I am reviewing Janet McCabe's book on The West Wing for my final paper, as well as finishing watching the final episodes of the series on Netflix. Even before Sorkin and others left the show, it has been remarkable to see who has appeared over the years in regular or guest appearances, beyond the ensemble cast of Bradley Whitford, Dule Hill, John Spencer, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Rob Lowe, Janel Moloney, Joshua Malina, and Martin Sheen.
Some of the Hollywood heavyweights and welterweights I have spotted:
Mary Kay Place
Edward James Olmos
O.K., so maybe I had to consult IMDb to confirm/learn the names of "What's his face?". Playing "Name That Actor" can become maddening while watching the show itself. My point is that there is so much triangulation happening of really smart, savvy actors with other movies and television programs on The West Wing. This show must have been quite a draw for actors working a decade ago in Tinsel Town. A corollary can be found with Grey's Anatomy. When the curtain slides back on the patient du jour in the exam room, the audience never knows which famous or vaguely familiar face will appear (replete with makeup to look like they have a goiter protruding from their necks). Speaking of Grey's, Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.), the chief of surgery, shows up on The West Wing as the mayor of Washington, D.C., arguing for school vouchers--as a Democrat.
Who said the variety show with the parade of famous faces is over in this era of television? Seeing multiple Oscar nominees and winners on the list, I have to think of Amy Poehler's joke as host of the Golden Globes Award Show (along with Tina Fey):
"Only at the Golden Globes do the beautiful people of film rub shoulders with the rat-faced people of television."
Apparently she is not a fan of The West Wing, where it happens weekly.