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Trivia / The West Wing

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  • ...But I Play One on TV: After the first season, people around Hollywood started treating Martin Sheen like he was the President for real.
  • Cast the Expert: Every person in uniform during the funeral in "In Excelsis Deo" is an actual member of the United States Armed Forced, performing their roles exactly as they would during a genuine military funeral.
  • Cast the Runner-Up:
    • Alan Alda was considered for the President. He eventually joined the series Oval Office candidate Arnold Vinick.
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    • Kristin Chenoweth (Annabeth Schott) was originally approached to play Ainsley Hayes but could not commit to a television series due to Wicked.
  • 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:
    • Rob Lowe has consistently lashed out against the powers that be over Sam Seaborne's diminishing role as well as constant refusal, on Warner Bros.' part, to renegotiate his salary even though everyone else on the cast received significant raises. These are what led to his early exit from the series.
    • Richard Schiff hated his storyline in Season 7note , 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:
    • Connie Britton as Connie Tate during the re-election cycle.
    • Oliver Platt as Oliver Babish.
  • The Other Darrin: Sterling K. Brown replaces John Spencer as Leo McGarry in the HBO Max Special after the latter passed away in the final season of the original series.
  • 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".
  • Directed by Cast Member: Richard Schiff directed two episodes in the later seasons ("Talking Points" from season 5 and "A Good Day" from season 6). Tim Matheson, who played John Hoynes, directed the seventh season episode "The Last Hurrah".
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy:
    • Mary-Louise Parker was pregnant during season five which resulted in a lot of loose jackets, conveniently placed folders and close-ups on her face as she sat behind a desk.
    • Mary McCormack was pregnant when she joined the show so most of her early episodes see her conveniently standing behind parts of the set that hide her belly.
    • Averted when Marlee Matlin and NiCole Robinson both got pregnant in the later seasons. Since Joey Lucas and Margaret were minor characters they were both established as being pregnant when their actresses were.
  • 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.
    • One pointed criticism of the fictional Bartlet Presidency is that he basically gets nothing done and spends most of his time compromising with Republicans who water down every attempt at progressive policy. The same thing happened in reality to the Obama presidency and after Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump who has spent most of his time as President demolishing whatever minimal legacy Obama left.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Richard Schiff hated Toby's storyline and only stayed for the seventh season by getting a full seasons worth of pay for what was a handful of appearances.
  • 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.
    • Bartlet's struggles with MS mirror late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone's affliction with the same disease.
  • Real-Life Relative: Martin Sheen's son Emilio Estevez played the younger Bartlet in "Twenty-Five".
    • Sheen's daughter Renée Estevez had a recurring role as Nancy, one of Bartlet's secretaries. Subtly lampshaded in the series finale when Bartlet stops to speak to Nancy and mentions that he's looking forward to seeing her mother once he leaves office.
  • Star-Making Role: Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford's profiles significantly increased because of the show, especially the former.
  • Stunt Casting:
  • Technology Marches On: The show started off with beepers and accordion envelopes. Cell phones are rare enough in early seasons that it's not considered unusual for senior staffers like Josh to not carry one (Donna has to hand him hers if someone tries to reach him out of the office). 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. In later seasons, people start being glued to Blackberries, then at the height of their popularity (before being pushed out by Apple and Google).
  • Throw It In!: CJ's performance of The Jackal. Allison Janney used to use it to entertain her castmates.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Sidney Poitier was considered for the role of The President, but his asking price was too high.
    • 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 Judd Nelson, Macaulay Culkin and Jon Cryer.
    • Robbie Coltrane was offered a role, but had to turn it down due to his commitment to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  • The Wiki Rule: The West Wing Wiki.


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