invited to meet our counterparts at the White House, I went. Who knew you needed an ID to get in? I was stuck at that little guard hut at the front gate. By the time I got in, I became painfully aware that the cute little sundress I wore was not exactly "inside the beltway" attire. The Rose Garden pictures are pretty funny. I definitely stood out, I guess it's that quirky thing. Now, here's the cool part: the woman's name who was the Assistant to the Chief of Staff was Josephine Robinson. Kinda weird that we had the same last name. She showed me that she actually had a peephole looking into the Chief of Staff's office so she could tell if a meeting was wrapping up or what was going on before she entered. Cool, huh?

WC: Did you create a whole backstory for Margaret? Did she have a home life, hobbies, any superpowers?

Robinson: John would always say to me he thought she had a lot of cats. I have no idea where that was coming from. There are a lot of actors who do create this whole life and that tends to fall more for a method actor. I was trained by a man who had a very different philosophy, who was very writer- and director-driven. For me, if it's not on the page, it's not there yet. I was taught, "Don't try to make things up," because that's the writer's job. My job is just to interpret what's on the page in front of me.

WC: As an actor, how hard is it to develop a character, when you only have a limited number of scenes in a given episode?

Robinson: I take offense to that question. It shows that you obviously do not understand how poignantly someone can say, "Excuse me, Leo. Line one." - NiCole Robinson

""
by Jonathan McDaid
June 11, 2006
TV Guide Online

We're talking about how he ended up on the show. I mention the word "audition" and he's off to the races.

"Do you know anything about the testing process over here?" he asks. "It's cruel and inhuman. You wouldn't do it to a cow. First you sign a six-year contract, and then you audition.

"I had earned a reputation as being notoriously bad at dealing with it. The year before I had been asked to test for four shows and hadn't shown up to any of them. There was one sitcom at ABC where I was supposed to play a building super who looks after these six kids.

"I'm driving around the parking lot and my agents are calling every couple of minutes asking where I am.

"Finally they say, 'Richard, should we tell them to start without you?' and I say 'yeah, tell them to start'.

"It was the same at NBC. They hated me, but I knew (West Wing executive producer) Tommy Schlamme and he asked me to read the pilot.

"From the first reading I could see that The West Wing was something special. It was compelling, entertaining, humorous. It was good enough to get me past the dehumanising of the testing process. I ended up going to the audition."

"Hanging up on Toby"
by Mike Colman
August 23, 2006
Courier-Mail

Had I known that we were going to go on for seven years I might have picked a cheerier guy. But the interesting thing is that at the final auditions for the network the other guy who was a finalist was Eugene Levy [of the American Pie films] who is a very talented and funny actor. He would of course very brilliantly have taken the character in a whole different direction. He would have been the comic foil, the one that Aaron would have relied on for all the humour, and here I took them on a very dark and complex path. It was just the way I saw it. The only thing I could imagine was the absolute burden, the tons of weight that you must feel with the burden of the future history of the world on your shoulders. People's lives are affected and that's what I felt more than anything, that if I was in that job I would really have to wonder about the consequences of my actions. That made a very complex character. I also thought, isn't that interesting that I'm developing this character who finds it very difficult to communicate on a one-on-one basis and is filled with personal tornadoes that he wants to hide from the world and finds it very difficult to have a normal conversation with someone, who is the director of communications. I thought that was kind of a fun twist on his character. - Richard Schiff

"Q&A: Richard Schiff answers your questions"
February 10, 2007
London Theatre Guide

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