Dulé Hill:There were times when the giggles would just happen, especially in the Oval Office. You would just get delirious. They were always long days. It was a beautiful set, and it looked lovely, but when you have five or six people in the Oval Office, and you gotta keep covering… It became a long day. Hence where I started to come up with my trick.
Josh Malina:I was wondering if we were going to get to this! I know exactly where you’re going.
Dulé Hill:I always knew exactly how to position myself, if I only had one or two lines, I would guarantee you, in the blocking, I was going to find a way to be in a shot by myself away from everybody else. So by the time we’d do the master, I’d be like, “Uh, excuse me? All I gotta say is, ‘Yes, Mr. President.’ and ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’ So can we just do this pop on me real quick?” Then I would be out!
Josh Malina:Unbelievable! I remember I’d be there for the last four hours going, “Where the hell is Dulé? I can’t believe he’s home already.” This is the evolution of an actor: from “Praise the lord! Thank you for this job!” to “I think I know a way to get out four hours early.”
Dulé Hill:It’s called The Dulé Hill School of Acting.
Richard Schiff: You wanna know a really cool moment from Mr. Willis of Ohio? I was experimenting- What year was that?
Hrishi Hirway: 1999.
Richard Schiff: That was the first year? I was experimenting already with the way I was with this character, and experimenting with neutrality. I was like, “I’m going to fuck around with this.” In the very last scene we’re at a poker table. I get up and say, “I just want to see the vote.” I’m looking at this screen, and they don’t have the picture! Normally I would want the picture so that I could react to it. So I’m literally going, “I don’t know what my reaction is going to be!” I’m not going to have a reaction, I’m going to create one, which I’d rather not do. It was just a green screen. I’m looking at it thinking, “I wonder what my reaction would be… I’m going to think about something else. I’m just going to look at the screen, and think about that.” Two days later Tommy (Schlamme) comes up to me, because he sees it in editing, he doesn’t see it on the day, two or three days later he comes running up to me. He goes, “That was the most brilliant bit of non-verbal acting I’ve ever seen! It was phenomenal! We were all talking about it in the editing room!” I never told him what I was actually thinking. You know what I was thinking?
Josh Malina: “What’s for lunch?”
Hrishi Hirway: Neutral face?
Richard Schiff: No. It wasn’t so neutral… I was looking at the screen thinking, “What would it be like to have sex with Allison Janney?”
Fifteen years ago, Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing aired for the first time on American television. The show was an idealized view of liberal American politics that invited viewers inside a White House populated by whip-smart, quixotic and impossibly witty people. It confounded the belief that political dramas didn’t work on television, running for seven years and gaining 26 Emmys along the way. With writing, acting and production of a quality then only found in cinemas, The West Wing did for network television what the Sopranos would simultaneously do for cable, elevating the medium to a different level and paving the way for a new golden era of home entertainment.
The problem with Josh is he has no sense of proportion. It’s like you shake hands with a hand buzzer, then he will pick your daughter up from school and not tell you. The sickest things were the small shit he used to do. I was always reading books on the set and he would tear the last few pages out of them! Also, at one point I was going through a really difficult time and I had this very sweet assistant who would write little supportive aphorisms on post-its and leave them in my dressing room, like: “I have the time and space to do everything that I need to do.” Little things like that. And Josh, who would apparently always go into my dressing room, would take those down and put things like, “There is no happiness. The reward is death.” “Will I ever work again?”