The West Wing stars and creator share their favorite memories from set
For seven seasons, fans watched the inner workings of the Bartlet administration unfold in all their ups and downs in the White House on The West Wing. But what was it really like behind the scenes on the iconic NBC political drama?
EW got cast members and creator/writer/executive producer Aaron Sorkin to reunite more than 20 years after the Emmy-winning drama debuted to reminisce on their favorite memories from set. From improvised tap dancing to getting those walk-and-talk scenes just right, they shared all kinds of secrets for EW's 30th anniversary issue cover story, starting with the opening shot that kicked off the series' legendary run.
"A great early memory I have is just a few days before shooting started, [director] Tommy [Schlamme] came to my office and said, 'Listen, I want to show you an idea that I had for the opening. We can take him through this room and through Josh's bullpen, and then through here, we'll just casually walk through the Oval Office with no preamble,'" Sorkin remembers. "Once I started seeing Tommy's vision for the show, I really started getting the chills. I just wanted to be as good as that was, as good as the actors were."
For cast member Dulé Hill, who played Charlie Young, he'll never forget the moment he met Martin Sheen outside the Oval Office set and Sheen taught him the handshake that Laurence Fishburne taught him on the set of Apocalypse Now. "In that moment, it really calmed all of my nerves," Hill says. "I just couldn't believe that I was there and I just did not want to mess up being with these actors."
Janel Moloney, who played Donna Moss, categorizes all her West Wing memories into two groups: the silly pranks perpetuated on set and the moments she felt "mind blowingly lucky" to be there. One of those "lucky" memories includes her first big walk-and-talk scene where Bradley Whitford helped champion her to do another take. "He did that a lot where he would protect me that first year," she says.
Meanwhile, Whitford remembers when Hill started tap dancing as guest star Yo-Yo Ma played the cello in between takes — "Nothing beats that," he adds — while Rob Lowe reveals the story of one of the most awkward table reads ever thanks to an unsuspecting celebrity visit during one of the most emotional episodes of the series, and Josh Malina recalls the "intimidating" and "daunting" moment he first met late cast member John Spencer.
Check out the video up top now to hear all that and more stories from stars Richard Schiff, Marlee Matlin, and Mary McCormack. Plus hit play on the second video to hear Moloney and Whitford reveal secrets behind all their flirtatious walk-and-talk scenes during the socially distanced cover story roundtable.
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For more on The West Wing cast reunion and EW's 30th anniversary, order the September issue of Entertainment Weekly now. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.