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".
  • Creator Backlash: Richard Schiff hated his storyline in Season 7, and it was many years before he started appearing in TV roles again, not wanting to risk again spending years crafting a character only to be forced by the writing to betray him.
  • The Danza:
  • Defictionalization: The White House introduced a real-life (virtual) Big Block of Cheese Day in 2014.
    • In 2006, the British parliament enacted the stunt depicted in "A Good Day" (2005), an event now known in Parliamentary history as "The West Wing Plot".
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Marlee Matlin (Joey Lucas) is deaf in real life.
  • Executive Meddling: Aaron 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.
    • Vice President John Hoynes almost seems like a canny Expy of real-life senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards... except most of the things that create the similarity to Edwards happened after the show aired. Both men were forced to endure a failed Presidential campaign and a career-destroying sex scandal hinging around infidelity.
  • 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. Additionally, Smits, like Santos, is a firm believer in education as the great equalizer and has done lots of nonprofit work to promote that goal.
  • Real-Life Relative: Martin Sheen's son Emilio Estevez played the younger Bartlett in "Twenty-Five".
  • Star-Making Role: Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford's profiles significantly increased because of the show, especially the former.
  • 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.
    • According to Liza Weil on the "West Wing Weekly" podcast, there was some talk of making the Karen Larsen character a recurring presence following "Take Out the Trash Day", but it ultimately didn't come to fruition.
    • There was an option for Ainsley Hayes to make further appearances in the fourth season. However, Emily Procter was eventually offered the chance to be a series regular on CSI: Miami, and therefore Ainsley did not appear again until late into the final season.
    • When Rob Lowe announced he would be leaving the show in the fourth season, among the names considered to replace him were Dermot Mulroney, Judd Nelson, Macaulay Culkin and Jon Cryer.