Three Amigos: Will, MacKenzie, and Charlie. They're the main decision makers of the team, all three of them are Large Hams, Hot Blooded, refer to themselves as Don Quixote analogues, and have many, many mutual Berserk Buttons. They take turns disagreeing and reining each other in, but god help you if and when they all agree on something.
The anchor and managing editor of News Night. Has an epiphany in the opening scenes of the series and delivers a controversial rant about how the United States is no longer the greatest nation on Earth at a university debate, sparking his quest to report hard-hitting news once again.
Bad Boss: Will prior to the beginning of the series. He's trying to fix that, though.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Oh, oh so much with MacKenzie. He deliberately antagonizes her personally and infuriates her professionally, but has a lot of unresolved, well-hidden feelings for her which he can't get over because of her betrayal.
Berserk Button: He will flip out if you try to bully him or threaten people he cares about. He tells a tabloid reporter, "You touch my staff and you are walking into a world of hurt."
Also, a tabloid reporter claiming to be a journalist pisses him off to no end.
Bully Hunter: Will is revealed as one in "Bullies," though his instinct to attack bullies ironically turns him into an unwitting bully himself.
Cluster F-Bomb: Has a tendency to go into one of these when he's particularly emotional.
Crusading Lawyer: He used to be good one, and if you listen to him interviewing his guests, it's like he's examining a witness, so he still retains the skills and styles of being a practising lawyer. Charlie specifically mentions he turned Will loose because he felt that America needed a lawyer.
Dark and Troubled Past: His father was an abusive alcoholic who hit his mother, his brother and two sisters. Will first stood up to his father when he cracked a bottle across his father's face in 5th grade. His father later abandoned his family. It explains why Will is an aggressive Bully Hunter, why he's so protective of people close to him, and why he's much more sensitive to betrayal.
Will's story arc in the first season also parallels Don Quixote. He starts off as a fairly sensible, harmless man, but then he becomes possessed with antiquated ideals and mounts a massive crusade against seemingly imaginary monsters and foes, to the point that most people consider him delusional or insane, which he wilfully and gleefully ignores. Everybody else on his team is pretty much Sancho Panza or the donkey. He also quotes the movie/musical in the first season finale, which also mirrors Quixote in which he is shown a mirror (the New Yorker's magazine article) that reveals him for the fool that he is, and he has a Heroic BSOD before being rejuvenated with his old purpose after a visit by his Dulcinea (MacKenzie/Charlie/Nurse Cooper).
A Father to His Men: Will is very protective of his staff, and will go through great lengths to defend them at his own risk. This even extends to people who have only briefly worked with him such as Jim in the pilot and Khaled in episode 5.
"He's one of our guys."
Fox News Liberal: Will McAvoy is an Aaron Sorkin Republican. He's an old-school, moderate conservative who is extremely disgruntled by the current state of the Republican party.
In the first few episodes, he lambasts the idea of American exceptionalism in this day and age.
He mocks Sarah Palin, dedicates himself to taking down the Tea Party, and rakes Rick Santorum over the coals.
He's against the influx of immigrants, illegal or otherwise, citing US citizens losing their jobs to them. However, he paid for the transport costs of a man who was outed as an illegal immigrant by a newspaper article who used his real name.
In the fourth episode he lectures a woman against gun ownership and breaks off their date because she has one in her purse. Ironically, the woman is a Fox News Liberal herself. In "Bullies," he repeats his distaste for firearms.
In "Bullies," he argues passionately in favor of gay marriage and debates a gay Republican advisor of Rick Santorum.
He describes the phrase "sanctity of life" (in reference to abortion) as an empty platitude.
His atypical views for a Republican are frequently lampshaded. In the fourth episode, US Today repeatedly describes him as having recently become liberal. Each time Will hears this, he insists that he's a registered Republican. Later he snarks that the difference between him and other conservatives is that he doesn't think that hurricanes are caused by gay marriage. In "Bullies," his staff has no idea that he's a Republican and is shocked at the revelation.
When asked why he's a moderate Republican, he says that he grew up in such a small town that he didn't meet a Democrat until college.
Will knows that he gets called a RINO (Republican In Name Only) a lot, but then he turns it around and says that this is what he thinks about the leaders of the Tea Party, explaining real Republicans have reasonable, conservative beliefs in a prohibitive military, supporting social programs that work, eliminating those that don't, and free market capitalism, whereas the Tea Party leaders demand ideological purity, see compromise as weakness, and actively hate the U.S. government. As he puts it, they are 'The American Taliban'.
Genius Ditz: While he's not as ditzy as MacKenzie, he didn't know he had a blog (and probably can't find it), has terrible social skills, and once couldn't get into his pants. This is the same man who can deliver breaking news without a prompter for an entire hour or while totally stoned off his mind.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He screams and curses at his staff, forgets their names and is able (although not willing) to betray their trust and respect in the name of ratings, but he is very appreciative of loyalty, trusts his staff wholeheartedly, and once paid the ransom of a captured foreign correspondent when the company refused to pay. Then there was the time he anonymously paid for the transport costs for a man who couldn't drive to work because he was outed by a newspaper as an illegal immigrant.
Kick the Dog: He is constantly doing this to MacKenzie, due to his unresolved issues with her betraying him.
Mushroom Samba: Claims to take marijuana due to pain he still experiences from injuries sustained during his youth playing baseball, but totally misjudges his intake the night Osama bin Laden is killed and takes 2 whole cookies plus 1 Vicodin, leading Will to behave very... interestingly.
No Social Skills: In the beginning of the show, Will has no idea that people think he's an asshole. In episode four, he and Sloan talk about how they have no ability to mingle at a party. We also see him piss off several women in what were supposed to be romantic moments. In spite of all this, Will gets plenty of dates.
Rant Inducing Slight: Has a tendency to go off on one of these. Peeves include gossip columnists, inane Twitter messages, and other people in the path of his mission to civilize. Usually Charlie has to cool him down. Mac sometimes tries, but often gets caught up debating him. Either that, or she's the cause.
Not to mention that he opened the season and began his crusade with a particularly epic rant.
Strawman Political: While Will is on his crusade against the Tea Party, none of his guests are shown forming anything close to an informed defense of the Tea Party.
There's also the time when News Night couldn't get competent people to argue for SB1070, so instead they end up with three guests who are so incompetent that Will literally has to make their arguments for them.
Tranquil Fury: Will yells and cusses so loud the whole floor can hear him about once an episode, but when he's quiet and calm and pissed off? That's when you should really be afraid of him.
What the Hell, Hero?: Will is called out by several people on how he treated the college sophomore during his rant in the pilot episode. He eventually realizes that his pursuit for the truth sometimes causes him to be callous to people who don't deserve it.
MacKenzie "Mac" McHale(Emily Mortimer)
The executive producer for News Night and Will's ex-girlfriend who cheated on him about 3 years before the series started.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: She very clearly wants Will to forgive her and love her again, but is often exasperated by his pragmatic approaches to news ratings. Then there are the many times he plays mindgames just to torment her.
Ditzy Genius: MacKenzie is stated to be the best EP in the business, but has a number of foibles. She has to use her fingers to do basic subtraction. She's surprisingly clueless about technology for a reporter who's been in the field. She also admits that she knows absolutely nothing about economics.
Fake American: Somewhat subverted. MacKenzie is an American, as she was born in the US when her father was Margaret Thatcher's ambassador to the U.N., but she speaks with a crisp British accent, just like her actress, British Emily Mortimer.
Idiot Ball: The second episode went a little too far in trying to establish the crew's inexperience that they came off Too Dumb to Live. Specifically, MacKenzie, who has been in Afghanistan for years, and doesn't know how to use a Blackberry.
Patriotic Fervor: She truly loves America and still believes very strongly in the American Dream. This usually comes as a surprise to most people who think she's British because of her accent.
Rant Inducing Slight: She tends to launch into one whenever her idealism is countered by pragmatism or stupidity, such as when she learns how Nancy Grace emotionally manipulates viewers by using planted 'experts' and editing tricks. She also has an epic meltdown after being emotionally tormented for weeks by Will, who then refused to cave in to the Republicans because they demanded Will to drop Mac for their dumbed-down debate.
"WHO ARE YOU?! I don't know where your head is at any given moment! I am this close to losing it! I THINK I HAVE! I THINK IT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW! I WILL NOT SETTLE DOWN!! I should though... I should settle down..."
Shipper on Deck: Is constantly trying to ship Jim with Maggie and Don with Sloan.
Amusing Injuries: In his very first appearance, he tripped over Mac's bags and fell down.
In another episode he got hit in the head twice in the space of less than 3 minutes, by the same glass door, both times by Maggie slamming it into his forehead. Then he started bleeding, and Maggie tries to clean his wound.
Hidden Depths: Is a good enough guitar player to jam with Will (who is credited as a guitarist on a country album). Also knows basic first aid and psychotherapy techniques due to his time embedded in the Middle East.
Team Dad: Having covered wars for 2 years, Jim has considerable experience compared to the rest of the team (but still not as extensive as Will, Mac or Charlie). When Will and Mac are not in, he's in charge of the team, and he is usually the one to reprimand them if they screw up.
Workaholic: Works during parties and weekends or even at the end of a long day/week.
Margaret 'Maggie' Jordan(Alison Pill)
An associate producer who is in an on-and-off-and-on-again relationship with Don, although she displays feelings for Jim.
Beware the Nice Ones: Flies into a rage while watching a video of Rush Limbaugh mocking captured foreign correspondents after his childhood friend Khaled has been captured, and broke two fingers punching (and breaking!) the computer monitor.
Black Best Friend: While not exactly 'black' or even a 'best friend', he is seen as the nearest thing to a close personal friend that Jim has.
Running Gag: Neal's obsession with doing a news story on Bigfoot in episode four. His obsession with the paranormal quickly becomes a recurring character trait.
Whenever Maggie and someone else are arguing, it is always right by where Neal is working, or where he can clearly hear what should be a private conversation.
"Excuse me! This isn't soundproof glass!!"
Stop Being Stereotypical: In the first episode, Jim tries not to peg him as the typical Indian computer guy but Will calls him out on it. Turns out he's the news scanner and writes Will's blog... but he's also really good with computers, basically the go-to tech guy in the team.
Sloan Sabbith(Olivia Munn)
An economist with two PhDs, but chose to work as a journalist at ACN instead of making a lot more money as an analyst.
Berserk Button: Sloane is touchy about the size of her butt. She's open to the idea of Neal criticizing her in order to pose as an internet troll, then flies into a rage when he suggests talking about her butt. Afterwards, she demands that he reassure her that it's not big.
She's also sensitive about people talking about her being fat in general.
"If I can balance my checkbook, why can't the government balance the budget?" She is completely sick of that analogy.
The Cast Showoff: One of the main plots of "Bullies" hinges on Sloan Sabbith's fluency in Japanese. In real life, Olivia Munn was predominantly raised in Tokyo, Japan, and later minored in Japanese.
Ditzy Genius: Will criticizes her lack of judgment and says that she's supposed to be the smartest person in the newsroom due to her two doctorates. She counters that she's good at economics, not other things.
Ms. Fanservice: Sloan is reluctant to accept her position because she fears being used as such. MacKenzie admits that she'd be passing over better-qualified economists because she's got great legs, but ultimately insists that she's being hired for both her credentials and her looks.
Sloan: "Do you want me to do pole-dancing while I explain subprime mortgages?"
Mackenzie: "If you think it would help. Look, I wouldn't offer this to you if I didn't think you were qualified."
Nerd Glasses: Sloane occasionally wears a pair to remind us that she's a nerd.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: There was that one time when she spoke untranslated Japanese on American network news and caused TEPCO to deny their radiation leakage problem even further, but the bigger kicker is in the Season 1 finale where she suggests that Don propose to Maggie, just before she reveals that she has feelings for Don.
Noodle Incident: She set the Treasury Secretary on fire. Because he said she could.
No Social Skills: Sloan, herself, says that she has no understanding of human interaction and only understands economics.
Mission Control: He coordinates what goes onto the viewers' screens in the control room, and his baritone is the one that counts down the show.
Jake Watson(Charlie Weirauch/Brian Huskey)
The technical director for News Night.
Tragic Keepsake: Keeps an FDNY cap in his drawer, and wears it when Will reports that Osama bin Laden has been killed.
Joey Phan(Trieu Tran)
The graphics producer for News Night.
Heroic BSOD: Had a minor one when he had to put up the graphics stating Gabby Giffords was dead.
ACN and AWM
Charlie Skinner(Sam Waterston)
Director of the News Division for the Atlantic Cable News network, and an old friend of Will's.
The Alcoholic: While never directly stated, Charlie is seen drinking a lot of bourbon.
Batman Gambit: In the first episode, he knew that Will's staff had deserted him and deliberately brought in MacKenzie to be News Night's executive producer without informing Will to get Will to start reporting the news again. Also in the 1st season finale he completely played Leona and Reese into confessing that Reese had ordered the hacking into Mac's phone to spy on Will, using nothing more than a tape recorder and a recipe for beef stew.
Benevolent Boss: Charlie is a really nice guy and who backs Will up all the way and pushes him to do a better job with his hard-hitting journalism. He's also got a manipulative streak, which he uses to promote the good of the show and his employees.
Berserk Button: Imply that Will is incompetent or insult Will, and he will scream in your face and threaten to beat the crap out of you. Also mess with any of his staff, or bungle catastrophically and you will feel his unbridled wrath.
Beware the Nice Ones: As mentioned, Charlie is a really nice guy, but his rage process usually works in inverse with Will's. He starts off nice, but push him too far and you will be shocked at how this funny old man in a bowtie will scream in your face to the point that Will (who is likely to have been raging not 3 seconds ago) has to step in to break the fight.
Will: You know when you're grumpier than I am we've switched roles.
Bowties Are Cool: Charlie is usually wearing one. Leona says it makes him look like a balloon salesman.
Large Ham: He's probably the only one who can and will outshout Will.
The Obi-Wan: Charlie may not look like much, but he's not some crazy uncle of the team. He easily has the greatest journalistic experience amongst all the staff, and even Will and MacKenzie sometimes defer to his wisdom.
"They don't have a job for her in Atlanta, DC or New York? MacKenzie?! Line up any ten people eight of them'll tell you she's the best EP in the business, the other two would be STUPID!!"
Semper Fi: Was a Marine and an embedded reporter in Vietnam.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Charlie yells and cusses with Will back and forth, but he pushes Will to do the best news and defends Will behind his back.
He is this too with Leona Lansing, considering they've been friends for over 20 years, are nothing but brutally candid with each other even during high-pressure negotiations, and she never once threatens to fire him despite him openly insulting her son in front of her.
Don Keefer(Thomas Sadoski)
News Night's former executive producer who leaves for Elliot's new program on the network.
Amusing Injuries: Sprained his shoulder while trying to ram a door open in Episode 5.
Heel Face Turn: He started off very antagonistic and unlikeable, fighting with Will and being quite jerkish to Maggie, but once he stood up to Reese, he became the unofficial Sixth Ranger of the team, helping and supporting News Night even though it's not his show.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's callous and pushes the people around him a little too hard, but he honestly cares about them, and takes his job at being a good newsperson very seriously.
Not So Different: He clashes with Will a lot on how to deliver the news, but they're both dedicated newsmen who are caring, if a little callous, to the people around them, and they annoy the hell out of the people working with them because they're pushy and demanding in their quest to do good news. They both also get better at it eventually, and are extremely loyal to the people they work with.
Romantic Runner Up: If things go as they have been, Don for Maggie. It's fairly obvious at this point that she and Jim are the Official Couple, but it's also fairly obvious that Don and Maggie really do have something good going on, too. At the end of Season 1, he proposes to Maggie, which she accepts and moves in with him.
The Smart Guy: Will calls him this in the first episode. Clearly demonstrated when he brutally deconstructs Nancy Grace's segment on the Casey Anthony trial. He may not be a PhD like Sloan, but he's not an executive producer for nothing.
Elliot Hirsch(David Harbour)
ACN anchor for the 10 o'clock program, with Don as his Executive Producer.
Informed Judaism: Don only mentions his Judaism to complain that he's not stereotypically pessimistic.
Nice Guy: At least in comparison to Will. This is probably why Don and a lot of Will's staff defected to his show.
Magnificent Bastard: Leona. She uses the tabloids owned by AWM to slander Will, in the hopes that it will make it seem like ACN firing him would be completely justified, and also activate his non-compete clause.
Gossip columnist for TMI, AWM's tabloid magazine. Will initially tries to hit on her, but is repulsed by the fact that she is dedicated to reporting gossip and sleaze. Later on turns into a minor antagonist whom Will verbally bitchslaps.
Brainless Beauty: She has serious worries that she is this, as she has been dating guys who make her feel stupid. Even so, she is no match for Jim in terms of intellect. Not that is stops him from sleeping with her.
Romantic Runner Up: At the end of Season 1, she and Jim are still 'together', although Jim still has feelings for Maggie, but is too nice a guy to break up with Lisa.
Wade Campbell(Jon Tenney)
An Assistant District Attorney, Congressional candidate and MacKenzie's most recent boyfriend.
Crusading Lawyer: He tries to get Will to report on a case he's working on to clamp down on Big Tobacco, whose lawyers outnumber, outgun and outspend the government team.
Jerkass: Was attempting to use his relationship with MacKenzie to boost his profile in a Congressional bid. When she refuses to cooperate, he tells her she 'wasted his time'.
Neal's girlfriend. Her father was a victim of the 9/11 attacks.
Hidden Depths: Has the ability to play Guitar Hero while blindfolded.
Lonny Church(Terry Crews)
Will's bodyguard assigned to him after Will receives death threats.
Actor Allusion: When Sloan first meets him, she asks if she can tap his chest. One of the sight gags in the Old Spice commercials Terry Crews starred in was Crews flexing his sweaty pecs.
Underestimating Badassery: Will thinks he can just walk into the clinic and grab a prescription for sleeping pills, and is totally unprepared for Jack to quickly pick apart Will's emotional and psychological issues, when Will is already an expert at hiding his emotional and psychological issues.
Teen Genius: He's 29 now, but he took over his late father's therapy practice 2 years ago, claims to have 'done everything young', and that there's no Doogie Howser joke he hasn't heard.
Brian Benner(Paul Schneider)
Mackenzie's boyfriend before Will, whom she cheated on Will with for 4 months.
Insistent Terminology: Mac always insists that she cheated on Will with him, when Brian feels that she cheated on him with Will instead.
"Late For Dinner"a.k.a Solomon Hancock(Stephen McKinley Henderson)
An anonymous source who first leaks to Charlie that Osama bin Laden has been killed 90 minutes before the White House tells ACN to prepare for an announcement by the President. Later reveals himself to be the Assistant Deputy Director of Technology and Systems Cryptology and Mathematics at the NSA, wanting to blow the whistle on an NSA global data mining initiative that has been spying on Americans. Also claims to have evidence that Reese has been ordering phone hacks (à la News of the World), and has been using them in the campaign to discredit Will.
Killed Off for Real: Jumped off a bridge in the first season finale after being told that he wasn't a credible source for the NSA wiretapping story, coupled with the fact that he had been estranged from his own children for what must have been years.
Properly Paranoid: Removes the battery from Charlie's phone even when they are in a library with walls 3 feet thick.
Spy Speak: Hilarious averted when Charlie first meets up with him and mistakes some other guy wearing a carnation on his coat to be his secret contact. Also introduces himself as Deep Throat to Charlie at first, but Charlie refuses to call him that, referring to Deep Throat as a 'sacred pseudonym'.