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The State Dinner

Original Airdate 11-10-99 Rerun 03-15-00 and 07-26-00

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While preparations are underway for a state dinner with the president of Indonesia, the staff deals with a labor dispute, a hurricane and a siege.
From NBC:
As a night's stylish state dinner honoring the Indonesian president looms in the background, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) keeps his eye on a spate of potentially explosive problems: an FBI hostage standoff with dozens of militant survivalists, a Class-4 hurricane bearing down on a carrier group at sea and an impending national trucker's strike. Behind the scenes, the gracious First Lady (Stockard Channing) prepares to host the dinner, a pushy reporter (Timothy Busfield) flirts with C.J. (Allison Janney), Josh (Bradley Whitford) and Toby (Richard Schiff) corner an Indonesian government official (Peter Kors) to ask a favor, and a surprised Sam (Rob Lowe) spies his call girl friend Laurie (Lisa Edelstein) at the event.


Rob Lowe as Sam (Samuel Norman) Seaborn Deputy Communications Director
Moira Kelly as Mandy (Madeline) Hampton Public Relations Consultant
Dulé Hill as Charlie (Charles) Young Personal Aide to the President
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
Martin Sheen as
Jed (Josiah Edward) Bartlet President of the United States
Special Guest Star
Stockard Channing as
Abbey (Abigail Ann) Bartlet (M.D.) First Lady
Guest Star    
Lisa Edelstein as Laurie (Brittany Rollins) Call Girl / Law Student
Timothy Busfield as Danny (Daniel Concannon) (Washington Post) Reporter
Janel Moloney as Donna (Donnatella) Moss Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff
David Rasche as Carl Everett  
Dennis Cockrum as Captain  
John Kapelos as Seymour Little Trucking Management
Peter Kors as Rahmadi Sumahidjo Bambang Indonesian Deputy
Sal Landi as Chafey FBI Agent
William Lucking as Bobby Russo Trucking Union
Steve Rankin as FBI Agent #2  
Jeff Williams as Harold Lewis Signalman 3rd Class / Kid on Radio
Kathryn Joosten as Mrs. Landingham President's Secretary /
Delores (first name)
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick (last name)
Assistant to the Press Secretary
Ariono Suriawinata as President of Indonesia Rahm Siguto
Nelson Mashita as Minaldi Interpreter
Rod Porter as Photographer Harry
Tyler Bowe as Gomez Kitchen Guy
Jacqueline Torres as Sondra Reporter
Mindy Seeger as Chris Reporter
Jana Lee Hamblin as Bobbi Reporter
J.P. Stevenson as Reporter Jonathan
Colin Gray as Reporter "Tom" / Bruce

Information Links



Emmy Awards

Outstanding Costumes for a Series Nomination for
Lyn Elizabeth Paolo
Alice Daniels , Costume Supervisor
Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nomination by
Stockard Channing

Media Quotes

"I shot a scene the other day where Martin is with the president of Indonesia, who is absolutely disconnected and has nothing to say. It's all a photo opportunity. And it was very human to me: Here you're supposed to meet these new people and you just don't connect. I've felt like that and I guarantee that has happened to a president." - Thomas Schlamme

"Interview with Thomas Schlamme, Director and Executive Producer, 'Sports Night'"
by Elif Cercel
November 11, 1999

JEERS to unlikely House guests. In a recent episode of NBC's The West Wing, Rob Lowe's womanizing Oval Office staffer was shocked when a call-girl acquaintance (played by Lisa Edelstein) showed up at a White House state dinner -- under a pseudonym -- as the escort of a rich political contributor. We were just as shocked. For a program that prides itself on political savvy, this was a surprising lapse in Beltway smarts: Even invited guests at a White House dinner undergo background and Social Security-number checks. No one, let alone a paid escort with a phony name, gets inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on a whim.

"Cheers and Jeers"
by Matt Roush
Dec. 11, 1999
TV Guide (American edition)

Channing's original appearance was slated to be a one-shot guest shot, so she came in during a five-day hiatus from a film she was shooting. After it aired, Sorkin took her out for lunch.

"And he said, 'Well, everybody thought that was great. And also our ratings went up a lot when you went on, which might have had something to do with it.'

"Channing Calls 'West Wing' Deal 'Something for Nothing'"
by Brill Bundy
July 21, 2001

Some details of the show reveal a bit of a lack of knowledge of what Indonesia is all about. For example, the appearance of misled state interpreter Minaldi and a Portuguese Batak-speaking cook are wasted in cultural blunders.

Claiming there is no such language as Indonesian because Indonesians speak 583 different languages, Minaldi then sets out proving the opposite. Minaldi, who claims he speaks Javanese, said that the cook and presidential aide Bambang Sumahidjo (certainly a Javanese by his name) only speak Batak together. Then, in the actual scene, all three converse in Indonesian.

Still, the writers of the episode also take a bold step in depicting an alleged "standard practice" of American diplomats toward their counterparts from developing nations in a scene when Ziegler harangues Bambang about the imprisonment of his friend, a Frenchman, in Indonesia for organizing antigovernment demonstrations. Another probable Indonesian clunker comes through when Ziegler advises him to have the authorities drive the man "to the border and let him go", which would be impossible in the archipelagic country unless the man was being held in Kalimantan or Irian Jaya.


The West Wing, unlike many Hollywood movies and U.S. series, it shows Americans for once on the losing side. But it's just fiction anyway.

"'The West Wing' looks at puzzle of Indonesia"
by Antariksawan Jusuf and Haryanto
July 28, 2001
Jakarta Post

"The first episode I did was this little thing," Channing cheerily tells TV Guide Online. "And it turned out, it had a tremendous impact. People wrote letters ... or whatever it is they do.

"It's like something taking root," adds the current WW Emmy nominee. "And now [my character] has become enmeshed to the degree that it seemed appropriate for me to be officially part of [the show]. It's really wonderful -- and I don't have to be embarrassed about being in a wonderful hit, you know?"

"West Wing's Full-Time First Lady"
by Daniel R. Coleridge
August 1, 2001
TV Guide Online

"The most important part of the character is that she owns herself, and you feel that in the first episode," says Thomas Schlamme, an executive producer on the show who directs many of its episodes. "You completely bought that she lived in that world and she was comfortable with whoever she would meet."

Channing, an admirer of the show, initially thought it would be a one-shot deal, especially since Sheen's character was originally intended to appear irregularly.

And though the character owns herself in that first episode, that's the only thing she owns, to Channing's way of thinking.

She says this Abigail bears little resemblance to the Abigail whom viewers have come to know because she wasn't given a character to play, other than just be the president's wife, which, as we've seen over the last 20 years, could mean anything.

"I don't agree with her," Schlamme says. "In some ways she was a character in that show. There was a real relationship between them. [But] as an actress [she] wasn't working off all the dynamics and complications that she can work off now, so it feels totally different [to her]."

"A Formidable Presence"
by John Clark
December 3, 2001
Los Angeles Times

"They sent me the script, and I was barely in it," [Stockard] Channing recalls about her initial appearance in the first season.

She says she was very disappointed with the size of the part -- and frustrated because she had no idea what her character should be.

"I'm very used to either spending time figuring out what the character looks like, sounds like, how old she is, what her background is. ... Or I'm presented with information of this sort by the writer or the director," she says.

She didn't have the time to do it on her own, and West Wing creator-writer Aaron Sorkin didn't supply the biographical back story.

"No, I don't work that way," was all he initially said. She was working on another project in Toronto when The West Wing airlifted her to shoot her short scene.

"I literally got off this plane, went into wardrobe, went to the set. And there was Martin Sheen, who I had never met in my entire life in white tie and tails. I was in this evening dress ... and I said: 'Hi. We've never met. But I think we've been married for about 50 million years."'

He laughed and said later: "I think we have daughters."

"We have daughters!?" she exclaimed.

"ACTION!" the director yelled.

The conversation ended, the scene began -- and Channing and Martin Sheen's President Bartlet had great chemistry.

"That's just luck," Channing says.

"Taking Stock(ard) of the First Lady on The West Wing"
by Douglas J. Rowe
December 30, 2001
Associated Press

"I really like being in 'West Wing,'" Channing said. "I believe that it allows people to see things about how things work in government that they never knew before. ... Mostly though, I think people like the characters. I am welcomed as Abb[e]y wherever I go."

Channing said the funniest thing that had happened was when five elderly women met her backstage at a play.

They commented on her performances in "West Wing" and said that they were happy because Rizzo had turned out all right.

"Tate brings 'Pink Lady' back to school"
by De'Borah Bankston
March 17, 2004

Ms. Channing, on the East Coast preparing to begin work on another project, had to "make an instant decision" after an incomplete script suddenly landed in her lap. She winged her way back to Hollywood, got outfitted for an evening gown and then spotted a tuxedoed Mr. Sheen "sneaking a cigarette" during a break from shooting Episode 7 ("The State Dinner") of West Wing's inaugural 1999-2000 season. She had never met the famed activist actor.

"I went over and introduced myself," Ms. Channing recalled. She then asked him, "We have three children, right?"

"Three daughters," Mr. Sheen replied just before the director barked, "Action!"

Thus began the life of first lady Abigail Bartlet, who arguably has supplanted tart Betty Rizzo of Grease as the signature role of the 60-year-old actress's long career.

"So much for preparation," she told a group of high school and college students this week at a Southern Methodist University forum. "Sometimes you're just thrown into the water and it's a very big pool."

"She took 'Wing,' and she's still flying"
by Ed Bark
March 17, 2004
Dallas Morning News

"After we'd finished the take, I [Stockard Channing] said to The West Wing's then-writer, Aaron Sorkin, 'You've got to tell me who Abbey is'. He said, 'I can't tell you that'. I said, 'Then, why am I here?'. He said, 'Talent'. I said, 'We have no time for flattery'. I think my spiky distress during that first exchange informed who Abbey Bartlet became."

"Stockard Channing: One tough cookie"
February 16, 2005
Belfast Telegraph

For more information about this episode:
Continuity Guide to "The West Wing"
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