Aaron Sorkin: The pilot did not test off the charts with focus groups. It tested fine, but it wasn't forcing
NBC to put it on the air. Where it tested very high was in four categories that they invented for this show:
Households making over $75,000 a year; households where someone has three years of college; people who subscribe
to the New York Times; and the final category – and this was in 1999 – was people with home internet access.
It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was a big deal then. In 1999 it was the height of the dot com boom,
so people with home internet access were a valuable demographic to reach. That first season more than half the
ad buys were dot com. They needed some place to advertise. It was those four categories that got us on the air."
Josh Malina Saved Aaron Sorkin's Life
Joshua Malina: One of the small perks of being in a Broadway show is the ability to participate in the
Broadway Bowling League, which is about as glamorous as it sounds. But we quite enjoyed it; the guys from A Few
Good Men would bowl against the guys from A Chorus Line and hilarity would ensue. At one of these bowling nights
Aaron started choking on a piece of hamburger. He seemed to be doing schtick for a little bit and we kind of
pointed and laughed until it became clear this was really happening. It was one of the rare crisis situations
where I reacted with any kind of aplomb and I Heimliched him – although with no finesse whatsoever and I cracked
three of his ribs in the process.
The West Wing Nearly Wasn't The West Wing
Dee Dee Myers: When Aaron sent me the script for the pilot, he didn't actually own the title. In fact,
a guy who had worked for me at the White House named Josh King had registered the title 'The West Wing' for something
he was working on. Sometime during that year before production began, though, whatever Josh King was working
on didn't happen and the title became available. I don't know what Aaron would have called the show if it hadn't.
Everyone Was On Set For The Pilot
Thomas Schlamme: One of the things that I had demanded on the pilot was whenever we're shooting a scene,
everybody should show up. You wouldn't do a whole series like that, but because doors would be open and glass
would be seen, I wanted people to go into their office and live their life, even if they weren't in the scene.
So when Rob Lowe is in the Roosevelt Room giving the lecture to the young kids and then goes out with Leo's daughter,
you can see Allison and Richard Schiff in the background – they're background artists! They weren't in the scene,
they weren't even coming into a scene later; they're just there. Allison's going into Richard's office, Richard's
coming out and getting something from his receptionist, they're just getting on with their jobs. It was a really
important exercise for everybody to start to feel that this was their home. You felt the true sense of esprit
de corps working on that show from day one.
Jon Bon Jovi Is A Fan
Jimmy Smits: Jon Bon Jovi was a humungous fan of the show and he came on to do a cameo for two episodes.
I got to meet him a month before in Philadelphia, there was a concert and I actually introduced him – it was the
first time I felt like what a rock star feels like. After we came off stage we went to his bus and he had made
these "Matt Santos for President" t-shirts. He was loving the show!
Everybody Loved Allison Janney
Martin Sheen: You know, there was a survey done and all of us, all the players, were interviewed and we
were asked, confidentially, who we thought the best actor on the series was. As long as we were assured it was
confidential we all gave our opinions, which would not be made known until after the series ended. Without a
dissenting opinion, the entire cast voted Allison the very best among us. She didn't know it and none of us knew
that we'd all voted for her, but she was considered the very best.
Moira Kelly Isn't Lost In Mandyville
Moira Kelly's Mandy Hampton makes an unexplained disappearance between seasons one and two, with the fate of the
character never explained or referred to. Among West Wing fans, the term 'going to Mandyville' became a euphemism
for characters who dropped off the show's radar for no particular reason and would later be applied to the likes
of Emily Procter's Ainsley Hayes, Matthew Perry's Joe Quincy and even Rob Lowe's Sam Seaborn (it's never explained
why he doesn't return to the White House after his unsuccessful congressional campaign). In Mandy's case, though,
it was simply because the character didn't gel with the show. "By mutual agreement we let Moira Kelly go after
the first season," says Sorkin. "Moira is a tremendous actress and it was my failing alone that her character
didn't work out. It had been my intention to explain her absence in the second season premiere but I couldn't
find a way to do it that didn't seem like a naked bulletin to the audience."
Aaron Sorkin's Biggest Regret Was Losing Ainsley Hayes
Aaron Sorkin: I made a mistake with Emily Proctor. I loved her on the show and when I had a chance to
lock her up as a series regular I didn't take it. Being conscious that I already had eight mouths to feed I didn't
want to be obligated to have the character in every episode, which I know now wouldn't have been an obligation,
it would have been a gift. And of course Emily was snatched up right away by another show – CSI: Miami – and
of course it was a giant hit. I made plenty of mistakes on the show but none of them that big.
Allison Janney And Emily Procter Discovered Twerking
Emily Procter: Allison and I had this dance that we would always do. I had seen this weird clip of footage
and I told her, "Allison, that dance, it's so bizarre. This is what the girls dance like." She was like, "What
is that?" and I was like, "I don't know." Then in the last year, I was like, "That dance was twerking!" So Allison
Janney and I had little twerking moments in our office. We were groundbreaking.
There Was More Than One Gail The Goldfish
Allison Janney: I told everyone when Gail showed up, I said, "I know Gail's going to be with us for the
run of the show, so I don't want to ever know if there is another Gail." So as far as I was concerned there was
one Gail for the whole show.
Thomas Schlamme: There were like fifteen of those goldfish, which Allison thought was the same one. It's
like the first time you got a goldfish for your child, you run to the fish store and go, "Here's a dead fish.
Can you give me one that looks exactly like this?" And then you put the fish back in the bowl. That's what happened.
That fish would die constantly. To say that no animals were harmed in the production of the show was just not
true. Those things just don't live that long! But honest to God, Allison still believes it was one fish the whole
time she was there.
The Sopranos Was The West Wing's Nemesis
Rob Lowe: The Sopranos was the Manchester United to our Chelsea. It was great to have them there, because
it inspired everybody. That show's extraordinary; it's my second favourite TV show ever made. Can you imagine
what The West Wing could've been though if we had the same luxuries that David Chase and HBO had? If Aaron said,
"I'd like to be in a villa for a year in Italy and then when I'm done eating pasta, I'm going to come back and
we're going to start up again." Can you imagine? Or if they'd let Aaron write a script that was as long or as
short as he wanted it to be? Or if they said, "Aaron, how many do you want to write this year?" "You know what?
I think I'd like to write ten." They're like, "Great!" No, we made The West Wing under the creatively crushing
stipulations of network television and that it not only competed but excelled against cable is amazing.
Richard Schiff Giggles. A lot.
Richard Schiff: It became tradition on The West Wing that whenever there was a very difficult scene and
I was on the edge of that emotional line, if something messed up, I would go over to the other side and go into
a giggling fit for about 45 minutes. The first two or three years the crew would always be entertained by it.
But I was costing the production tens of thousands of dollars trying to get myself together and by the third
or fourth year, people would groan whenever I started giggling, but it didn't help. Ninety per cent of the time
it would happen with Martin, because words that were sometimes not English would come out of his mouth. One time
in a very intense scene, he turned to me and said, "What do you think, Tobol?" I was gone for forty minutes.
Another time was when Zakes Mokae was on our show. It was a very tough scene, my God – he played the leader of
an African nation who was going back to his imminent execution! But Martin and he had to speak French to each
other and Martin's French sounds a little bit like emotional Hebrew. I had to leave the room and they just kept
The West Wing Had An Unofficial Reunion Episode
Allison Janney: The last time we were semi-assembled was for Mary McCormack. Her sister was running for
State Supreme Court in Michigan and we recorded a PSA-type video for her. It was so much fun to all be together
again. It felt so easy, I mean I've spent more time with these people than with my own family. I'm not even kidding!
We slipped straight back into it and did a whole walk and talk. I don't know if it was a result of the video
but she won!
Yo-Yo Ma Does Indeed Rule
Bradley Whitford: Dulé Hill is an amazing tap dancer. He started in Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk
on Broadway. When we were shooting Noël, Yo-Yo Ma comes out and starts improvising on his cello and Dulé gets
up and starts tap dancing. With Yo-Yo Ma!
Dulé Hill: I did. There's video out there somewhere, I think I have a VHS of it. He was playing one time
and I just started to dance with him. It happened organically. There was a camera there and Tommy Schlamme started
to roll, but they didn't do the sound. But there is footage of me dancing with Yo-Yo Ma. It was a really special
Not Everyone Found The Show Inspiring
Bradley Whitford: I was at the White House Correspondents' Dinner and this young kid comes up and he's
obviously a staffer on the Hill. And he goes, "Hey man, I just want to tell you, you're the reason I went into
politics." And I said, "Oh wow, thank you, thank you. I really appreciate that." And he goes, "Actually, I'm
exhausted, I'm broke and I'm never going to kiss Mary-Louise Parker." [Laughs] He was pissed off that I led him