TV - The West Wing Staff

The West Wing

Steve Taylor-Bryant, he has decided to look back at some of his favourites. This week he looks at The West Wing...

The West Wing had some glorious characters played by a group of actors that performed to their very best. American politics, long maligned by a disinterested public, was brought to life by Sports Night creator Aaron Sorkin who assembled a cast of talent whose chemistry was instant. From Hollywood royalty, in the shape of Martin Sheen, came a left leaning Democratic president, hiding MS and struggling with violent acts sometimes carried out in the name of governance, and I was in awe watching him perform. However, there were other characters I related to, that went through similar mental and physical struggles as I myself had/have. These are the guys and gals that kept me transfixed each week and who I can watch over and over again. My Top 5 West Wing staffers.

5 - CJ Cregg (Allison Janney)


CJ Cregg

Claudia Jean "C. J." Cregg was White House Press Secretary. A Catholic like the president, she hails from Dayton, Ohio, where her beginnings qualify as a bit more humble than many of her high-society Washington D.C. colleagues, as her father was a high school maths teacher - not a powerful attorney or political figure. She is extremely sharp, known for her wit, and can be devastating in an argument. Her outspoken approach is both a boon to her career and has resulted in death threats from certain contingents.

Quote - from Galileo (Season 2 ep 9)

C.J. Cregg: We have at our disposal a captive audience of schoolchildren. Some of them don't go to the blackboard or raise their hand 'cause they think they're going to be wrong. I think you should say to these kids, "You think you get it wrong sometimes, you should come down here and see how the big boys do it." I think you should tell them you haven't given up hope and that it may turn up, but, in the meantime, you want NASA to put its best people in a room and you want them to start building Galileo 6. Some of them will laugh and most of them won't care but for some, they might honestly see that it's about going to the blackboard and raising your hand. And that's the broader theme.

4 - Toby Zeigler (Richard Schiff)


Toby Zeigler

Tobias Zachary 'Toby' Ziegler is the White House Communications Director. He too hails from a working class background, growing up in Brooklyn. His father was an immigrant with ties to organised crime, a past that complicates his relationship with his upstanding son. With a reputation of being somewhat dour, he is idealistic like many of his colleagues in the Bartlet administration and often unwilling to compromise his values, even if others argue it would be for the greater good. Extremely intelligent with an acerbic wit, he is grammar snob and a highly gifted writer.

Quote - from Pilot (season 1, ep 1)

Toby Ziegler: I'm going to make a suggestion which might help you out, but I don't want this gesture to be mistaken for an indication that I like you.

3 - Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe)


Sam Seaborn

Sam Seaborn is Deputy White House Communications Director having earned the position by working on the "Bartlet for America" presidential campaign with great success, helping to mould Bartlet into a candidate that the public, and other politicians, come to take very seriously. He often writes the president's high-profile speeches along with Toby, including the State of the Union Address and remains a fervent idealist with a fervent love of the political process and a strong belief that government makes a positive impact on the lives of America's citizens. He always does what is "right," even when the political fallout is potentially catastrophic.

Quote - from Six Meetings Before Lunch (Season 1, ep 18)

Sam Seaborn: Mallory, education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.

2 - Leo McGarry (John Spencer)


Leo McGarry

Irish and hailing from Chicago, Leo McGarry served as White House Chief of Staff until his untimely death. He was the President's best friend and was widely known as being responsible for convincing the future POTUS to run for the office. After the "Bartlet for America" campaign, he became his friend's closest advisor and a father figure to the White House staff, most notably Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman and Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn. A recovering alcoholic, a veteran of the Vietnam War and incredibly wealthy, Leo was intimately involved in the creation of policy and the day-to-day operations of the administration and often described as the man who actually ran the White House, rather than Bartlet, and was greatly respected by both Democrats and Republicans alike.

Quote - from Noel (Season 2, ep 10)

Leo McGarry: [after Josh finishes an intensive therapy session set up by Leo with a trauma therapist, Josh walks past Leo in a nearby hallway of the White House] How'd it go?

Josh Lyman: Did you wait around for me?

Leo McGarry: How'd it go?

Josh Lyman: He thinks I may have an eating disorder...

Leo McGarry: [bemused] Josh...

Josh Lyman: ...and a fear of rectangles. That's not weird, is it?

[pause]

Josh Lyman: I didn't cut my hand on a glass. I broke a window in my apartment.

Leo McGarry: 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."

[pause]

Leo McGarry: Long as I got a job, you got a job, you understand?


1 - Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford)


Bradley Whitford

Joshua Lyman is the long time White House Deputy Chief of Staff. The son of a high-powered attorney in a New York law firm and a graduate of Harvard and Yale, he defected from another promising campaign to join the Bartlet team after hearing the future president speak, noting the man's honesty, candour and integrity. Josh is extremely intelligent, witty and self assured, almost cocky, but also very charming. Though idealistic, he earns his reputation as aggressive through strong-arm tactics like intimidation, threats and even blackmail in the pursuit of doing the right thing and what he believes in. There is however a darker side and he is haunted by a history marked by struggle and tragedy.

Quote - Isaac and Ishmael (Season 3 ep 1)

Josh Lyman: [on what to do with terrorists] I'd put 'em in a small cell and make them watch home movies of the birthdays and baptisms and weddings of every single person they killed over and over everyday for the rest of their lives. And then they'd get punched in the mouth every night at bedtime.

Images, character info and quotes - IMDb.