The West Wing Premieres in 1999
Aaron Sorkin’s classic NBC drama, which showcased his penchant for long monologues, zippy “walk and talks” and the well-timed swelling of dramatic music, debuted on Sept. 22, 1999, with an all-star cast playing the idealistic staff of Democratic president Josiah Bartlet. The show ran until 2006 and picked up 26 Emmys along the way — even garnering the distinction for most Emmys won by a freshman TV show (nine!) in 2000.
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Martin Sheen (Josiah Bartlet)
Sheen had already portrayed a Sorkin-penned West Wing denizen in The American President (playing the chief of staff to Michael Douglas’ president) when he was tapped to star as the idealistic, paternal president prone to giving speeches in The West Wing. He stayed on the series for its duration, though in the last season stepped back as the show focused on the presidential race for his replacement.
Since the show ended, Sheen has been busy in film (The Departed, Bobby) and TV (Grace & Frankie, Anger Management with his son Charlie Sheen). And he keeps up with his West Wing costars — even inviting them to his birthday party.
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Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg)
Janney played the frazzled-but-unimpeachable press secretary, a role for which she won four Emmys, for the show’s run.
She’s since gone on to continued success on TV (winning an Emmy for her role on Mom) and in movies (in films such as The Help, Juno, and I, Tonya, for which she won an Oscar). And oh yeah, she took this series of smokin’-hot photos for InStyle.
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Rob Lowe (Sam Seaborn)
Already a big star at the time the show started thanks to his Brat Pack days, Lowe portrayed the White House deputy communications director until 2003, when he left over differences with the show’s writers and producers. (He briefly retuned in 2006 for the final episodes.)
Since then, Lowe has been a series regular on Parks and Recreation and The Grinder and made appearances in numerous TV movies. He also frequently makes headlines for getting roasted on Instagram by his two twentysomething sons.
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Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman)
Whitford won an Emmy for his role as the brash, somewhat neurotic deputy chief of staff.
He’s worked steadliy in movies (perhaps most memorably in Get Out) and TV (including parts on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Shameless and Transparent, for which he won an Emmy); he’s currently starring in choir-competition sitcom Perfect Harmony, which premieres on NBC Sept. 26. He divorced actress Jane Kaczmarek in 2010, and recently married Transparent star Amy Landecker.
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Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler)
The actor earned an Emmy for his role as the serious, principled White House communications director.
Since the show ended, he’s worked steadily in moves and on TV, notably having roles on Ballers and The Good Doctor.
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Janel Moloney (Donna Moss)
Moloney’s character Donnatella “Donna” Moss started the show as Josh Lyman’s assistant, and ended it as the chief of staff to the incoming First Lady (and Josh Lyman’s girlfriend!).
She continues to act, recently having been in the main cast of The Leftovers.
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Dulé Hill (Charlie Young)
Charlie was the young, devoted aide to the president, who eventually became like a father figure (and a possible father-in-law figure: Charlie seriously dated the president’s daughter Zoey Bartlet). By the series’ end, he had been accepted to law school with the president’s guidance.
Since then, Hill had starring roles on Psych and Suits. He also married actress Jazmyn Simon in 2018 and the two welcomed their first child together, son Levi, in May of 2019.
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John Spencer (Leo McGarry)
Spencer’s take on the president’s warm, wise chief of staff made the character a fan favorite and earned him an Emmy.
Sadly, Spencer died of a heart attack in 2005, a few episodes into the final season. As the character had coincidentally experienced a heart attack in season 5, the writers incorporated Spencer’s death into the plotline, but kept his name in the opening credits until the show ended.
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Stockard Channing (Abbey Bartlet)
The actress was long-established (starting with her role as Betty Rizzo in Grease) and had Oscar, Tony and Emmy nominations to her name by the time she was cast as the no-nonsense First Lady in The West Wing.
In 2002 she won two Emmys, for her West Wing role as well as for her part in The Matthew Shepard Story — and she has continued to be active in film, TV and theater, including a recent Broadway turn in Apologia.
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NiCole Robinson (Margaret Hooper)
After playing quirky secretary to Leo McGarry for the show’s duration, Robinson took a role on All My Children before stepping away from acting in 2014 and mostly staying out of the spotlight since.
In 2008, Robinson and her (now ex) husband created the 3 Angels Memorial Fund in honor of their son and two of his children from a previous marriage, who died in infancy of Alveolar Capillary Dysplasia (ACD).
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After a breakout turn as the headstrong First Daughter (she dated Charlie! She got abducted!) Moss went on to be one of TV’s biggest stars, with lauded turns in Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale (for which she won an Emmy in 2017; she has nine other nominations).
She has also appeared in movies including Us and The Kitchen. She married Fred Armisen in 2009, and they divorced two years later.
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Melissa Fitzgerald (Carol Fitzpatrick)
After her stint playing the unflappable assistant to C.J. Cregg, Fitzgerald continued to act a bit (including a role on Grey’s Anatomy) before stepping away to focus on leadership and public policy. (But she remains friends with Janney, who played C.J., even recently Instagramming a shot from a concert they attended together!)
In 2007, she won a 2007 essay contest in the New York Times about the genocide in Darfur. In 2013, she became the senior director of Justice for Vets, an organization that advocates for and provides resources to veterans in the justice system.
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