After Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland won an Emmy for writing the episode "In Excelsis Deo," only Sorkin spoke at the awards ceremony. Cleveland published an article in Writers Guild Magazine expressing his disappointment at not being allowed to speak because the homeless veteran aspect of the episode's plot was based on Cleveland's own father, who was a veteran who died a homeless alcoholic. Sorkin (writing under the user name "Benjamin," his real-life middle name) posted on the TV message board mightybigtv.com (later renamed televisionwithoutpity.com) that he had written most of the episode and had only given Cleveland a co-writing credit as a courtesy because Cleveland had worked on a previous draft that, according to Sorkin, bore no resemblance to the final shooting script. Sorkin also said that this was true of almost all of the _"The West Wing" (1999)_ scripts written up to that point (mid-2001), that he was the true and only writer of nearly all West Wing episodes, and the rest of the writing staff only helped him with research and "kick[ing] ideas around" - so he gave "them each a Story by credit on a rotating basis...by way of a gratuity." This internet posting attracted a great deal of mainstream press attention, which led Sorkin to post again, this time retracting his claim of exclusive writing credit. The "LemonLymon.com" subplot in the season 3 episode "The U.S. Poet Laureate" (in which Josh posts on a website dedicated to his fans and sees it come back to haunt him) is based on this series of events.
In 2011, actor Kal Penn told The New York Times that on the first night of his job in the Obama Administration's White House Office of Public Engagement, he was at the office until 11 P.M., and suggested to his colleagues that they order in some Chinese food. When his new coworkers told him that ordering food deliveries is not actually allowed in the White House, Penn's response was: "but they do it on West Wing!"
When he asked C.J. (Allison Janney) out on a date, Danny said, "I enjoy movies, I enjoy music, I'm not wild about ice-skating, but what the hell, I'll do it." Allison Janney trained throughout her childhood to be an Olympic figure skater.
At the 2000 Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Awards (the Emmys), the show won a record nine Emmy awards - the most for any season of a television series - and it was also only in its first season.
The set was the largest constructed for both a pilot and a television series to date. It was so large that during the first season it had to be housed on two stages, each with an identical yellow corridor for continuity. During the hiatus between the first and second seasons, the set was moved to a larger stage and put together, where it has remained ever since.
On the set of the series one day, Allison Janney was entertaining the cast and crew by lip-synching to an obscure spoken jazz piece called "The Jackal", by Ronnie Jordan. Aaron Sorkin liked it so much that he wrote it into the next episode of the show ("Six Meetings Before Lunch") as a ritual of C.J.'s.
Leo's "Big Block of Cheese" story is true. Andrew Jackson received an enormous block of cheese from the people of New York and, when he hadn't touched it in two years, gave it to the people of D.C. to celebrate Washington's birthday. They finished it in two hours.
Two characters on "The West Wing" share the same distinctive names as two people involved with the Nixon presidency. Ronald L. Ziegler was Nixon's press secretary, while the Director of Communications in "The West Wing" is called Toby Zeigler. Alexander Butterfield was a deputy assistant to Nixon, while the Secret Service agent assigned to President Bartett is named Ron Butterfield.
Janel Moloney was never supposed to be a regular. Co-star Bradley Whitford pointed out the obvious chemistry between the characters of Josh and Donna, and Aaron Sorkin agreed. Nevertheless, Moloney was credited as a guest star for the entire first season. The first time her name appears in the opening credits is in Episode 2.1 "In The Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part I"
The character of Mandy (played by Moira Kelly) was abandoned after the first season. Aaron Sorkin and Kelly both agreed that the character had run its course. However, Sorkin never explained on the show what happened to Mandy - the character just disappeared. This gave birth to the term "Mandyville", a reference to where characters go when they disappear from a series.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote an open letter addressed to Josh Lyman when he suggested closing a military base in upstate New York on the show. In the same letter she praised Toby Ziegler for saving Social Security in an earlier episode.
Aaron Sorkin told Entertainment Weekly that the first actor he and the producers wanted to play President Bartlet was Sidney Poitier. That idea was abandoned when Poitier's fee was, in Thomas Schlamme's words, "very high", and John Wells was able to ascertain that Poitier was not interested when his manager asked Wells to stop calling.
Some of the exterior shots of the West Wing office were filmed on location at the South Portico of the Headquarters of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution on 1776 D Street NW in Washington D.C.
Martin Sheen also played the president (albeit in another character's premonition) in the 1983 movie The Dead Zone (1983). However, whereas his character in "The West Wing" is a good man and benevolent leader, in "The Dead Zone" he was a twisted, evil tyrant intent on nuclear Armageddon.
The show has a strong connection to the "Revenge of the Nerds" series of movies. Bradley Whitford, who plays Josh Lyman, played Roger in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise (1987). Timothy Busfield, who played Danny Concannon in several episodes, was Arnold Poindexter in the first two "Revenge..." movies. Ted McGinley, who has played anchorman Mark Gottfried in several episodes, played Stan Gable in the first, third, and fourth "Revenge..." movies. James Hong, who played the Chinese ambassador in an episode, played Snotty in the second movie. John Goodman, who played President Glenallen Walken, was the football coach in Revenge of the Nerds (1984). James Cromwell played Mr. Skolnick in all four Nerds movies played former President Newman. F. William Parker was the policeman in the first Nerds movie played Rev. Caldwell in the pilot episode.
The drive-up "West Wing" entrance most often filmed for the show is actually a set used to cover a large door to one of the two sound stages used by the production company. It's located at the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California, and can be seen from the street by looking in off Forest Lawn Drive (although often obscured by the many trailers used by the show's actors).
The set is supposedly so realistic that Warner Brothers studio tour groups are not permitted inside the sound stages where the show is filmed due to White House security concerns. (Some exterior sets, including the South Portico, may be viewed on the tour.)
This was the first American drama series to react to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Aaron Sorkin wrote a special episode ("Isaac and Ishmael") that was filmed and broadcast within only a couple of weeks. The episode, which featured the lead characters discussing a terrorist threat upon the US and being locked down inside the White House due to the name of a man on a Terrorist Watch List matching that of an (innocent) White House worker, was not considered part of "West Wing" continuity.
At the beginning of the show's sixth season, Israel's ambassador flew from Washington DC to Los Angeles to visit the set of the show. He met with most of the crew and explained to them the details of Israel's relations with the US. This helped the crew while filming, as the sixth season of the show is dedicated to Middle Eastern relations.
In a 2006 LA Times article, real-life former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers (a consultant on the show), revealed that the relationship between press secretary C.J. Cregg and reporter Danny Concannon was based upon her own relationship with and eventual marriage to former New York Times White House correspondent Todd Purdum, although unlike C.J. and Danny, Meyers and Purdum never dated until after Myers left the White House. The same article also revealed that Josh and Donna's relationship was also based upon real White House staffers, albeit ones who never dated.
The campaign episodes from the 6th season that were meant to take place in New Hampshire and Iowa were in fact shot in Canada in the town of Dundas, Ontario, and the airport scenes were at the Hamilton International Airport.
The theme music for "Capitol Beat", the news show hosted by Ted McGinley, is actually the theme music for the UK's Independent Television News (ITN)'s News At Ten/Night Time News bulletin, a genuine and award-winning news program. The theme is a short passage taken from a piece by Johnny Pearson called "The Awakening", itself part of a longer composition called "20th Century Portrait".
Kylie Tyndall and Keaton Tyndall were set to appear in scenes of an episode filmed at Los Angeles Public Library. While filming the scene the sprinklers went off due to the heat caused by the production lights. The scenes were ultimately scrapped from the episode.
The California assembly was adjourned by a San Francisco democrat for the purposes of mourning the death of Dolores Landingham, President Bartlett's secretary in the first two series, when she died in a car accident. The actress Kathryn Joosten lived on.
Annabeth Schott's resume says that she was a valedictorian at Barwood High School, got a BA from Business Administration University and a political science degree from Georgetown University. Her resume also says she served as the secretary to a senator, executive assistant to the assistant Secretary of State and assistant to the president of cultural affairs at Maryland University.
Traditionally, during a Republican administration, a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt is hung in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House and, during a Democratic administration, a portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt is hung there (the former Roosevelt being a Republican and the latter a Democrat). In the Roosevelt Room of the Bartlet White House, portraits of both Roosevelts are hung.
At the end of its run in May 2006 and celebrated at its final Emmy appearance in August 2006, The West Wing (1999) ended up with a grand total of 26 Emmys, the most in history for a drama series, tied with Hill Street Blues (1981).
Although Lily Tomlin did not join the cast (playing Deborah Fiderer) until episode 22 of season three in 2002, her character was mentioned all the way back in episode 3 of season one ("A Proportional Response") as Debbie DiLaguardia, the White House personnel employee who first sent Charlie's resume to Josh's attention. The name discrepancy is explained when she corrects Charlie (who has warmly greeted her as Mrs. DiLaguardia) by pointing out that she is no longer married to Mr. DiLaguardia, and she's plain old Ms. Fiderer now.
In the opening credits, there is a still shot of Martin Sheen's character, President Bartlett leaning on a desk with his head bowed. We see him from the back. This was a direct tribute to the famous photograph of President John F. Kennedy taken during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The only difference is that JFK was holding a cigar in his hand.
During one of the shootings in Georgetown, filming at about three o'clock in the morning, an irate lady reportedly came out in a bathrobe with a bunch of guys. She said: 'What the hell's going on? I have an early morning at the State Department. And, by the way, you people don't even have a Secretary of State on your show. And I think you should have one and it should be a woman.' The woman was Madeleine Albright.
After being advised by Josh that "she (C.J. Cregg) likes goldfish..." Danny Concannon mistakenly gives C.J. a live goldfish in a bowl as opposed to the snack-food variety. The goldfish and goldfish bowl then become permanent parts of a C.J.'s office decor, and whenever the bowl appears on camera, the centerpiece/decoration is always changed to match a popular theme from that episode, or the relevant holiday season - e.g. a turkey, a Christmas tree, a space shuttle, a podium, and so on.
When President Bartlet's longtime secretary and friend Mrs. Landingham (played by Kathryn Joosten) died, her character was replaced by a new secretary, Deborah Fiderer (Lily Tomlin). Joosten's next long-term, recurring role on a television show was on Desperate Housewives (2004); when the producers introduced a sister for Joosten's character, they cast Lily Tomlin in the role.
In the DVD extras for season four, actors John Spencer and Stockard Channing both say that in the Abbey-Jed-Leo relationship dynamic, Abbey is (of course) Jed's wife and Leo is Jed's mistress. Spencer hastened to add that he meant "political mistress," but Channing did not qualify the assessment.
During the sixth season, NiCole Robinson, who plays Margaret, became pregnant. Although the show did choose to acknowledge Margaret as also being pregnant, there was never any clue given about the identity of the baby's father, whether or not Margaret was married or partnered, or even whether Margaret kept the baby herself or gave it up for adoption. Since these things were never addressed on the show itself, they were the subject of rampant fan speculation, and when Robinson was interviewed by TV Guide after the show's finale, she said that her two best guesses for the baby's father were either Ron Silver's character (Bruno Gianelli) or "the UPS guy."
Whenever the weather is shown on the news scroll, the temperature highs and lows are always the same. Therefore regardless of what time of year the show takes place, the highs and lows for Omaha are 67/44 degrees.
In 2010, for the 20th Anniversary of Entertainment Weekly Magazine, EW reunited Martin Sheen (President Josiah Bartlet), Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg), Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman), Elisabeth Moss (Zoey Bartlet), Dulé Hill (Charlie Young), Janel Moloney (Donna Moss), Kathryn Joosten (Dolores Landingham), and Stockard Channing (Abigail Bartlet) for a photo shoot and interview, and asked them to opine on the hypothetical futures of their characters' lives. Alison Janney thought C. J. was touring on the lecture circuit and making a lot of money speaking about her White House years; Elisabeth Moss thought Charlie and Zoey had stayed together; and Bradley Whitford thought Josh and Donna both worked at a think tank (but Donna quit working after their child was born).
The show frequently employed a device in which characters have conversations while walking through the office halls or from one meeting to another. In television parlance, this is called a "walk and talk" scene, though some "West Wing" fans also dubbed the exchanges "pedeconferences". This element became so identified with the show that a "Mad TV" parody of "The West Wing" consisted almost entirely of the characters walking (and then running) through the halls of the White House, and when Aaron Sorkin appeared on "30 Rock", his role consisted of Sorkin and Tina Fey's character Liz walking in a big circle while talking about writing for television.
In 2012, cast members Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, Melissa Fitzgerald, Joshua Malina, Lily Tomlin, Mary McCormack, and Martin Sheen appeared as their "West Wing" characters in a video supporting Michigan State Supreme Court candidate Bridget Mary McCormack (as well as raising awareness of the non-partisan section of the ballots in Michican and many other states). Bridget Mary McCormack did win her election. She is the sister of actress Mary McCormack.
For the first season, both Stockard Channing and Allison Janney received Emmy nominations as Supporting Actresses. Janney, who eventually won, did the whole season as a regular cast member. Channing did three episodes as a Special Guest Star.
After leaving the show Aaron Sorkin claimed that when he began watching the season 5 premiere (the first episode to be written without him) he turned it off after less than a minute, and never watched another episode. He likened the experience to "watching someone make out with my girlfriend".
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In April 2006, executive producer Lawrence O'Donnell told the New York Times that until the death of John Spencer (the actor who played Leo McGarry), the show's writers had planned to have the Republican candidate, Arnold Vinick, win the election and not the Democratic candidate, Matthew Santos. O'Donnell said that after Spencer's death, the writers decided that it would be too sad for the audience if Santos lost both his running mate (Leo) and the election at the same time.
The show often reuses the same names for different characters over the course of the series. Josh visited two different psychiatrists named "Stanley;" A senator named "Gianelli" is mentioned (but never seen) before Ron Silver's character Bruno Gianelli becomes a regular character in season three; both the regular characters played by Renée Estevez and Anna Deavere Smith are named "Nancy;" in the season 2 episode "Bartlet's Third State of the Union,"the (unseen) President of Colombia is named Santos, and later in the series, the U. S. Representative and eventual president played by Jimmy Smits is named Matt Santos. The Secretary of Agriculture played by Harry Groener is named Roger Tribbey, and the White House Counsel played by John Larroquette is named Lionel Tribbey. Both Donna and C.J. had memorable high school English teachers named "Molly," and after a Secret Service agent named "Molly" is killed in the line of duty while guarding Zoey Bartlet, Toby names his baby daughter Molly after her.
According to an article in The New York Times (29 October 2008), shortly after then-Illinois state senator Barack Obama spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, The West Wing (1999) writer Eli Attie had several long telephone conversations with David Axelrod, a political consultant who was then working on Obama's U.S. Senate campaign. From those conversations, Attie modeled the character of Matthew Santos after Obama's political and personal life. Like Santos, Obama eventually won his race for the presidency. Likewise, according to an article in The Guardian (6 November 2008), the character of Josh Lyman was modeled after Rep. Rahm Emanuel; on the show, Lyman became President Santos' Chief of Staff, while Obama's first staffing announcement after his 2008 election was to name Emanuel as his Chief of Staff.
During the sixth and seventh seasons, Toby's storyline concerns a leak to the press about the existence of a previously secret US military space shuttle. In 2012, seven years after those episodes first aired, the US Air Force admitted to having completed a classified 469-day military mission of a previously secret, unmanned, Boeing-built reusable X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle--in other words, a secret US military space shuttle.