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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 Runner-Up: 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:
  • 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".
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  • 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.
  • 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 
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  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Richard Schiff was convinced to remain with the show in the seventh season, although he very vocally detested Toby's storyline, after being a full season's salary despite only appearing in a fraction of the episodes.
  • 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.
    • Bartlett'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 Bartlett 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.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Al Kiefer, Joey Lucas' ex-boyfriend, is Q.
    • The secretary of agriculture in Season 1 used to be Mayor of Sunnydale
    • In "Someone's Going to Emergency, Someone's Going to Jail", Sam has a chat with an FBI agent who will go on to be Phil Coulson.
    • C.J. is assigned a secret service agent that would later go on to join NCIS as Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
  • 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:
    • Sidney Poitier was considered for the role of The President. Alan Alda was also considered.
    • 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.
  • The Wiki Rule: The West Wing Wiki.


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