Actor Alan Alda’s father wanted him to become a doctor, but it wasn’t meant to be. “I failed chemistry really disastrously … ” Alda says. “I really didn’t want to be a doctor; I wanted to be a writer and an actor.”

Which is exactly what happened. But Alda didn’t leave science behind entirely. His new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, is all about communication — and miscommunication — between scientists and civilians.

Alan Alda’s Experiment: Helping Scientists Learn To Talk To The Rest Of Us

That’s actually not correct. That was reported in The New York Times, I think, first. Here’s what happened: Jimmy Smits was approached to play Matt Santos by John Wells… we all (the writers) thought the first non-white President of the United States was going to be Latino, because those were the demographics. That’s just what we thought might happen, so why not lead in that direction in a small way, and just depict that? It would be something not totally unrealistic, something that we can explore that’s another kind of wish-fulfillment. So, Jimmy Smits was approached for the role. When Jimmy was approached, I think he was told, or asked, “Would you like to take this role? You will be the President on the show if it continues that long. You would be the person to succeed Martin Sheen.” Even when we cast Alan Alda, as far as I know, we knew our winner going in. We weren’t going to turn the show into a republican show.
—  West Wing Writer/Producer Eli Attie on reports that Arnold Vinick was originally supposed to win the presidency over Matt Santos