Emmy-award-winning series The West Wing, which premiered in 1999 and ran for seven seasons, is one of the most beloved shows of all time. Created by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), known for his quick and witty writing style, the show featured a White House administration full of idealism and a desire to do good. Now on Netflix, West Wing and its brand of political idealism is the television version of comfort food.
West Wing had a huge cast, the good majority of which went on to find ever greater success due to their association with the show. Below, our list of thirty beloved West Wing actors and where they are now.
Martin Sheen played President Jed Bartlet on The West Wing. By the time he was cast, Sheen was already a big movie star, having starred in multiple Oscar-winning films, such as Apocalypse Now (1979 and Wall Street (1987). As Bartlet, Sheen captivated audiences with his folksy charm, and by being the American president we all wish we had.
He currently stars on the Emmy-award-winning Netflix comedy, Grace and Frankie, where he plays Robert Hanson, who leaves his wife for the man he has been in love with for decades. He co-stars on the series with another former West Wing alum, lower down on this list.
As press secretary C.J. Cregg, Allison Janney exhibited poise and passion, and the character was later promoted to Chief of Staff. Previously, Janney had had a number of small but gem-like film roles (10 Things I Hate About You), but West Wing made her a star.
Janney has since been on Broadway and in multiple movies, including I, Tonya (2017), which earned the star her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The actress currently stars on the CBS sitcom, Mom, which premiered in 2013 and has earned the actress multiple Emmys (in addition to those she already won for The West Wing).
Rob Lowe was a big film star early in his career, in his teens and twenties, as part of the notorious Brat Pack. His career had started to decline when he landed the role of Sam Seaborn on West Wing, which gave it a major boost.
The character held the position of Deputy Communications Director and was on the series for four seasons. Until recently, Lowe was a main cast member on the CBS medical drama, Code Black, which was canceled after three seasons in 2018.
Bradley Whitford’s first big role was as Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on The West Wing. The role earned him multiple Emmy nominations and was beloved by fans, who also shipped Josh’s relationship with his assistant Donna (Janel Moloney), back before shipping was even a thing.
The actor has since starred on the short-lived Fox comedy The Good Guys (2010), and has had a number of guest star roles on shows like, In Plain Sight, The Mentalist, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Amazon’s Transparent, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and most recently, Hulu’s acclaimed series, The Handmaid’s Tale. He also had a role in the recent horror film Get Out (2017).
A prolific actor, Richard Schiff is still best known for his role on West Wing as the gruff and grumpy Toby Ziegler, Communications Director, for which he won an Emmy. He currently has a recurring role on HBO’s Ballers, and stars as Dr. Glassman in ABC’s breakout medical drama, The Good Doctor.
Glassman is the president of a fictional teaching hospital in San Jose, California, where he brings in a young intern, Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) who is talented but struggles with the challenges of having autism, forming the basis for the show.
Dulé Hill was cast in the role of Charlie Young on West Wing when he was in his twenties. The character had the position of personal aide to the president and was later promoted to Special Aide to the Chief of Staff.
Hill went on to star in the USA Network show Psych as Gus, who opens up a psychic detective agency with his best friend Shawn. The show ran for eight seasons and came out with Psych: The Movie in 2017. Hill currently has a recurring role on Ballers and is a series regular on Suits (yes, the show that used to star Meghan Markle).
As the youngest daughter of President Zoe Bartlet, Elisabeth Moss is a center plot-point in The West Wing’s first season for her character’s relationship with Charlie. There was also the cliffhanger finale in season 4, where Zoe gets kidnapped. Moss went on to play major roles, starting with her star-making turn as Peggy, the secretary turned copywriter in Mad Men.
Moss has gone on to play Detective Robin Griffin in the BBC miniseries Top of the Lake and currently stars in Hulu’s critically acclaimed adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. After being nominated for an Emmy six times for playing Peggy, Moss finally earned her Emmy award for her first season on Handmaid’s.
Stockard Channing achieved her breakthrough role at 33 as Rizzo in Grease (1978), which lead to her own short-lived sitcom, The Stockard Channing Show, along with a recurring role on Sesame Street. She played First Lady Abbey Bartlet on West Wing, the perpetual thorn in President Bartlet’s side, and the love of his life.
Since then she’s gone back to the stage, eventually earning a Tony nomination for her role in Other Desert Cities, which started Off-Broadway and made its way to Broadway in October 2011. She also found success on The Good Wife, which ran from 2012-2016.
Janel Moloney played the role of Donna Moss on West Wing, who spent most of the series as personal assistant to Josh Lyman. Donna proved herself to be extraordinarily capable, and her and Josh’s relationship was the will-they-won’t-they of the show. In 2014, Moloney landed a recurring role on season one of The Leftovers, later becoming a series regular.
Moloney has also had recurring guest roles in Brotherhood, Alpha House, The Black List, and American Crime. She also starred in the 2013 feature Armless and appeared on-stage in 100 Saints You Should Know and Love, Loss, and What I Wore.
Joshua Malina’s first role on an Aaron Sorkin show was actually Sports Night, which was canceled after two seasons. Malina was cast as speechwriter Will Bailey, who premiered in the fourth season, and became a series regular for all of the rest of the seasons until the end.
Malina went on to play another role in a fictional White House administration when he was cast as Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen in the Shonda Rhimes’ ABC drama Scandal, which ended in 2018 after seven seasons. Malina also has the recurring role of President Siebert at Caltech University on The Big Bang Theory.
Already an established TV actor and a mainstay of the Star Wars prequels, Jimmy Smits was cast in West Wing as Matthew Santos in the last two seasons. His character begins as a congressman who gets convinced by Josh to run for president. The series ends with Santos winning the presidency, and succeeding President Bartlet.
Since then, he has starred in the films, The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), and has enjoyed recurring guest roles in Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, The Get Down, 24: Legacy, and How to Get Away with Murder.
That’s right, Glinda the Good Witch of Broadway fame was on West Wing. After starring in Wicked, Kristin Chenoweth joined the cast as Annabeth Schott for the final two seasons. Schott joined the Bartlet administration as Deputy Press Secretary, later becoming chief aide to Leo McGarry when he runs as Santos’ vice president.
Chenoweth has since starred in multiple plays, movies, and television shows, most recently as Easter on Starz’s American Gods in 2017 and as Lavinia Peck-Foster on NBC’s Trial & Error, as a woman accused of her husband’s murder.
Best known for her comedic talents, Lily Tomlin’s role as Deborah Fiderer on West Wing has been one of her more serious roles. Deborah is hired as the presidential secretary following the death of the character, Mrs. Landingham (the late Kathryn Joosten), and is quirky but capable.
The actress now stars in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, for which she plays Frankie, a woman whose husband leaves her after decades of marriage for another man, played by West Wing costar Martin Sheen. The role has earned her four consecutive Emmy nominations for a lead actress in a comedy. Who says that only tragedy equals hardware?
Moira Kelly played media consultant Mandy Hampton as a series regular in the first season of West Wing but didn’t appear in any of the subsequent seasons. In 2003, Kelly was cast as single mother Karen Roe in the popular series One Tree Hill, where she was a series regular for four seasons.
Kelly has also starred in The Cutting Edge (1992) and was a voice actress for the role of Nala in three Lion King movies: The Lion King (1994), The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), and The Lion King 1 ½ (2004).
Already an established film star, Mary-Louise Parker played Amy Gardner, a recurring character in seasons 3-7, and an on-and-off love interest for Josh. Amy holds multiple positions throughout the series, working both inside and outside the White House for women’s rights. After gaining acclaim for her role in HBO’s miniseries, Angels in America, Parker became the lead of the hit Showtime series Weeds.
Parker played Nancy Botwin, a widower who starts selling weed to her rich, suburban neighbors to support her family. She has starred in recent films, such as The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008), Red (2010), R.I.P.D. (2013), and Red 2 (2013).
Before becoming a recurring character on West Wing, Timothy Busfield was most known for his role on thirtysomething as Elliot Weston, for which he won an Emmy. He was also known for films like Field of Dreams (1989) and the Revenge of the Nerds franchise.
His character Danny Concannon on West Wing is as a senior White House reporter for the Washington Post and a love interest of C.J. Following the end of West Wing, Busfield was cast as a regular on Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which he also guest directed.
As the first deaf person to win an Academy Award for her role in Children of a Lesser God (1986), Marlee Matlin was the first choice to play the hearing-impaired professional pollster Joey Lucas on West Wing.
Matlin is one of the only recurring guest stars to appear in all seven seasons. Her character is trusted by the Bartlet administration and is a minor love interest for Josh. Matlin was a contestant on Dancing With the Stars and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009. The actress has appeared on Family Guy, Switched at Birth, The Magicians, and Quantico.
After appearing in a number of film and television roles including Jerry Maguire (1996) and an episode of Friends (“The One With the Breast Milk”), Emily Procter was cast as Ainsley Hayes in West Wing. A Republican that the White House hires to work as a lawyer in their council’s office, the character appears in seasons 1, 2, and 7.
The lawyer challenges her coworkers to see things from a different perspective and is quite the Patinkin. From 2002-2012, Procter was a series regular on CSI: Miami, and guest starred on a couple of episodes of White Collar season 4.
Tim Matheson gained early notoriety as Eric “Otter” Stratton in National Lampoon’s Animal House but was reintroduced to audiences as a more serious figure when he was cast as Vice President John Hoynes on West Wing. The character often doesn’t get along with the rest of the White House staff, including the President.
Matheson has gone on to direct episodes of many episodes of television, including Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Psych, Burn Notice, Greek, The Good Guys, White Collar, Covert Affairs, Suits and The Twilight Zone. He also played Brick Breeland, a small-town doctor in Alabama, on all four seasons of Hart of Dixie, which ran from 2011-2015.
Following Hoynes’ resignation, the administration has to fill the position of the vice president. They’re stunned when the new Republican House Speaker forces them to choose from a list of sub-par candidates, which is how they wind up appointing Bob Russell, played by Gary Cole, in seasons 5-7.
The actor has had many high profile roles since West Wing in both film and television, most notably as the officious boss in Office Space. Cole’s film credits include Talladega Nights and Pineapple Express and Hop. He currently plays Sergeant Bosco on Bob’s Burgers, Kent Davison on Veep, and Principal Shepard on Family Guy.
As Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Amos dispensed sage advice to the President about military matters. Fitzwallace was killed off the show in the 5th season by a terror attack on a group of US diplomats on a fact-finding mission in the Gaza Strip. The attack also wounded Donna Moss, who survived.
Amos has starred in films like Coming to America (1988), Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006) and Madea’s Witness Protection Program (2012). The actor has also been cast in recurring roles on several shows including Two and a Half Men, Ed and the unrelated Ed in The Ranch.
Anna Deavere Smith
Besides Fitzwallace (and Leo), the President’s other major military advisor on the show is Dr. Nancy McNally, his National Security Advisor. Anna Deavere Smith played Nancy in seasons 2-7, and at the end of the series, is named UN Ambassador by the Santos administration.
Since West Wing, Smith has had major roles on Nurse Jackie and Madame Secretary, and can currently be found on Black-ish and For the People. She has also had roles in the films such as Rachel Getting Married (2008) and Can You Ever Forgive Me (2018), which is currently nominated for multiple Golden Globes and SAG awards.
Already with a long acting career, Mark Harmon guest-starred on West Wing for four episodes as CJ’s bodyguard, Agent Simon Donovan, after she gets death threats. Though he was only in the show for a short time, Harmon’s character had a huge impact on the show and was nominated for an Emmy.
Not long after West Wing, Harmon was cast on the enormously popular hit show, CBS’s NCIS (2003-the present). Getting cast on NCIS was a direct result of being on West Wing, as the creator decided to cast him after seeing him on the NBC show.
As Mallory O’Brien, Allison Smith played Leo’s daughter, a passionate schoolteacher, who flirts with the idea of dating Sam for a while. The romance fizzles when news breaks of Sam’s friendship with a call girl. Since being on West Wing, Smith has had numerous guest star roles on various television series.
You may have seen her pop up in Scrubs, Ghost Whisperer, Cold Case, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Family Guy or Perception. She also played Linda Miller Walker in the popular film Holes (2003). Smith is also known for her theater work; she starred in Annie on Broadway and later performed alongside Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in Evita.
In every season of West Wing except the 6th, Michael O’Neill plays recurring guest star Special Agent Ron Butterfield, the head of President Bartlet’s secret service. Butterfield is a comforting presence throughout the series, and the Bartlets trust him implicitly with their safety. It must have paid off.
Following West Wing, O’Neill has had numerous recurring guest starring roles in various television shows, often playing some version of law enforcement or authority. One notable exception to this is O’Neill’s role on four episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, where he plays a distraught widower who, in his grief, goes on a killing spree in the famous season 6, two-part finale.
As Toby’s ex-wife Andrea Wyatt, Kathleen York recurred on 15 episodes of West Wing from 2000-2006. As a congresswoman, Andrea could often be either a pain or a help to Toby over the years. At the end of the fourth season, she gives birth to twins, fathered by Toby, but refuses to remarry him.
Since West Wing, York has had many guest starring roles on various shows in addition to her singing and screenwriting career. York will be a main cast member on the upcoming CW show In the Dark, where she plays Joy, the cynical mother of the series’ blind heroine.
In the 3rd season of West Wing, the Bartlet Administration has to navigate the tricky waters of campaigning for reelection while revealing to the public that the President has MS. Enter Oliver Platt as White House Counsel Oliver Babish. He’s also in a couple of episodes of season 5.
Platt has gone on to many film and television roles since West Wing, including the critically acclaimed Professor Marston and Wonder Women (2017). Since 2015, he has been a main cast member on Chicago Med and has guest-starred on the other Chicago series, Chicago P.D., Chicago Fire, and Chicago Justice.
As attorney Jordan Kendall, Joanna Gleason was brought on the series from time to time to act as a lawyer for the White House in various instances throughout seasons 3 and 4. She also acts as a love interest for Leo, which is nice considering he starts off the series by getting divorced from his wife.
Outside of West Wing, Gleason has done extensive theater work and won a Tony award for her role as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. She has more recently been in episodes of The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, and Sorkin’s The Newsroom, and played Mark Wahlberg’s mother in Boogie Nights.
Already a seasoned veteran of TV shows for roles on The Love Boat, Northern Exposure and Picket Fences, Adam Arkin joined West Wing In season 2. The actor guest-starred in four episodes as Dr. Stanley Keyworth, a trauma therapist originally brought in to who help Josh overcome his post-shooting PTSD.
Keyworth reappears in season 4 to council President Bartlet on his insomnia. He has had many roles since West Wing, including recurring guest star spots on Life, Boston Legal, Masters of Sex, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, Law & Order, The Bridge, Fargo, and How to Get Away With Murder.
Before becoming Marvel’s second-most famous S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Clark Gregg played FBI Special Agent Michael Casper on West Wing. Casper assists the White House in many tense and violent situations. Gregg had a small but notable part in Marvel’s Iron Man as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson.
He then reprised the role for in Iron Man 2 and Thor. Coulson became a central character in The Avengers. After he was killed off in the film, Marvel decided the franchise benefitted from the fan-favorite and resurrected Coulson to star in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which continues to today.
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