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- Cast Calculus
- Deadpan Snarker: Even a few of the minor characters are able to get some jibes in at each other and several newsmakers.
- Recurring Extra: The APs (Kendra, Gary, Tess, Tamara, and Martin) and the Tech Crew (Herb, Jake, and Joey) don't do much onscreen other than their jobs and a few witty one-liners.
- íThree 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.
- Will is The Spock, preferring to be pragmatic and practical despite a deep and well-buried idealism. At the same time he is also Don Quixote to keep that allusion going.
- MacKenzie is The McCoy, wearing her idealism on her sleeve and often trying to get Will to do the same. She is also the Dulcinea.
- Charlie is The Kirk, balancing between the two. He'll try to do the right thing, but when push comes to shove, he can be ruthlessly practical as well. He is also Sancho Panza.
- True Companions: Collectively, this is the team. They may fight and argue and yell at each other, but nothing comes between them, and they are dedicated to producing the news.
William Duncan 'Will' McAvoy (Jeff Daniels)
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.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Being a former lawyer and a prime time news anchor, Will is damn good at doling these out like candy.
- 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.
- He goes absolutely Tranquil Fury when MacKenzie mentions that he may have forgotten that he was mad at her for a moment. He takes her cheating on him a lot more seriously than their Belligerent Sexual Tension might imply.
- Big Brother Instinct: Toward Sloan, and to a lesser extent the rest of his staff.
- Big Word Shout: "YOUTUBE! YOUTUBE!!"
- Bully Hunter: Will is revealed as one in "Bullies," though his instinct to attack bullies ironically turns him into an unwitting bully himself. He brings up bullying again in Willie Pete, when he's talking about Republicans who show disdain towards homosexuals in the military, calling said Republicans 'witless bullies and hapless punks.'
- Cluster F-Bomb: Has a tendency to go into one of these when he's particularly emotional.
- Closest Thing We Got: He was only a legal correspondent when he anchored for the first time. All the other anchors were grounded due to a national emergency, and he was the only person on hand to anchor. It was 9/11.
- 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.
- Dating Catwoman: He sleeps with Nina Howard in Season 2.
- Establishing Character Moment: In universe, Will was thrust into the limelight after being dragooned into anchoring for the 9/11 coverage.
- Expy: Will is an eloquent news anchor who tasks himself with lambasting idiot Republicans while trying to use his show to inform and inspire the public but is in trouble with the news company he works in and has a Hair-Trigger Temper that has given him a reputation for alienating friends and co-workers. If this sounds familiar, it's only because Aaron Sorkin did his initial research for this show by being an off-camera guest at Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
- 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'.
- He is, however, completely okay with the U.S. government targeting its American citizens who are out-and-out terrorists like Anwar Al-Awlaki. He still goes on air requesting to see the memorandum that allowed the President to authorize the hit, though.
- He is confused and probably a little offended whenever someone asks why he's a Republican as if that's something that needs an explanation, when no one asks anyone why they're a Democrat, citing their adherence to lawfulness sometimes suspends common sense.
- This trope gets overtly addressed in "Election Night, Part 2" when Taylor Warren calls him out on it. Will insists he genuinely is a Republican, saying he believes in free market capitalism, common-sense reality, and the need for self-defense against dangerous enemies. What he doesn't like is how the list of requirements to consider yourself one has expanded to include things such as homophobia, Christianity, denial of scientific facts and dismissal of intellectualism, the idea poor people have it easy, and - he says ultimately - that he has to hate the Democrats rather than just disagree with them.
- Someone with Will's views being a republican seems like Fox News Liberal, but in some ways it's actually Truth in Television, as many Republicans with centrist views have been driven to the fringes in recent years as the party mainstream has become dominated by extreme culture warriors and the Tea Party. Will's views as expressed on the show are pretty similar to those of many of these now-obscure moderate republicans, his positions on most issues seem like they could be based on Colin Powell.
- 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.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Go watch Dumb and Dumber again. Go ahead. Marvel at the monstrosity that is Jeff Daniels, then and now, and realize they are making a sequel.
- Hidden Depths: Is an accomplished guitarist, wrote speeches for Bush 41, and was a prosecutor with a 94% conviction rate, all before becoming the news anchor he is today. He also graduated college at 19, and law school at 21.
- In Season 2, he is able to tell that someone type a word wrongly, even while sitting from across the desk, with the laptop monitor partly blocking his view.
- Hot-Blooded: When he's angry, frustrated, confused, determined, or even relieved, he is this.
- Interrupted Declaration of Love: In Season 1, he actually gave MacKenzie a very mysterious and heartfelt call that started with "Hey Mac, it's me. Look, I'm not just saying this because I'm high-" but we never got to find out the rest of the message as Nina Howard deleted the message. In Season 2, Nina Howard reveals that the message continues "I've never stopped loving you. You were spectacular tonight."
- Jade-Colored Glasses
- 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.
- Knight in Sour Armor: He willingly lets himself get taken off the air for the 9/11 anniversary due to fears that his 'American Taliban' speech may remind viewers of the actual Taliban. What many seem to have forgotten is that he was the ACN anchor ON 9/11, being on air for 16 hours and all through the night to offer what little comfort he could to his audience, when he wasn't even supposed to be an anchor. He never complains about this injustice, although it clearly eats him up inside.
- Large Ham: He has no qualms about yelling and raging at pretty much anybody, pretty much anywhere. See also Chewing the Scenery and No Indoor Voice.
- Like Brother and Sister: Will and Sloan. He says outright that she's like his little sister.
- In Season 2, he also has this relationship with Jenna Johnson, aka 'Sorority Girl'.
- 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.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: On his newscasts, Will is known most of all for his inoffensiveness. In person, he's got quite a temper, though he's more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Will's first day on air was 9/11. This actually happened to Aaron Brown, whose first on-air broadcast was on 9/11. Like Will, he reported all day long, broadcasting for 17 hours. His program at CNN was called ''NewsNight with Aaron Brown,'' which aired from 2001-2005.
- 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.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Played for laughs in "Election Night" when Will appoints himself in charge of morale despite almost everyone's job potentially being on the line. Both Charlie and Mac are astounded it's Will who's trying to stay cheery.
- When he proposes to MacKenzie he completely loses all of his eloquence (and dignity), and starts babbling like an idiot.
- Official Couple: Will and MacKenzie.
- 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.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: A benevolent version. Will is consistently shown to have connections with people in very high places that allow him to bypass red-tape and bullshit to get critical things done. He has a photo of him and Barack Obama on his desk/shelf, Joe Biden personally emails him to leak the execution of Osama bin Laden (Will casually mentions he used to play softball with the man), and when Khaled is kidnapped he's asked to "contact his highest source at the State Department", and when that fails to call "her husband". These people are implied to be then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former-President Bill Clinton.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: It may seem that MacKenzie is the one who put him on this path, but a long time ago when he was still a lawyer, Will received a commendation from a judge for announcing that he could win a case only because he could beat the public defender, but he was no longer convinced that the defendant was guilty.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: MacKenzie on the idealistic side, Will on the cynical one (albeit due to lost idealism).
- 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.
- Liberals aren't spared either. Just ask Shelly the representative of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
- 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.
- Undying Loyalty: To Mac and Charlie. This comes back and bites him on the ass in "Red Team III".
- 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.
- Alliterative Name: As of the season 2 finale, she will officially be MacKenzie Morgan McHale McAvoy.
Will: Yeah, that's not gonna work.
- 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.
- Buffy Speak: Despite being an award-winning journalist, Mac has a tendency to go into Shaped Like Itself and Meta Phorgotten.
"Lucky for Will he's got the aim of a... sharpshooter who's been trained to shoot and... hit the target that..."
- Deadpan Snarker
- 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.
- Green-Eyed Monster: MacKenzie gets extremely catty around Will's dates, despite the fact that she's in a three-month relationship herself.
- Honor Before Reason: According to her, she'd rather do a good show for a hundred people than a bad one for a million.
Will: She's indifferent to ratings, competition, corporate concerns, and generally speaking consequences.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: In a professional (and personal) sense, this is what MacKenzie is to Will.
- Official Couple: MacKenzie and Will.
- 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.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: MacKenzie on the idealistic side, Will on the cynical one.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Mackenzie isn't afraid of anything except jellyfish, which is completely normal.
- You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: When she sees Will passed out on the ground, blood in his mouth, she calls him 'Billy'.
James 'Jim' Harper (John Gallagher, Jr.)
A senior producer who worked with MacKenzie in the Middle East and followed her to News Night. Develops feelings for Maggie.
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.
Neelamani 'Neal' Sampat (Dev Patel)
Writes Will's blogs and scans the Internet news feeds. Covered the London Underground bombing with a cellphone.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Flies into a rage while watching a video of Rush Limbaugh mocking captured foreign correspondents after Khaled, the stringer he recruited, had 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.
- Bollywood Nerd
- Butt Monkey: No-one ever seems to listen to poor Neal, even when he has legitimate story ideas, and everyone has a habit of arguing around his desk, acting as if he's not even there. In the episode News Night with Will McAvoy, MacKenzie has this exchange with him after he tells Will someone's trending him on Twitter because he brushed them off:
MacKenzie: I know this isn't your fault, but I really do hate you anyway. I don't care that it's irrational. It is what it is; tonight, I root for your failure.
- Only Sane Man: Seemingly the only person on the News Night team without relationship problems, or is at least able to keep them out of the workplace.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: On his return from Venezuela in the series finale, Neal gives an awesome one of these to the Jerkasses who had been doing his job badly while he was away. Since he was out of the country because he was wanted by the FBI, and because he delivers it more out of sorrow and disappointment than out of rudeness, they shut up, look contrite and start taking orders from him.
- 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.
- Took a Level in Badass: Went from the tech guy trying to report bigfoot stories to uncovering a damning covert operation by the U.S. government (for real this time) and being hunted by the FBI.
An economist with two PhDs, but chose to work as a journalist at ACN instead of making a lot more money as an analyst.
- Adorkable But she works it.
- Alliterative Name
- All Love Is Unrequited: In "The Greater Fool", it's revealed that she has (as yet) unrequited feelings for Don Keefer.
- Asian and Nerdy
- 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.
- Big Damn Kiss: Plants one on Don smack in the middle of the control room in "Election Night: Part II".
- 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.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: She assaults the ex-boyfriend who posted naked pictures of her online. Though in all fairness he probably did deserve it.
- Hollywood Nerd: Is a geek in-universe, but scores double points due to being played by geek sex icon Olivia Munn.
- Hot Scoop: Now that she's more reliably in front of the camera. See Ms. Fanservice below.
- Like Brother and Sister: Will and Sloan. Will says outright that she's like his little sister.
- 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.
- 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.
- Averted in Season 2. She thinks she may have leaked that Will wasn't sick on the 9/11 anniversary, but it was somebody else. And Nina pulled the story in the first few minutes of the episode anyway.
- Noodle Incident: She set the Treasury Secretary on fire. To show the other Cabinet members that she could.
- No Social Skills: Sloan, herself, says that she has no understanding of human interaction and only understands economics.
- Official Couple: With Don.
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Sloan has the tendency to say some really inappropriate things at the worst possible time. And not in the sense of Brutal Honesty, just when the situation requires it the least.
- Precision F-Strike: When offered to become a star in exchange for hosting a dumbed down version of the Republican Presidential debate, her response is a simple "Fuck you."
- Romantic Runner-Up: As of Season 1.
- The Smart Guy: Has two PhDs in Economics, and speaks fluent Japanese.
- Strong, but Unskilled: A rare, intellectual example. Sloan has more IQ points than any three other staff members combined, but when she's put on the spot, like during a panel or an off-the-cuff interview, she tends to put her foot in her mouth, unlike Will, who eats interviewees for breakfast.
- Undying Loyalty: Turns down much more lucrative jobs out of the love she has for what she's doing. Also respects the hell out of Will, often seeking his approval and advice on journalism.
Kendra James (Adina Porter)
A booker for News Night. Is smarter than Gary and drives him crazy.
- Hidden Depths: Got double 800s on her SATS, and is apparently a crack chess player.
Gary Cooper (Chris Chalk)
An associate producer and booker for News Night. Not afraid of criticizing Obama, which Kendra hates.
Tess Westin (Margaret Judson)
An associate producer for News Night. Slightly senior than Tamara by virtue of the fact that she was hired in the morning while Tamara was hired after lunch on the same day.
- Cast the Expert: Margaret Judson was initially a consultant for the show, but was taken from the MSNBC news desk after she auditioned and won the role.
Tamara Hart (Wynn Everett)
An associate producer for News Night. The second least senior associate producer (the most junior being Maggie).
- The Ditz: Probably the biggest one in the team, considering she thought Christian Bale was an Australian actress who appeared in Spider-Man. She's still a competent newsperson, though.
Martin Stallworth (Thomas Matthews)
An associate producer for News Night.
Herb Wilson (John F. Carpenter)
The Director of Photography for News Night.
- 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.
Jennifer 'Jenna' Johnson (Riley Voelkel)
The college student at Northwestern University who asked Will that fateful question.
- Butt Monkey: She's not only the most junior staff and therefore gets ordered around by everyone, Will constantly pokes fun at her.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Her low rank and innocuousness was instrumental in relaying Will's message (disguised as a dinner menu) telling Neal to start running from the FBI.
- Dumb Blonde: More young and inexperienced than dumb in her first appearance. She gets a lot better.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Will always be known as "Sorority Girl".
- Never Live It Down: "You have been nothing but bad news since you raised your hand at Northwestern"
- Took a Level in Badass: Ends up working for News Night in the Season 1 finale.
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.
- Awesome by Analysis: There have been a number of times that he has been able to deduce the truth by just paying attention to a few choice words.
- 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.
- Downplayed slightly in season two. He's still a generally good guy, but he takes Will off the 9/11 anniversary broadcast to keep the peace after the 'American Taliban' debacle with the Tea Party, showing he's more willing to play it safe
- 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.
- Cool Old Guy
- The Chessmaster: See aforementioned Batman Gambit.
- Hot-Blooded: Even more so than Will.
- 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.
- Threat Backfire: When he goes to threaten Reese after finding out he leaked Will's stepping down from the 9/11 broadcast to Nina, he pulls out the recording device they used when confronting him about the phone hacks. Turns out he forgot to hit record during that conversation.
- Rant Inducing Slight: He even works into the mood all by himself.
"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.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Gives one to Shep Pressman, his Operation Genoa informant when Shep reveals he falsified his info to incriminate News Night after his son was fired from there and died from a drug overdose.
Shep: You didn't step in.
Charlie: He deserved to be fired.
Shep slaps Charlie.
- 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.
"It's a strong door!"
- Deadpan Snarker
- Evil Overlord: Don has been called a 'Master of the Dark Arts', and he claims, in a tone that it's difficult to tell if he's joking, that he 'bends his staff to his will'.
- Grand Romantic Gesture: Don fabricated an entire bidding war over a book Sloan put on auction that she was afraid no one would buy, then buys it himself, under a series aliases so she wouldn't figure him out. His plan is undermined when Neal figures out the aliases are movie characters, and Sloan sees a poster in his office containing one of the characters.
- 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.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Don's bitter at NewsNight 2.0 for the first couple of episodes because he doesn't have the clout to get away with running a show like NewsNight (who have the advantage of having Will as an anchor and being in a prime time slot), while he has to follow up after they pull a crazy, ratings-killing stunt, like insulting the Tea Party. He might be taking his frustration out in a poor manner, but he's absolutely right when he says he doesn't have a choice: he and his staff can get the ratings and viewership the executives want, or they'll be fired.
- 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.
- Oblivious to Love: Had legitimately no idea that Sloan is in love with him.
- Official Couple: With Sloan.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: He's the more excitable, high-strung red oni to Elliot's blue.
- The Resenter: See Jerkass Has a Point. Don believes he could have done a "great" news show similar to Newsnight 2.0. But he can't, since he doesn't have Will's autonomy. Jim making fun of him for doing stories about the Mc Rib doesn't help matters. He gets over it as the first season progresses.
- 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 asks Maggie to move in with him, which she accepts.
- Subverted in Season 2 when he breaks up with Maggie in the first episode.
- 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.
- Legacy Character: It has been mentioned more than once that Elliot will one day inherit Will's position as lead anchor.
- Nice Guy: At least in comparison to Will. This is probably why Don and a lot of Will's staff defected to his show.
- N-Word Privileges: When reporting on Rick Perry's hunting ranch, Elliot says it out loud and proud, on national television, the controversial name of said ranch: Niggerhead.
- Aaaand Gilligan Cut to Don and Elliot in Charlie's office, with Charlie screaming his head off.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Is the calmer, less abrasive blue oni to Don's red.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Don. They may bicker and insult each other (at one point it wasn't actually funny), but after Don got Elliot beaten up in Cairo, their relationship has sort of turned into this.
CEO of Atlantis World Media (AWM), the parent company of ACN
- Alliterative Name
- Actor Allusion: Jane Fonda plays the CEO of a major broadcasting company, similar to her real-life ex-husband and CNN founder Ted Turner.
- Big Bad: Technically an antagonist, as it is implied that she has principles and convictions but has to deal with politics, and so compromises her ideals for the greater good of the company. Downplayed in season 2, where she even gets a notable Pet the Dog moment.
- Hypocrite: Stumbles into the ACN bar while high as a kite after the Genoa hearings, almost an entire season after she tried to get Will fired for going on air under the influence of cannabis. Thankfully, it works to the team's advantage.
- Admittedly, she never says she's high. She was just behaving really... ditzy.
- Iron Lady
- Meaningful Name: Her name is taken from two highly successful businesswomen- Real estate developer Leona Helmsley, and former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing.
- Pet the Dog: She refuses to accept Will, Mack and Charlie's resignations after the Genoa incident, believing that Jerry Dantana is the one at fault, and promises to cover them with the best lawyers she can afford.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite the massive fallout, she recognizes that the entire Genoa incident was due to Jerry Dantana cooking up an interview, and the News Night team did their absolute best to report a credible story. She even goes so far as to admit even she might not have caught it, and refuses to accept their resignation.
- Screwed by the Network
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Charlie. They yell back and forth like they're going to kill each other, but she obviously has a great faith in the man.
- Also with Rebecca Halliday.
Reese Lansing (Chriss Messina)
President of AWM, and Leona's son.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Charlie blatantly disrespects him in front of the CEO (a.k.a. his own mother!) and could give less of a shit about Reese's attempts to exert his authority.
- Character Development: He becomes more on the side of Will and Company as the show progresses. But he makes it clear he can only protect Will and Company from the board if they are making money.
- Jerkass: Is only interested in ratings and viewership, and is constantly on Will, Mac and Charlie's asses to report entertaining fluff pieces instead real news.
- The Dragon: He is this to his mother.
- Momma's Boy: It's made pretty clear throughout the series he sucks up to his mother's favor a lot, but the most notable moment is when Charlie comes to him about filing the court settlement on him, Will and Mac. When Reese says he's tried everything in his power to do so, he admits he can't because his mother won't let him.
- The Reveal: The first two episodes make it seem Reese only has a job in the ratings department. We don't find out he is the President of AWM (and the CEO's son) until episode three.
- Smug Snake
- We Used to Be Friends: With Lucas Pruitt.
Nina Howard (Hope Davis)
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.
Jerome 'Jerry' Dantana (Hamish Linklater)
The Senior Producer from ACN's DC bureau, Jerry Dantana joins the News Night
team while Jim goes off to follow the election trail. Jerry is integral in sparking the crew's investigation into Operation Genoa.
- Batman Gambit: After being fired from ANC, he puts down Don as a reference on his resume in hopes that Don will say something libelous about Jerry so he has an excuse to further seek repatriations. It pans out exactly as he wanted.
- Intrepid Reporter: What he thinks he's being by investigating and exposing Genoa. Sadly, he compromises his journalistic ethics while doing so.
- Jerk Ass: Doesn't take criticism very lightly.
- Never My Fault: He sues News Night for unfair dismissal under the pretense of not investigating the Genoa story well enough, despite the fact he was the one pushing for it and he doctored the footage of a crucial interview.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: His actions not only cost him his job, but tarnished News Night and ACN's reputation.
- Old Friend: Of Mac's.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: More or less his reason for doctoring the footage of the Stomtonovich interview. He believes Genoa was real and needed to be brought to light at any cost.
- What the Hell, Hero?: From Mac when she finds out he doctored the footage of the Stomtonovich interview.
Lisa Lambert (Kelen Coleman)
Maggie's flatmate who starts a relationship with Jim.
- Alliterative Name
- 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.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Turns extremely vicious when she sees the video of Maggie confessing her feelings for Jim.
- Hypocrite: Accurate as her assessment in the above trope might be, Lisa conveniently forgets that she was more-or-less aware of the entire situation before she got involved, later tried to leave the situation once she realized several additional particularities, and then voluntarily re-entered the situation. All of which kind of undercut her ability to be mad about it.
- 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 bank fraud, 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'.
Kaylee (Natalie Morales)
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.
Dr. Jack Habib (David Krumholtz)
Will's current therapist, and the son of Will's (deceased) original therapist.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Got Will to stop pussyfooting around his psychological issues by asking "What are you fucking around with me for?"
- Deadpan Snarker: Probably one of the bigger ones of the series (which is no mean feat), seeing as how he can match and defeat Will at his own game.
- Precision F-Strike: "What are you fucking around with me for?"
- 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 (Ó 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.
- Mysterious Informant: Is this to Charlie.
- 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'.
- The Movie Buff: Tends to quote a lot movies in his conversations.
- Truth in Television: The thing he's trying to leak? It's real. It was leaked in real life about a year later.
Hallie Shea (Grace Gummer)
A reporter on the Romney bus tour that Jim meets. They end up dating.
Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden)
A litigator defending ACN from a wrongful termination suit following the Genoa debacle.
- Awesome by Analysis: She manages to piece the Genoa incident together over the course of her interviews (we're talking about an incident that took several months to materialize), and ferret out a lot of the uncomfortable personal details along the way.
- Deadpan Snarker: She often counters the News Night staff being very tense and occasionally hostile with jokes and weird tangents.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Surprisingly, with Leona Lansing. The two of them snipe and gossip with each other like college roommates.
Taylor Warren (Constance Zimmer)
Mitt Romney's Press Secretary whom Jim encounters while he's covering the campaign trail. She's later fired from her position and is recruited to cover the 2012 Presidential Elections at ACN.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Not that she was defeated by anyone at ACN, but after she was fired as Romney's press secretary, she gets hired by ACN to be a commentator alongside Will during the 2012 Presidential Elections. She was also looking to hire Jim, the guy who was nothing but annoying and belligerent during the campaign trail, for her new media consulting firm.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: She stonewalls Jim's questions at every single turn while on the campaign trail. Jim is a little Wrong Genre Savvy to notice that he's in the wrong place to be an intrepid reporter, and that Taylor is actually just doing her job.
- When Jim gives Hallie an exclusive interview with Mitt Romney instead of taking one for ACN, Taylor notifies Mac and gets Jim booted off the trail, and out of Taylor's hair once and for all.
- Undying Loyalty: She is fiercely loyal towards the Romney campaign and the Republican party, despite being fired as Romney's press secretary,