EW Reunion: 'The West Wing' | EW.com


EW Reunion: 'The West Wing'

Cast members reflect on seven years in the White House

The West Wing, Allison Janney, ...

(James Sorensen/NBC)

It’s a blistering Sunday morning, drifting well past 90 degrees by 9 a.m., certainly no time to be hanging out behind a dive bar in East Los Angeles. And yet there’s Martin Sheen, happily catching up with his TV daughter, Elisabeth Moss, whom he hasn’t seen since The West Wing’s 2006 series finale. (Moss has been busy since then; the next day, she’ll begin shooting the finale of Mad Men’s fourth season.) Mrs. Landingham — er, Desperate Housewives’ Kathryn Joosten — chats in the shade with Stockard Channing and Dulé Hill, who has a rare day off from shooting USA’s Psych. In a few hours, Bradley Whitford has to catch a plane to get back to the Dallas set of Fox’s The Good Guys, but he takes the time to watch a video of Janel Moloney’s new baby on her iPhone. Allison Janney sums up everyone’s feelings with a soft smile: ”It feels like coming home, to be hanging out here on a Sunday morning.” (Unfortunately, Richard Schiff and Rob Lowe were unavailable; Lowe tweeted a shout-out to his former castmates in his absence: ”Shooting I Melt With You in Big Sur keeping me from the West Wing reunion photo shoot for EW. Miss you, old friends. Wish I could be there.”)

From 1999 to 2006, the Emmy-laden NBC drama managed to make government sexy and stirring, while also humanizing the people behind politics. ”We were on the air at a time when there was a lot of discomfort in the country,” says Sheen. ”That was the most gratifying part of the whole thing, that we served as a measure of inspiration.”

1 Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg)
”She’s the most competent, wonderful, smart character I’ve ever gotten to play,” says Janney, 50, of the press-secretary (turned chief of staff) role that won her four Emmys. But that didn’t help the actress fend off her practical-joke-happy costars — especially Joshua Malina (speechwriter Will Bailey). ”He hid a fish in my trailer,” says Janney, who will next star with Matthew Perry on ABC’s sitcom Mr. Sunshine. ”He changed my [car’s] navigation system to Spanish, and I couldn’t figure out how to [fix] it. He put mayonnaise on my car handle. He was just ruthless.”

2 Martin Sheen (President Josiah ”Jed” Bartlet)
Little-known fact: During The West Wing’s seventh (and ultimately final) season, exec producer John Wells already had designs for President Bartlet’s years outside the Oval Office. ”I learned that John Wells was in preliminary discussions with another network about carrying the show into another season,” explains Sheen, 70. The sudden death of John Spencer (Leo McGarry) on Dec. 16, 2005, however, took the wind out of everyone’s sails for continuing the show, ”which was just as well,” says Sheen. ”But in those talks, [Bartlet] was considered to be a kind of Jimmy Carter character who would be an international ombudsman on behalf of the United States. I would travel to foreign countries, maybe to observe fair elections or to serve in whatever capacity for peace and justice that could be done there.” The actor, a fierce Notre Dame fan who successfully lobbied to make the university Bartlet’s alma mater, stops to chuckle. ”And I would have [had] a chair at Notre Dame, which is the part I like the most.”