p: aaron sorkin

When we shot the scene in the National Cathedral where Bartlet’s walking down the aisle and cursing at God, first of all, we shot it at the National Cathedral in Washington. It’s a magnificent place. And, we were rehearsing, and I looked behind me and saw in the back of the room that a number of clergy had gathered, and I thought, ‘You know, I should tell them what’s about to happen. It seems like the least I can – the least rude I can be is to at least tell them what’s gonna happen.’
I walked up to the priest that was closest to me, and said 'I just wanted to let you know that Martin Sheen, in this scene we’re gonna do, he’s gonna curse at God.’
And the priest said, 'I know. It’s gonna be great.’
—  Aaron Sorkin (Two Cathedrals)
'The West Wing': Aaron Sorkin Reflects on the Last Episode He Wrote
Fourteen years later, Sorkin walks us through ‘Twenty Five,’ the dramatic conclusion of his tenure on the show

The idea came to me four years earlier during the first season. There’s an episode [‘Mr. Willis of Ohio’] in which Zoey is out with some friends on a Friday night just being a college kid, and she tries to give her Secret Service detail the slip. When she gets home, Bartlet scolds her and explains that the nightmare scenario isn’t him being assassinated, it’s her being kidnapped. Toward the end of the fourth season, I decided that I wanted to dramatize what I’d only thought of as a hypothetical in the first season. At this point, [executive producer] Tommy [Schlamme] and I were strongly considering leaving the show, so I wanted to make the end of the fourth season special and leave a story in place for whoever was going to take over.

I was interested in the ­Shakespearean aspect: a king in exile. Once the president has been relieved of his duties under the 25th Amendment, I wanted an opposing leader to take his place. That’s why I needed to get rid of the vice president, as unhappy as I was to lose the actor, Tim Matheson. I wanted part of the friction to be that Bartlet grows unhappy with some of the decisions being made. And I wanted suspicion — will the staff be loyal to the president or the acting president?

I was not writing with John Goodman in mind, but we were incredibly lucky to get him. You need a strong actor, someone who takes the stage as soon as he walks in. I remember shooting his first line, ‘Just breathe regular, everyone.’ There he was, John Goodman, an actor I’ve admired my whole life ever since I saw him play ­Huckleberry Finn’s father in Big River on Broadway.

I would’ve written that episode whether it was my final episode or not. This was a good story, and good stories are valuable. Leaving The West Wing was really tough for me. I loved the show, I loved my job, and I love everyone I worked with…but this felt like a good episode to leave on. It was dramatic, emotional, and it harkened back to something that had been planted in the first season.

- Aaron Sorkin

TV Helmer Tommy Schlamme: Why Now Is a Good Time for a 'West Wing' Reboot
The DGA Awards honoree, who is working on Dustin Lance Black's 'When We Rise' and John Singleton's 'Snowfall,' wishes a TV creator would emerge "with a way to tell stories, out of this mud, that celebrate public service."

What do you think might be the equivalent of your show’s walk-and-talk in Trump’s West Wing?

Honestly, I don’t have any idea what this guy’s White House is going to be like. None. If Mike Pence was president, I’d know that White House. It would be a contemporary version of Richard Nixon’s. The closest [for Trump] that I can think of is maybe The Fountainhead.

Do you think there’s room for a West Wing reboot on TV right now?

Those Washington-esque, political shows are pretty different now. House of Cards, which I admire, is pretty different than the valentine to public service that was underneath The West Wing. The pain for me in our world today is the lack of belief in an institution I so strongly believe in — the American government. Does it have its faults? Yeah, sure. But we’ve so demonized anyone who says they’re in politics. That’s what I think, as much as anything, that Trump exploited. I wish somebody did emerge, a young Aaron Sorkin, with a way to tell stories, out of this mud, that celebrate public service. Whoever reads this, write that show.


Watch Aaron Sorkin Tear Down Trump in a Powerful Stump Speech

“We’ve been told that as coastal elites, we’re something less than real Americans and that we’re out of touch. If you find it mind-boggling that living and working in the two largest cities in America makes you less than a real American, you’re not the one who’s out of touch. If you don’t find it remotely credible that three to five million people voted illegally in our last election, you’re not the one who’s out of touch. If you [don’t] think climate change is a global hoax being perpetrated by unscrupulous Chinese scientists in cahoots with every other scientist in a cunning long con to get grant money, you’re not the one who’s out of touch. If you [don’t] think the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News and CNN lie with impunity and that the only trustworthy new source is Fox and Friends, you’re not the one who’s out of touch. And if you don’t think that turning away people who are seeking a safe haven from unspeakable brutality is a morally defensible idea, then you’re not the one who’s less than a real American.”

“So what can we do? A lot, actually, because the most powerful delivery system ever invented for an idea is a story. The men and women in this room, and in one just like it in New York, are America’s storytellers. And we come from everywhere. We are old and young, black and white, gay and straight, wealthy and struggling, and yes, liberal and conservative. The most powerful delivery system ever invented for an idea is a story, and we’re America’s storytellers. And my dream of being one of you has come true.”

Aaron Sorkin’s Letter To His Daughter After Trump’s Victory

Sorkin Girls,

Well the world changed late last night in a way I couldn’t protect us from. That’s a terrible feeling for a father. I won’t sugarcoat it—this is truly horrible. It’s hardly the first time my candidate didn’t win (in fact it’s the sixth time) but it is the first time that a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn has.

And it wasn’t just Donald Trump who won last night—it was his supporters too. The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being “the fresh voice of an outsider” who’s going to “shake things up.” (Did anyone bother to ask how? Is he going to re-arrange the chairs in the Roosevelt Room?) For the next four years, the President of the United States, the same office held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R., J.F.K. and Barack Obama, will be held by a man-boy who’ll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance against all who criticize him (and those numbers will be legion). We’ve embarrassed ourselves in front of our children and the world.

And the world took no time to react. The Dow futures dropped 7,000 points overnight. Economists are predicting a deep and prolonged recession. Our NATO allies are in a state of legitimate fear. And speaking of fear, Muslim-Americans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans are shaking in their shoes. And we’d be right to note that many of Donald Trump’s fans are not fans of Jews. On the other hand, there is a party going on at ISIS headquarters. What wouldn’t we give to trade this small fraction of a man for Richard Nixon right now?

So what do we do?

First of all, we remember that we’re not alone. A hundred million people in America and a billion more around the world feel exactly the same way we do.

Second, we get out of bed. The Trumpsters want to see people like us (Jewish, “coastal elites,” educated, socially progressive, Hollywood…) sobbing and wailing and talking about moving to Canada. I won’t give them that and neither will you. Here’s what we’ll do…

…we’ll fucking fight. (Roxy, there’s a time for this kind of language and it’s now.) We’re not powerless and we’re not voiceless. We don’t have majorities in the House or Senate but we do have representatives there. It’s also good to remember that most members of Trump’s own party feel exactly the same way about him that we do. We make sure that the people we sent to Washington—including Kamala Harris—take our strength with them and never take a day off.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. Our family is fairly insulated from the effects of a Trump presidency so we fight for the families that aren’t. We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

America didn’t stop being America last night and we didn’t stop being Americans and here’s the thing about Americans: Our darkest days have always—always—been followed by our finest hours.

Roxy, I know my predictions have let you down in the past, but personally, I don’t think this guy can make it a year without committing an impeachable crime. If he does manage to be a douche nozzle without breaking the law for four years, we’ll make it through those four years. And three years from now we’ll fight like hell for our candidate and we’ll win and they’ll lose and this time they’ll lose for good. Honey, it’ll be your first vote.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.



This guy’s walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, “Hey you, can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”
—  Leo McGarry, The West Wing

Today, Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom feels more relevant than ever.

“Reclaiming the Fourth Estate. Reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession. A nightly newscast that informs a debate worthy of a great nation. Civility, respect, and a return to what’s important. The death of bitchiness, the death of gossip and voyeurism”….Speaking truth to stupid.” - MacKenzie McHale, (We Just Decided To, Season One, Episode One)