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Election Day
(Part 2)

Original Airdate 04-09-06

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As a tense election night drags on, the Santos campaign is rocked by tragedy, and a decision must be made on how to handle the situation while voters across the country continue to cast their ballots.
From NBC:
As the polls close and results are tallied, emotions are running high. Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Josh (Brad Whitford) are faced with the loss of their Vice Presidential candidate. Meanwhile, Vinick (Alan Alda) disagrees with his campaign team.


Alan Alda as Arnold Vinick Republican Candidate for President
Kristin Chenoweth as Annabeth Schott Santos / McGarry Campaign Staffer
Allison Janney as C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg Chief of Staff
Janel Moloney as Donna (Donnatella) Moss Santos / McGarry Campaign Staffer
Bradley Whitford as Josh (Joshua) Lyman Santos Campaign Manager
Jimmy Smits as
Matthew Vincente Santos Democratic Candidate for President
Martin Sheen as
Jed (Josiah Edward) Bartlet President of the United States
Special Guest Stars    
Janeane Garofalo as Louise "Lou" Thornton Santos / McGarry Director of Communications
Teri Polo as Helen Santos Matt Santos' Wife
Ron Silver as Bruno Gianelli Vinick / Sullivan Campaign Strategist
Patricia Richardson as Sheila Brooks Former Vinick / Sullivan Campaign Manager
Guest Starring    
Stephen Root as Bob Mayer Vinick Speechwriter
John Aylward as Barry Goodwin Former DNC Chairman
Melinda McGraw as Jane Bruan Vinick Campaign Manager
Matthew Del Negro as Bram (Howard) Santos / McGarry Campaign Staffer
Karis Campbell as Ronna (Beckman) Santos' Aide
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper Assistant to Chief of Staff
Renée Estevez as Nancy Aide
Diana-Maria Riva as Edie (Edith) Ortega Deputy Campaign Manager for Strategic Planning
Shawn Michael Patrick as Gene Transition Team
Michael Bofshever as Kagan in meeting with Barry Goodwin
Special Musical
Appearance By
Foo Fighters  
Mike Kersey as Bruce Transiton Team
Ivan Allen as Anchor #1 Roger Salier
Penny Griego as Anchor #2  
Paul Moyer as Anchor #3  

Information Links



Emmy Awards

Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Drama Series Nomination

WGA Awards

Episodic Drama Nomination for
Eli Attie
John Wells

Media Quotes

Said West Wing co-star John Spencer: "If I were NBC, I would hold another election, bring in a whole new cast and go another eight years."

"Brad & Jen; 'Sex' talk; Adriana of 'Sopranos' is really dead"
by Bill Keveney and William Keck
September 20, 2004
USA Today

The one thing that Wells wouldn't reveal is who will be elected president. Smits and Alda have signed to stay on, if their characters are elected. Wells said the writers have had some heated discussions about what would make a better dramatic choice, but nothing has been resolved. He did, however, note that the present members of the Bartlet administration certainly have their preferences.

"If it is a Republican president, I think we'll have a serious problem with our existing cast," said Wells.

"'West Wing' redesigned for new season"
by Alan Pergament
October 20, 2004
Buffalo News

Question: You wrote that Jimmy Smits would be elected president next fall on The West Wing. Was this just conjecture based on what's going on with the show or do you know something concrete? - Steve H.

Ausiello: Sort of a combination of both. But now I hear that producers may opt to go with Alan Alda's more conservative candidate to better reflect the times. In any event, look for Martin Sheen to stick around for the transition next fall.

"Ask Ausiello"
by Michael Ausiello
December 22, 2004
TV Guide Online

But so far, it could go either way, Wells says, in the sort of cloaked caginess common to politicians. "We'll follow what's happening with the characters, and with the issues in the country and go with what provides us with the best stories," he says.

Alda, for his part, is prepared to take office. "Anything to turn this great country of ours around."


To those who wanted a hint as to who would win, Smits wondered, "What's wrong with suspense?"


Some assume that the Democrat will have to win, if only to keep the number of established cast members in place. But even Alison Janney, who plays the press secretary turned chief-of-staff C.J. Cregg, says she'll work with "whoever appreciates my talent."

Sides are being taken, even in the boardrooms of NBC, where executives swear they'll have no undue influence on the decision.

Appearing with NBC President Jeff Zucker Friday, NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly says, "He likes Alda; I like Smits."

"I like whoever John Wells likes," Zucker says.

"We are really going to keep viewers on their toes with this," Reilly says. "Hopefully we will have the audience really divided."


Ratings for "The West Wing" this season have been described as good but not great. Even so, the producers will not stoop to a gimmick to get people involved in the choice: the call-in votes from viewers.

Promises Wells: "We won't be going interactive."

"Still A Race Undecided: President Bartlet's Successor"
by Roger Catlin
January 22, 2005
Hartford Courant

Asked how the producers of that NBC drama might ultimately choose among the two apparent front-runners - a cranky Republican senator played by Alan Alda and an earnest Democratic representative played by Jimmy Smits - Mr. Sheen leaned on the cane his character uses to combat the effects of multiple sclerosis and proposed ripping a page from the playbook of "American Idol."

"You could do it the way you would on, what do you call it, one of these reality shows," said Mr. Sheen, still wearing the three-piece navy suit his character, President Jed Bartlet, had worn for a scene set at a party. "You could put Mr. Alda, Alan, and Jimmy Smits before the audience and say, 'Who would you like?' It would be interesting, wouldn't it?"

While the show's writers have ruled out a national referendum to elect their next president - the ultimate vote will be cast by John Wells, the show's executive producer, who has yet to throw his support to a candidate

"On TV as in Life, Presidents Don't Last"
by Jacques Steinberg
January 24, 2005
New York Times

Should The West Wing's next president be the people's choice? It's a split vote.

Several cast members support an interactive voting system that would allow viewers to choose the successor to Democrat Jeb [Jed] Bartlet when his second term ends in May. (Eight years, six seasons - White House math.)

Martin Sheen (Bartlet) votes nay. So does executive producer John Wells. But Alan Alda (GOP Sen. Arnold Vinick) and Jimmy Smits (Democrat Rep. Matt Santos), the two leading contenders, say yes. Ditto for Allison Janney, Bartlet's chief of staff, C.J. Cregg.

"Why leave it up to a couple of Hollywood writers?" Alda said in an interview during the TV critics' winter meetings Friday. "They shouldn't run the country. We should rely on the values of the American people."

Wells, a Hollywood writer, will create his own storylines, thank you. Besides, Wing's production schedule couldn't accommodate an interactive feature, he says.


"I think it would be a kick just to see how the rest of the country would vote," she says. "I'm curious to see what the people out there are thinking."

With or without official sanctioning, there will be voting among Internet bloggers, Alda says. "It will happen spontaneously, by itself. I'm a geek, so I know you can put software that allows for voting on any Web site.

"It will be interesting to see how the [Wing] writers respond."


To Smits, a viewers' vote is cool "if it's better for the show. I'm easy. I guess it's possible for them to shoot two or three different endings."


Alda: "My guy would be better for this great country of ours."

Smits: "My guy's ideals come from a very pure place in this jaded political landscape. There's still room for finding this purity."

"'West Wing' cast differs on a viewer vote for president"
by Gail Shister
January 24, 2005
Philadelphia Inquirer

Despite rumors to the contrary, Wells insists -- without great elaboration -- that no decision has made on which of the candidates will replace Bartlet in the Oval Office. "I'm not trying to be coy," he says. "What happens is that we will actually watch what's happening between the cast members, what issues are being presented, what's happening in the country and try and follow what makes the most story sense."

"'West Wing' presidential campaign heats up"
by Charlie McCollum
January 25, 2005
San Jose Mercury News

So, which candidate/actor will get the nod in the end?

The producers swear they don't know yet.

"It's sort of a mystery to us," says Graves. "We love Jimmy and we love Alan and we find them both very seductive."

There have been whispers that the writers are leaning toward putting a Republican in The White House after a two-term Democratic held the job for eight years.

Any merit to those whispers?

"Given the last presidential election, you would certainly be crazy not to find that interesting," says Graves. "A lot of the country is leaning in a more conservative direction. That would be interesting to us on a lot of levels."

Ultimately, however, Graves says the decision will be based on the show's logical creative process.

"That sounds so lame, but it's true," he says. "We look at what feels exciting. Our main responsibility is to keep making episodes that made you want to watch The West Wing in the first place."

"The West Wing's Political Shakeup"
by Kevin D. Thompson
February 6, 2005
Palm Beach Post

To a degree, the actors playing the candidates are truly "running" for the office. "What we're looking for always is the alchemy between the actors," Wells said. "It's referred to in writers' rooms as 'writer Darwinism,' where you're interested in the people who give you something interesting and who can play all the different kinds of things and who interact in a way that's fascinating. It's usually [that] you always guess wrong as a writer. You almost always think you know where it's going to go, and it never, ever goes where you think it's going to go."

If that means installing a Republican administration in a show that many consider fundamentally Democratic, so be it, Wells insisted. "Over the last few years, it has not been so much about Republican or Democrat as it has been about who you actually want to vote for," he said. "To put it into simple terms: the person that you're going to feel more comfortable with if you had him over for dinner in your own home."

Wells also said he and the writers "want to keep in the audience's mind this question of not only who you think would make the best president, but who are the people around that person who would make for the best administration. We're also trying to get kind of behind it and see all the questions that you have to answer for yourself as a candidate. Who are you going to be? What are you willing to sacrifice? What of your integrity? What do you have to do to be politically expedient? The political professionals telling you, 'It doesn't really matter what you say. You're just trying to get the votes and make a difference when you get elected,' is the recurring theme."

""West Wing" gets a makeover"
by Noel Houston
February 6, 2005

John Wells insists that real-life politics has little bearing on the outcome of the fictional White House race now unfolding on the Emmy-winning NBC series between candidates played by Alan Alda (the Republican) and Jimmy Smits (the Democrat).

Instead, Wells says the show's next occupant of the Oval Office, succeeding current star Martin Sheen, will be determined by which character the writers ultimately feel is the "most compelling" to the audience.

"Presidential showdown is on"
by Steve Gorman
February 15, 2005
Reuters News Service

NBC executives insist they also don't know and don't care who wins.

"I like whoever John Wells likes," said NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker.

"He likes Alda. I like Smits," NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said. "We're going to keep him guessing."

"Liberal leanings"
by Scott D. Pierce
March 18, 2005
Deseret Morning News

Regarding his chances of beating out Alan Alda to succeed Martin Sheen as the prez, he says, "My hiatus will be a little bit like, 'Hmm... I wonder, wonder, wonder.' I'm OK anyway it goes. The way [executive producer] John Wells set it up, there's so much fodder for story lines that could happen, and we're all up for that." - Jimmy Smits

"Jimmy Smits for President"
by Daniel R. Coleridge
March 24, 2005
TV Guide Online

If Santos wins the presidency, he would be the first Hispanic to do so, on TV or otherwise. And, says Smits, it's about time life started imitating art. "There are some wonderful politicians out there who are, first of all, good public servants who have dedicated their lives to doing better for the community [and who] happen to be Hispanic. I don't see a problem with that kind of transition happening in this country, and that goes whether they be Hispanic or a woman or an African-American. "I think there are a lot of Latino public servants that I know who are ready to make that leap. It's gonna happen." - Jimmy Smits

"Will Smits stay in D.C.?"
by Marisa Guthrie
March 24, 2005
New York Daily News

"We're hoping that by the time we get into the fall, that there will be a real question in the viewer's mind as to who would make the better president. They both have strengths and weaknesses," says John Wells, executive producer of "The West Wing," while talking with TV critics about the future of the political drama.

"Red or blue?"
by Rick Bentley
April 4, 2005
Fresno Bee

Turns out Smits is wearing a poker face along with his casual look.

"Bet on the 'M*A*S*H' guy, that's what I say," he told The Associated Press. He's talking about former "M*A*S*H" star Alan Alda, back on series TV as Republican presidential contender Arnold Vinick.

Yeah, right. Not a chance Smits is giving away next year's outcome, when viewers will learn who follows two-term President Josiah "Jeb" [Jed] Bartlet (Martin Sheen) in the Oval Office.


Playing the loser might have another benefit. In a visit to a doctor's office recently, Smits was confronted by a man who recognized him from "The West Wing" and who "espoused the whole Republican thing to me."

"I just say the lines, man," was the actor's nonpartisan response.

"It's Vinick vs. Santos, maybe, on 'The West Wing'"
April 4, 2005
Associated Press

Next week, Beth Troutman can add another entry to her resume, which so far includes:

Child advertising genius.

The Carolinas Carrousel Queen.

Assistant to Alex Graves, executive producer of "The West Wing."

Challenger -- and not all that far from winner -- for the congressional seat held by Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C.

Come Monday, the Concord native can put down full-time co-host on the WCCB (Channel 18) morning show "Fox News Rising" with Robin King.


Troutman says she knows who is going to be the next president on "West Wing." "But I can't say."

C'mon, Jimmy Smits or Alan Alda?

"Can't say."

So, you'd vote for?

"I love Smits' character."

"Troutman headed to TV"
by Mark Washburn
April 9, 2005
Charlotte Observer

Whether it's finding her late pal's favourite candy in her pockets, or tuning into his TV movies, Chenoweth is convinced Spencer is always with her as she struggles to cope with his death.

She says, "The minute I got the phone call about his death I lost it. After about five minutes of pulling myself together I turned on my favourite TV channel, Lifetime, and there was a TV movie and John Spencer was on the screen. No lie.

"I thought, 'That is you visiting me.'

"Then, one night on the set of The West Wing, we were freezing on the tarmac pretending to get to an airplane that didn't exist and they put a coat on me and the pocket was full of Jolly Ranchers candy, which was John's favourite. "I just feel like there's little ways he talks to me all the time."

April 25, 2006

Presenter Allison Janney, a 1998 Tony nominee for "A View from the Bridge," stayed on message when asked about the Jimmy Smits-Alan Alda presidential race on "The West Wing," where she plays chief of staff C.J. Gregg.

Fans are guessing Democrat Smits will be the victor, if only because a complete cast changeover seems unlikely.

"I have a favorite, but if I tell you I won't have a job," pleaded Janney

"Broadway stars gear up for the Tony Awards"
by Robert Kahn
June 5, 2005

"I swear to you, though, that John Wells has not let us know who's winning the election - even though we all have our opinions." - Allison Janney

"World theater is Allison Janney's oyster"
by John Moore
July 17, 2005
Denver Post

9:37 [Kevin] Reilly suggests that John Wells and Co. may still be on the fence about who'll be The West Wing's next president, Alan Alda or Jimmy Smits. "They had an idea," he says, but, I think now they're kind of wrestling with how to change it up."

"Press Tour Day 5 (NBC): Sex, Lies and Double-Stuff Oreos"
by Michael Ausiello
July 25, 2005
TV Guide Online

[Kristin] Chenoweth, who identifies herself as the "conservative Democrat/liberal Republican" daughter of a Texas oilman, offered her bipartisan pick for whom she'd like to win West Wing's presidential race: "I would love to see someone of ethnicity elected, like Jimmy Smits. But then it might be interesting to have a likable Republican (Alan Alda's character) shake things up."

"Birds of a feather flock to NBC gala"
by William Keck
July 26, 2005
USA Today

"I think Alan, who initially said, "oh, I'm only going to do X number of episodes,' said "well, I could more if you want me to,' " said Reilly.

It is unclear if Alda's character or Jimmy Smits' character will become president and when the election will be held.

"All of a sudden, I think collectively (the writers) are going, "well, you know we thought the election was going to go this way. Maybe if we just sort of let the election seek its course,' " said Reilly.

"Pressure is her partner"
by Alan Pergament
July 29, 2005
Buffalo News

It's the middle of August, and Joshua Malina does not know who the next president of the United States will be. He doesn't even know what he'll be doing during the campaign. "I wish I had the answer," he said.

"A 'West Wing' Jew close to the president"
by Curt Schleier
September 2, 2005
Jewish News Weekly of Northern California.

Still, he won't give any odds on whether Republican Arnie Vinick (Alan Alda) or Democrat Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) will replace President Jeb [Jed] Bartlet (Martin Sheen) on "West Wing."

"I think they've done a good job of writing two very viable candidates," said Malina. "Vinick is a Republican I could vote for, which would be a first for me. Nonetheless, I think I'd have to go with the young, idealist Latino."

"'West Wing' speechwriter addresses celebrity politics"
by Alan Perament
September 13, 2005
Buffalo News

So let's cut to the chase: Should we call him Mr. President? "My daughter has a wonderful way of handling that question," he said. "She says, 'I could tell you but I'd have to kill you.' But I don't think [the writers] even know who they want to be president. I have that feeling. Unless that's a great way to keep a secret. But they're not gonna have the election until the end of this season, and they're acting like they don't know who they want to have win." - Alan Alda

"Alda for Prez"
by Mike Thomas
October 2, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times

And, no, people, he doesn't have a clue who will win.

"Unless they're pulling our leg, even the writers don't know at this point," he said. "And I like that they're keeping things uncertain. It's going to be a lot of fun." - Alan Alda

"Alda's many faces"
by Chuck Barney
October 3, 2005
Contra Costa Times

With interest high in the dramatized campaign to replace outgoing President Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen), Zogby conducted its poll - in association with, where the poll results will be posted today - in the same manner in which it conducts its real-life polls.

Not only would the poll's respondents vote overwhelmingly for Santos, according to Zogby, but 72 percent of them believe Santos will win on Election Day (the date of which has not yet been announced) vs. 20 percent for Vinick.

The reason: ratings. Nearly 33 percent of the respondents said they thought producers would engineer a Santos victory because it would be "better for the ratings." Only 17.7 percent thought Santos would win because he's the "better candidate."

by Adam Buckman
November 4, 2005
New York Post

Both men claim they still don't know which of them will eventually win the race - or when the victor will be announced.

But Alda, who has had far more experience in television than politics, has an idea.

"Maybe if they're not going to do it in the November sweeps," he says, "they're going to do it in the February sweeps."

"'Wing' Debate As Role Model"
by Roger Catlin
November 5, 2005
Hartford Courant

Wells had to leave the call early, and when Smits and Alda were asked if they knew when the long-awaited "West Wing" election would take place, they said no.

At one point, there was talk of having it follow a real election cycle, which would have placed the election right about now, during November sweeps, they said.

"We're all talking about television. Maybe if they were not going to do it in the November sweeps, they'll do it in the February sweeps," Alda quipped.

"Tonight, Smits and Alda will 'Wing' it"
by Virginia Rohan
November 6, 2005
Bergen Record

"We're all whispering (on the set) because we don't know who's going to win, and we don't know who's going to have a job," said Kristin Chenoweth, who joined the series last year as media consultant Annabeth Schott, originally a Bartlet staffer now working on the Santos campaign. John Spencer, Allison Janney and others playing roles in a Democratic administration would need Santos in office to stay on as regulars.

For his part, Wells said he has not yet decided who will win his faux race.

"I have to write the election episode sometime before Christmas," he said.

"I haven't decided how it's going to go."

Bradley Whitford, who plays Bartlet staffer-turned-Santos campaign manager Josh Lyman, made no secret of his allegiance.

"Santos is going to win and I say that not as an actor but as his campaign manager," he said before the dinner began.

"'West Wing' actors cast their ballots"
by Valerie Kuklenski
November 9, 2005
Los Angeles Daily News

So … I'm assuming you already know who wins this election.

No, they're acting like nobody knows.

Really? Now, be honest: Behind the scenes, are you campaigning for Vinick?

(Laughs) You have to do that when you play a character. You want that character to win. - Alan Alda

"A Q&A with ... Alan Alda"
by Jim Cooper
November 16, 2005
USA Today

Series producers have only in the past few days decided who would win the presidential campaign that has been this season's main story; it will be revealed in April. The contest pits a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and a Republican portrayed by Alan Alda, and the show's writers have fought over who should win.

"It's been quite a brawl," said John Wells, executive producer.

" NBC canceling 'West Wing' after 7 seasons"
January 23, 2006
Associated Press

Question: So, now that The West Wing is coming to an end, is there any hope for us Josh and Donna fans, or will John Wells exile them to the planet of Unresolved Sexual Tension? - Katherine

Ausiello: How much do I love you guys? So much that this was the first question I asked John Wells when I tackled him Sunday following NBC's West Wing session at press tour. I think you'll like his answer: "One of the great things when you know the show is ending [is that] you can actually do stuff that you probably wouldn't do if you thought the show was continuing."

"Ask Ausiello"
by Michael Ausiello
January 25, 2006
TV Guide Online

"This may be good news for Santa Paula, since Alan Alda's character Sen. Vinick may be elected President after all if Alda does not have to continue in the role after this season," [Santa Paula] City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz wrote in the city blog. "Stay tuned…."

"Could cancellation of "The West Wing" swing election for SP's Vinick?"
by Peggy Kelly
January 27, 2006
Santa Paula News

Hometown supporters of Senator Arnold Vinick will be able to watch "The West Wing" presidential election results on a big screen Sunday, April 9 at a free event at the Santa Paula Community Center. The 7:30 to 9 p.m. screening, co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Paula Times, will allow Vinick-heads to cheer on the hometown hero as he moves closer to the nation's top job.

At least that's what City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz believes will be the outcome of the faux presidential race. "I'm encouraging everyone to come and watch the second part of the election episode to cheer on Arnold Vinick as the next President of the United States," said Bobkiewicz.


Bobkiewicz has his political bets riding on Vinick to defeat Rep. Santos – played by dreamy Jimmy Smits – come April 9. "I think Senator Vinick's chances are excellent; he has a message that was crafted early on while growing up in Santa Paula. It's a message that I really think has been resonating with the voters. And, it's not every day you get to celebrate the election of a president from your hometown."

"'West Wing' election screening: Will favorite son Arnold Vinick win? "
by Peggy Kelly
February 5, 2006
Santa Paula Times

Originally, the contest was to be settled much earlier this season. But once production got underway, executive producer Lawrence O'Donnell says, "We were having too much fun. The campaign was working out better than we thought. The story determined where the election ended up."


Who will be delivering a victory speech, and who will be conceding? "It really is something we've been struggling with," says Wells. "We've spent the entire year going back and forth on that question and hearing from people passionate on one side and another." Come mid-January the decision was made" "which we certainly won't share, because it would be no fun," Wells says with a smile.


Since Spencer's death "happened at a point where we thought we had made a decision [about who wins]," Wells says, "it changed a lot of the storytelling" â€" and put The West Wing in a position to actually plumb new territory by having Leo, too, pass away, and not long at all before the show's Election Day. "We discovered that there really is no constitutional provision for how to deal with the death of a vice-presidential candidate during the electoral cycle," says Wells. "If it happens early enough [that] ballots can be reprinted, the DNC or RNC party can get together and name another candidate. But in the case where it's right up against the election... it's actually a very interesting gray area. It makes for some compelling drama on the show."

"How Will The West Wing Say Goodbye?"
by Matt Webb Mitovich
February 6, 2006
TV Guide Online

"You know their campaigns are going to conclude. They're going to wake up one morning and the campaign will be over and that huge intense vibration in their daily lives stops, and then what?" - Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.

"No Good-Bye Blues for West Wing - Yet"
by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith
February 10, 2006
Creators Syndicate

Whitford, who plays White House aide-turned-campaign-manager Josh Lyman, let on that in taping an upcoming episode, "I did spend the day naked in bed with a woman." This got all the long-denied Josh-and-Donna proponents revved up -- though when asked specifically about Janel Moloney 's character, Whitford declared that "if we consummate, that's the most boring thing on TV."

"The White House Goes Orange"
by Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
February 15, 2006
Washington Post

With West Wing winding down, the big question is whether Josh and his assistant, Donna Moss (Janel Moloney), will finally consummate their seven-year flirtation.

"I'm ready," he says. "All that foreplay - there's a word for that if you're a man. I imagine it would be horribly inconclusive if they didn't hook up."

Adds Moloney: "The fans won't be disappointed."

"Scott Palmer finally makes the Phillies, at age 56"
by Gail Shister
February 21, 2006
Philadelphia Inquirer

Like many political campaigns, the presidential election depicted last night on "The West Wing" on NBC would have had a different ending had it been held four months ago.

But the reversal of fortune for Matt Santos - the Democratic nominee, played by Jimmy Smits, who was the victor - had nothing to do with any shift in opinion among voters.

Instead, Lawrence O'Donnell, an executive producer of the show, said he and his fellow writers had declared Santos the winner only after the death, in mid-December, of John Spencer, who portrayed Santos's running mate, Leo McGarry. At the time of Mr. Spencer's death, the plot for last night's episode had been set: the election was to be won by Alan Alda's Arnold Vinick, a maverick Republican (modeled a bit on Senator John McCain), whom many Democrats (including the Democrats who write the show) could learn to love.

But after Mr. Spencer died, Mr. O'Donnell said in a recent interview, he and his colleagues began to confront a creative dilemma: would viewers be saddened to see Mr. Smits's character lose both his running mate and the election? The writers decided that such an outcome would prove too lopsided, in terms of taxing viewers' emotions, so a script with the new, bittersweet ending - including the election-night death of Mr. Spencer's character - was undertaken by John Wells, executive producer of "The West Wing" and "E.R."


In deciding to put flesh on a Republican like Mr. Alda's Arnold Vinick and committing, at least initially, to having him win, Mr. O'Donnell said he and the other writers had delighted in playing against type. And then Mr. Spencer died.

"'West Wing' Writers' Novel Way of Picking the President"
by Jacques Steinberg
April 10, 2006
New York Times

That includes key people from both parties, cast members say. Kristin Chenoweth recalls Sandra Day O'Connor (then a Supreme Court justice) and then Sen. Tom Daschle pumping her for information on who would win the show's election.

Chenoweth didn't reveal secrets, so O'Connor and Daschle learned at the same time as everyone else: Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) won.

"White house drama 'The West Wing' bids TV adieu"
by Mike Hughes
May 11, 2006
Gannett News Service

Most curious comment about a colleague: "What? Alan actually said that?" Smits says, laughing, when told Alda actually thought Vinick was going to win. "I find that very funny. Okay, whatever."

The final word on the Alda-Smits presidential dispute: They're both rewriting history. Smits didn't have it in the bag, and it was never decided that Alda would win. But, yes, the death of John Spencer sealed it for the Democrats. "Let's just say they were two very competitive people who both seriously thought they should win," Wells says.

May 14, 2006
Washington Post

"John was so central to how we did the show, he sort of was the glue who held it all together," Wells says. "It was very difficult to continue without him, but at the same time, I think he would have been angry with us if we hadn't. There were moments during the Christmas holiday when we thought about calling it a day, but we decided to finish it up."

"'West Wing' Fades Into New Administration"
by Jay Bobbin
May 14, 2006

Sheen was in the middle of filming [the film, Bobby], "just as I was rubbing lotion into Helen Hunt's back", when he heard the news that John Spencer, who for seven years played President Bartlet's secretary of state, Leo, had died. He still regrets not being able to join his co-actors at the hospital. There's a catch in his voice when talking about Spencer and the rest of the West Wing cast, as if he's discussing close relatives.

"The method and the madness of Martin Sheen"
by John Walsh
January 16, 2007
Belfast Telegraph

Schiff was inspired, in part, to perform Underneath the Lintel, by his late colleague, John Spencer, who died filming the seventh series. Indeed, Spencer [who played the chief of staff, Leo McGarry] was the only one of his co-stars who, on hearing about Underneath the Lintel, immediately said: "Sounds great... you gotta do it." Schiff was preparing for the play in New York when he heard the news.

"It was devastating," he recalls. "Brad [Whitford, who played Josh Lyman in the programme] called me and said, 'John died'. He was a good guy - such an enthusiastic actor. Went to work with a gumguard in. And, when I was on my own doing the play out in New Jersey I used to talk to him from backstage."

"Richard Schiff: Life after 'The West Wing'"
February 8 2007

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Continuity Guide to "The West Wing"
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