Trivia / The West Wing

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Hoynes' line about his alcoholism - "I liked beer a little bit too much in college." - may reference actor Tim Matheson's previous role as a drunken lout in the classic movie Animal House.
    • Abigail Bartlet makes a Sesame Street appearance to mollify the public about her having resumed medical work after voluntarily surrendering her license in the wake of a political scandal over her misusing it. Talking with the president's secretary about the Muppets' impending arrival, Abbey makes various knowledgeable remarks about the distinctions between the casts of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, likely a reference to actress Stockard Channing's having appeared in several of the "Mad Painter" sketches on Sesame Street in the 1970s.
    • Josh wears a Wesleyan shirt in one episode; he didn't go there, but Bradley Whitford did.
    • To Malina's character Jeremy from Sorkin's Sports Night:
    Toby: There were maybe four people in the room when I had that conversation.
    Will: Well, if I'd have been one of them, I would have repeated it to everyone I met.
    • Which is exactly what he did on an episode of Sports Night a few years prior:
    Isaac: Things that I say in my office stay in my office.
    Dana: Natalie's my second-in-command, she's the only one I told.
    Natalie: Jeremy's my boyfriend, he's the only one I told.
    Jeremy: I told many, many people.
  • But I Play One on TV: After the first season, people around Hollywood started treating Martin Sheen like he was the President for real.
  • Casting Gag: Casting noted liberal Alan Alda as Republican senator and presidential candidate Arnold Vinick certainly qualifies as this.
  • The Character Died with Him: John Spencer's death from a heart attack was written into the show. Several episodes where he was still alive aired after Martin Sheen's tribute to him before one episode, and the in-universe death occurs on "Election Night".
  • The Danza:
    • Connie Britton as Connie Tate during the re-election cycle.
    • Oliver Platt as Oliver Babish.
  • Defictionalization: The White House introduced a real-life (virtual) Big Block of Cheese Day in 2014.
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Marlee Matlin (Joey Lucas) is deaf in real life.
  • Executive Meddling: Sorkin wanted to get Josh and Donna together. He kept being told "Wait another season!" The chemistry was apparent from the pilot and didn't get fulfilled until the last season.
  • Fan Nickname: "Mandyville" is the fandom's name for Chuck Cunningham Syndrome and Put on a Bus, after main character Mandy Hampton vanishes between seasons, never to be spoken of again... even though the President and Josh were shot in the last episode she appeared in.note 
  • Flip-Flop of God: Regarding the series finale. Lawrence O'Donnell said that the original plan was to have Vinick win, but after John Spencer's death they changed it to Santos to make it easier on the audience. John Wells, however, says this wasn't the case.
  • Life Imitates Art:
    • The last season saw the election of Matthew Santos as POTUS, Santos's character was based on Barack Obama after the show's creators met him while still an Illinois state senator. The real life "Josh" (Rahm Emmanuel) also took over as Chief of Staff.
    • Santos' Republican opponent Arnold Vinick was loosely based on John McCain - Southwestern Senator with bipartisan appeal. The mind-blowing thing is that Santos and Vinick run in 2006... two years before the Real Life election of 2008, and when there was no guarantee that either Obama or McCain would win their respective nominations (The front-runners in 2008 were Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mitt Romney).
    • In "Welcome to Wherever You Are", there's a brief scene where we overhear a Vinick ad using the slogan "Yes, America Can", which the Santos campaign complains was actually their slogan. Obama's slogan, of course, ended up being "Yes We Can".
    • After Santos wins the election, he offers Vinick the position of Secretary Of State. While it doesn't go across-the-aisle as it does in the show, in real life, President-Elect Obama offers the job of Secretary Of State to his party rival in the 2008 election, former first lady Hillary Clinton. She serves in the position for four years before resigning in February, 2013, before ultimately running once again in the 2016 election.
  • Reality Subtext: Ron Silver switched parties from Democrat to Republican between his character's appearances on the show.
    • Jimmy Smits (Matt Santos) was arrested in 2001 for his participation in protests against U.S. Navy bombing practices on the Puerto Rican offshore island of Vieques, which is exactly what happened to Josh's friend Billy Molina in an early episode.
      • Jimmy Smits, like Santos, is a firm believer in education as the great equalizer and has done lots of nonprofit work to promote that goal.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Juno and Skeeter Phelan's mom was the White House press secretary (after work as Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's high school guidance counselor), and Gus used to be the President's personal aide.
    • Calleigh Dusquesne was a Blonde Republican Sex Kitten before joining up with Horatio and co.
    • Dr. Lisa Cuddy is a call girl! (Though, I'm pretty sure House already made that joke).
    • Congressman David Wallace argued against gays in the military before becoming CFO of Dunder-Mifflin.
    • Ron Swanson as a wildlife campaigner. Who'd have thought...
    • Admiral Adama as a judge!
    • Sometime between retiring as Chief of Police of New York City and raising a four generation cop family, Henry Reagan ran a drug company trying to work out a deal with AIDS-stricken African nations.
    • Leroy Jethro Gibbs as secret service protection for the Press Secretary.
    • Before he worked for SHIELD, Agent Coulson was Special Agent Michael Casper of the FBI.
    • MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell was Bartlet's dad, who (in the words of Mrs Landingham) was "a prick who could never get over the fact that he wasn't as smart as his brothers".
    • Cedric Daniels plays a DC cop in "In Excelcis Deo."
    • Danny Pudi has a single line in season 7, his earliest known acting credit.
    • Who can forget Peggy Olson being the President's youngest daughter?
    • Before Jim Harper was an EP, he volunteered for Bartlet in Indiana.
  • Stunt Casting:
    • Alda and Smits in season six-seven. James Brolin in season three-four.
    • Not to mention Martin "President Bartlet" Sheen.
    • Another example would be Matthew Perry's casting as a White House counsel (although he predictably fit in rather well). Christian Slater, on the other hand....
  • Technology Marches On: The show started off with beepers and accordion envelopes. By the fourth season everyone has a cell phone and... well the accordion envelopes were still there, just with computers on top of that, too.
  • Throw It In: CJ's performance of The Jackal. Allison Janney used to use it to entertain her castmates.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Kristin Chenoweth (Annabeth Schott) was originally approached to play Ainsley Hayes but could not commit to a television series due to Wicked.
    • Sidney Poitier was considered for the role of The President. Alan Alda and Jason Robards were also possibilities.
    • Mandy would have come back for an episode later on, but this didn't pan out.
    • Sorkin intended Zoe's kidnappers to be domestic terrorists, which was why Nancy McNally said that it was probably a cheap-shot operation in the episode when it happened, and there were many incidents with domestic terrorists throughout the season. The new showrunners went with generic Muslim terrorists who were mad about Sharif.