SORKIN - Up until the pilot aired, no one knew that the abbreviation for President of the United States was POTUS. Sam says it at the beginning.
WHITFORD - I thought it was some sort of sexual euphemism.
SHEEN - I said, “I don’t really know how you want me to play this — and who is this guy, Jed Bartlet?” Aaron said, “He’s you, Martin. You don’t have to go anywhere. You just have to go inside.” That’s what I did.
MOLONEY - During my first scene, Leo comes in and asks for Josh, so I turn around and scream “Josh!” without getting up from my chair. Leo replies, “I could have done that, Donna.” We did a couple of takes, and afterwards John said, “You’re going to be here until the curtain comes down. ” He was the first person to say that.
SCHIFF - I had to recite all this aeronautical nomenclature to the stewardess on a plane after she told me to shut off my cell phone. It was the beginning of a tradition of both drinking in Allison’s trailer and being ambushed with a four-page monologue that you’d have to shoot that day after lunch.
JANNEY - Martin was always eating. I think he took the job for craft services, because he always had food in his mouth while they were trying to shoot.
Janel Moloney: Those walk-and-talks, all that stuff is so much fun, and really challenging. You can’t act, because you’re just trying to not run into the cameraman, and not run into each other.
Richard Schiff: It’s also known as “The Walk-and-Trip” that was named after me, I believe. Walk-and-talks were tough in the early days, because we hadn’t mastered the art of learning every syllable word for word.
Allison Janney: I fucking loved it! I loved walk-and-talks. There was a fluidity and a continuity to the scenes. You were in a relay race and if you had to come in on the third hallway pass and you fucked up, it was like, “Oh my God!” It was this really exhilarating game and the perfect way to keep a show about politics active, exciting and fast-paced.
Richard Schiff: Plus you had actors that came from live theatre and it felt like you’re doing a play. Every time we did a three or four minute walk-and-talk, the exhilaration of going on stage would be a part of it.
Rob Lowe: Trying to execute that kind of intricate staging at the same time you’re doing intricate dialogue – it’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach! (x)
You know what the worst part about this is? It’s the party they’re having in the West Wing right now at my expense. They like to win, and then they like to gloat. I’m sure you’re wrong. There are very serious men and women at the White House. There’s no cause to gloat.
“I have such an impulse to knock your heads together. I can’t remember the last time I heard you two talk about anything other than how a campaign was playing in Washington. Cathy needed to take a second job so her dad could be covered by her insurance. She tried to tell you how bad things were for family farmers. You told her we already lost Indiana. You made fun of the fair but you didn’t see they have livestock exhibitions and give prizes for the biggest tomato and the best heirloom apple. They’re proud of what they grow. Eight modes of transportation, the kindness of six strangers, random conversations with twelve more, and nobody brought up Bartlet versus Ritchie but you. I’m writing letters, on your behalf to the parents of the kids who were killed today. Can I have the table, please?“
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.