The West Wing (1999)

This multi-Emmy award winning White House drama stars Martin Sheen as Democrat President Josiah Bartlet. The story takes us inside the lives of staffers in the west wing of the White House.

The series centers around a New Hampshire Democrat Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), the U.S. President who exudes a country-lawyer charisma that belies his brilliance, his deep conviction and devotion to what he believes is right for the country.

Among Bartlet's loyal staffers are Leo McGarry (John Spencer), the President's chief of staff and his closest ally and confidant. He possesses the sort of street smarts that enable him to keep in touch with the sentiments of the nation. Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) is a skilled strategist, who helped get Bartlet elected, often too opinionated for his own good, his sarcastic assistant, Donna (Janel Moloney), is there to take the wind out of his sails.

Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) spend her time deflecting the press' questions, working alongside Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), the Communications Director whose cynical sense of humour gets him through many dicey political situations. In contrast to his boss, Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) is a strictly political animal, easily able to craft an appropriate presidential response.

Rounding off the effective political team is the President's plainspoken yet astute personal aide, Charlie Young (Dule Hill). The combined efforts of the diverse members of this unique team help run a country.

Screen legend Martin Sheen talks about his role as Democrat President Josiah Bartlet in the multi-Emmy award winning White House drama.

Martin explains what first drew him to the project: "Two words - Aaron Sorkin. He's one of the best writers going. We'd worked together on The American President so I knew the quality of his work. When I heard that he was making a politically motivated series I was very intrigued." Martin obviously revels in his role as Bartlet, but what kind of man is he? "He's a square shooter, an honest and practical politician with a great mind and heart."

The fascination of the show comes from the brilliantly drawn characters and the powerful acting, but also from the sense you get of looking inside the White House. But is The West Wing accurate? "The basic themes are fictional," Martin explains. "There is no Bartlet. That means we have the advantage of being able to fictionalise and create debate around the less popular issues in America today, which politicians are really wary of. We can talk about a moratorium on the death penalty for instance, or about drug rehabilitation rather than long sentences, about gun control. The ideas are out there."

The political nature of the show is obvious: Bartlet is a liberal democrat and so is Martin Sheen. Does this split viewers in the States? "The democrats are very supportive of the show, yes," Martin admits. "Though not some conservative democrats who think it goes too far. A lot of non-political people watch it too, because it's just such great, funny, gripping drama. What people get out of it is a sense of what bureaucrats actually do for a living."

In many ways the role of Bartlet is like any role Martin would undertake: he commits fully to his character and the situations he finds himself in. But does he think he knows what it would be like to actually be president now? "No way!" Martin laughs. "Only one person at a time can actually know that. I can only imagine, and do my best to be convincing." And what about turning the role into reality, as other actors have done in the past? "As for actually doing the job, no way! It's a professional, lifelong task. It's not something you would just pick up, though you wouldn't know that at the moment, would you?"

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 50 minutes (approx)

Production Year: 1999

5/5 Stars

Production Country: USA

Main Cast

Image for Allison JanneyAllison Janney...Claudia Jean 'C.J.' Cregg
Image for Richard SchiffRichard Schiff...Toby Ziegler
John Spencer...Leo McGarry
Image for Bradley WhitfordBradley Whitford...Josh Lyman
Image for Martin SheenMartin Sheen...President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet
Dulé Hill...Charlie Young
Janel Moloney...Donna Moss
Stockard Channing...Abbey Bartlet
NiCole Robinson...Margaret, Margaret Hooper
Melissa Fitzgerald...Carol, Carol Fitzpatrick, White House Staffer
Image for Rob LoweRob Lowe...Sam Seaborn
Joshua Malina...Will Bailey
Kim Webster...Ginger, Kim
Kris Murphy...Katie, Katie Witt, Katie Witt - Santos Reporter, Reporter
Image for Alan AldaAlan Alda...Senator Arnold Vinick
Timothy Davis-Reed...Mark O'Donnell, Mark O'Donnell - Vinick Reporter, Mark O'Donnell (unconfirmed), Reporter, Reporter Mark, Vinick Reporter
Mary McCormack...Kate Harper
Image for Jimmy SmitsJimmy Smits...Congressman Matthew Santos, Matthew Santos, President-Elect Matthew Santos
William Duffy...(uncredited), Congressional Liason, Larry, Staffer, Staffer Larry
Janel Maloney