The West Wing was the Aaron Sorkin political drama that defined television in the early 2000s. With one of the most realistic portrayals of the inner workings of the government, The West Wing won much critical acclaim. In the 12 years since it went off the air, its stars have been pretty busy.
Kristin Chenoweth – Then
Joining the show in 2004 as the Deputy Press Secretary Annabeth Schott, Kristin quickly established herself as an integral cog to both the show and to the administration.
Kristin Chenoweth – Now
Best known for her work on Broadway where she originated the role of Galinda in Wicked, Kristin Chenoweth spent the later 2000s as a frequent guest star on the set of Glee. She also had a starring role on the short-lived fantasy, Pushing Daisies, for which she won an Emmy Award in 2009. Since 2014, Kristin has voiced the role of Vanessa Gecko on the Netflix animated drama, Bojack Horseman. These days, you can catch Chenoweth playing Lavinia Peck-Forrester on the show Trial & Error.
Bradley Whitford – Then
Second only to the President himself, Josh Lyman held a hallowed role in the Barlet administration as the Deputy Chief of Staff and one of the President’s advisors. One of Josh’s defining characteristics was his intelligence, which was well regarded by nearly every character that came into contact with him. For several seasons, there was a long-simmering, will they won’t they undercurrent to Josh and Donna’s relationship, which the producers wanted to hold off on fulfilling for as long as possible.
Bradley Whitford – Now
After The West Wing went off the air, Bradley Whitford was more than happy to follow his friend Aaron Sorkin to his next show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was loosely based on Saturday Night Live. From there, Bradley performed in a variety of film and TV roles, including Shameless and Saving Mr. Banks. From 2014 until 2015, Whitford appeared on the show Transparent as Mark/Marcy and as Magnus Hirschfeld. He has most recently been seen in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Janel Moloney – Then
Breaking out as the best-known assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, Janel Moloney portrayed the character of Donna Moss from the start of the show. Much like Amy Gardner, but to an even bigger extent, Donna becomes romantically involved with Josh Lyman, a tryst which eventually puts her romantic and professional life into conflict. By the end of the show’s run in 2006, she has moved up the ladder to become Chief of Staff to the First Lady.
Janel Moloney – Now
When The West Wing wrapped in 2006, Moloney quickly moved on by being cast in Brotherhood in 2007. The show was short-lived, but it proved to be a springboard to many other guest roles on television. In 2014, Moloney starred in Alpha House as Senator Peg Stanchion, before beginning her long-lasting run in The Leftovers, which continued until 2017. Last year, she was also featured in the series, American Crime, where she played the role of Raelyn over the course of several episodes.
Rob Lowe – Then
When Aaron Sorkin first began working on the concept for The West Wing, his intended for the series to remain anchored by Rob Lowe’s character, Sam Seaborn, who was serving as the White House Communications Director in the Bartlet administration. As the early seasons wore on, it was clear that Sam’s role shouldn’t remain the focal point, as the President’s storylines were more interesting and diverse than Sam’s. By the end of season four, Sam was written off the show.
Rob Lowe – Now
Rob Lowe’s long career began in the 1980s when he was just a teenager. His work in films like The Outsiders and St. Elmo’s Fire made him particularly beloved by teen girls throughout America. As he reached adulthood, however, Lowe found his success in film decreasing, until he made his television breakthrough with The West Wing. Lowe would go on to star in the comedy, Parks and Recreation, for four years. Since 2016, he’s been starring in Code Black.
Allison Janney – Then
Allison Janney made her mark on the production from her very first audition for C.J. Cregg, the White House Press Secretary. C.J. began her career working in public relations, which is how President Bartlet’s campaign became familiar with her work. The character was somewhat based off of the real White House Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers, who worked with the show in order to give the character another layer of realism. By the end of the sixth season, C.J. becomes Chief of Staff.
Allison Janney – Now
Though Allison Janney had found some prior success both in film and on the stage, it was her role as C.J. that brought her national attention. After the series wrapped, Janney began turning her sights towards the film, though she continued to make sporadic appearances in television as well. She guest starred in Masters of Sex in several different appearances between 2013 and 2015. She was also the star of the comedy, Mom, alongside Anna Faris, which began its run in 2013.
Richard Schiff – Then
Toby Zeigler is the White House’s resident pedant and native New Yorker. Zeigler is defined by his hard-working ethos, though he is often less playful than many of the other characters. Serving as the White House Communications Director, Toby had risen through the ranks of local politics before finally becoming involved with a politician who mastered the polls. Toby’s work throughout his time as Communications Director was critical, as he was the author behind the President’s biggest speeches.
Richard Schiff – Now
Since The West Wing’s conclusion, Richard Schiff has gone on to enjoy a varied career in both film and television. He has had featured roles in shows such as Past Life, as well as playing Dr. Emil Hamilton in Man of Steel. From 2012 until 2016, he began a run in the TV series, House of Lies, a drama about a financial consulting firm that starred Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. Schiff played Harrison ‘Skip’ Galweather. Beginning in 2017, Schiff began starring in The Good Doctor.
Mary-Louise Parker – Then
First introduced to The West Wing in the third season, Mary-Louise Parker played Amy Gardner, one of the characters who became romantic with Josh Lyman. Amy is introduced to the plot as a political activist, as she worked for a women’s rights advocacy group. Her relationship with Josh, was often affected by their political ambition, which caused them to antagonize each other with their political actions. In the end, she becomes a powerful advisor to the up and coming President.
Mary-Louise Parker – Now
Mary-Louise Parker moved on from The West Wing when she was cast as the star of the black comedy, Weeds. She played the leading character, Nancy Botwin for seven years, between 2005 and 2012. Following Weeds, Parker began focusing on performing in more feature films, some of which included, Jamesy Boy and Behaving Badly. In 2017, she appeared in three separate TV series, including When We Rise, Billions, and Mr. Mercedes where she played the role of Janey Patterson.
Joshua Malina – Then
Joshua Malina as Will Bailey was another crucial member of the communications team that helped maintain the Bartlet administration’s public image. Bailey quickly established himself in the early seasons as a man with convictions, even when others may not have had the same vision he did. Despite his talent, Bailey never quite fit in with the communications team, and was easily swayed to take up a position in the new Vice-President’s staff when he was offered the position of Chief of Staff.
Joshua Malina – Now
Joshua Malina found himself booked solid following the end of The West Wing’s run. From the political drama he leapfrogged to Numb3rs, The Nine, and Big Shots. Beginning in 2011, Malina began playing President Siebert in sporadic appearances on the hit sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Malina was also a regular on Scandal, where he played David Rosen since the show began its run in 2012. Last year, Malina was also featured in Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later.
Melissa Fitzgerald – Then
As the Assistant to the Press Secretary, Melissa Fitzgerald’s portrayal of Carol Fitzpatrick was one that found her often hidden in her boss’s shadow. Even so, it was Carol who was an integral part of C.J.’s life running smoothly, as Carol helped her to navigate her professional challenges in addition to her romantic ones. Carol was a faithful assistant to C.J., managing to hold on to her position for the entirety of the seven years The West Wing aired.
Melissa Fitzgerald – Now
Though Melissa Fitzgerald might have started out acting in The West Wing, through her work on the political drama, she was inspired to begin working with an advocacy non-profit called Justice for Vets. Fitzgerald had continued doing some acting work after the series concluded, but found herself more often than not interested in volunteering for various non-profits. When she accepted the job with Justice for Vets, she never realized that her life would bring her back to Washington.
Dulé Hill – Then
Dulé Hill as Charlie Young was brought on to the show after the first few episodes, when producers realized they needed to break up the monotony of white actors filling the screen. Charlie was the new graduate who became an assistant to President Bartlet, modeled after the young assistant, Kris Engskov who worked with President Clinton. Charlie was a D.C. native who began working in order to support his family, rather than heading straight to university, though he would later enroll in Georgetown University.
Dulé Hill – Now
When The West Wing ended its run, Dulé Hill immediately graduated to a starring role on the show Psych, which first began as a web series before it was brought to mainstream television, where it would run for eight seasons. During that time, Hill also picked up some film work in both features and shorts. From 2015, he began work on the series, Ballers, which would run until 2017. Currently, Hill is now appearing as Alex Williams in the show Suits.
Kim Webster – Then
Hailing from New Jersey, Ginger as portrayed by Kim Webster, was an often featured secretary under Toby Zeigler’s watch. Though Ginger was often seen carefully navigating around the volatile Toby, she was less afraid to get a little cheeky with Sam Seaborn. Ginger was a crucial member of the communications team, who was especially valued for her ability to read both Toby and Sam, information that she would relay to others, to both of her bosses’ benefits.
Kim Webster – Now
Kim Webster made her acting debut when she booked the role of Ginger on The West Wing. Following The West Wing, Webster took a break from acting, and only returned to Hollywood in 2011 in order to work behind the scenes. Webster began producing in 2015, and has been part of the team that brought the shows Bad Girls Club and Born This Way to life. Around this time, she appeared in two shorts, We Have 10 Minutes and Forgiveness.
Gary Cole – Then
Gary Cole was brought on to the series to play the role of Congressman turned Vice-President, Bob Russell. Many characters gave him the nickname, Bingo Bob, which wasn’t much of a compliment for the pragmatic politician. Russell was chosen as a replacement VP when Bartlet’s first Vice-President, John Hoynes, resigned. Though Russell harbored some presidential ambitions, when it came down to it, he wasn’t able to win over primary voters in order to clinch the Democratic nomination.
Gary Cole – Now
Gary Cole is an accomplished actor and voice artist who has had no shortage of work since the conclusion of The West Wing. He has provided his voice talents to a number of popular animated series, including Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, Kim Possible, and more recently, Archer and F is for Family. Cole has also been seen in a number of episodes of Veep throughout the years, and has most recently been featured in Chicago Fire and The Good Fight.
Anna Deavere Smith – Then
The crucial position of National Security Advisor in the Bartlet administration was filled by Nancy McNally, as portrayed by Anna Deavere Smith. McNally’s position became a focal point of many storylines, where presidential action hinged on what she advised the President to do. In terms of McNally’s real-life inspiration, many suspect that she was modeled on Condoleeza Rice, though her later career didn’t follow the same trajectory after her tenure as National Security Advisor concluded.
Anna Deavere Smith- Now
Since her six-year run on The West Wing, Anna Deavere Smith has continued on to a distinguished career as both an actress and a writer. She played the role of Carol in the critically acclaimed drama, Rachel Getting Married which starred Anne Hathaway as the troubled protagonist. Beginning in 2009, Anna Deavere Smith joined the cast of Nurse Jackie, where she portrayed Gloria Akalitus until 2015. The past few years, Smith has been a part of the cast of Black-ish.
Tim Matheson – Then
Though Vice-President John Hoynes may have started out as one of President Bartlet’s political rivals, the two were able to set aside their animosity and form a well-oiled coalition. Their working relationship was abruptly ended when Hoynes decided to resign in the face of a scandal that was discovered by the press. His political ambitions didn’t end there, however, as he did what he could in order to try and make a comeback in time for the 2006 Presidential Election.
Tim Matheson- Now
After The West Wing, Matheson moved on to choosing more film projects, though he still picked up guest roles on TV shows here and there. In 2008, Matheson joined the cast of Burn Notice, playing Larry Sizemore sporadically until 2013. He then joined Hart of Dixie in 2011 as Dr. Brick Breeland, a role he played through 2015. This year, Matheson joined one of his West Wing co-stars, VP successor, Gary Cole on the new series called The Good Fight. Matheson plays Tully Nelson.
Mary McCormack – Then
Mary McCormack made her mark on The West Wing playing Commander Kate Harper, who served in the Bartlet administration during his second term as the Deputy National Security Advisor. Kate rose through the political ranks through her military service, as she followed her family’s footsteps by joining the Navy. Kate moved from the Navy to the CIA before she left her highly classified position in order to take up the mantle as the Deputy National Security Advisor.
Mary McCormack – Now
During the same time McCormack was working on The West Wing, she frequently booked movie roles, while also acting in long-standing arcs on other well-established dramas, including ER and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. In 2008, she booked a role on the show, In Plain Sight, in which she played Mary Shannon for four years. This year, she was seen in an episode of the rebooted Will & Grace, in addition to acting in the series Falling Water.
NiCole Robinson – Then
Playing Margaret Hooper, the Senior Assistant to the Chief of Staff at the White House, Nicole Robinson had a chance to bring some levity to the West Wing. Margaret was always involved in some sort of antics, though she rarely let it affect her performance on the job. One of Margaret’s defining relationships on the show was her loyalty to her boss, Leo, the Chief of Staff for most of The West Wing’s seven-year run.
NiCole Robinson – Now
Hailing from the tiny town of Paul, Idaho, Nicole has spoken candidly about her small town roots, and why she has a capital ‘C’ in the middle of her name. Since the conclusion of The West Wing, Nicole hasn’t spent much time in the spotlight. She worked on a few episodes of All My Children in 2008 while also doing some touring as a stand-up comedian. Nicole’s last film role was in The Living in 2014, after which time, she’s stayed out of the public eye.
Lily Tomlin – Then
Every politician needs a trustworthy secretary, and Lily Tomlin as Deborah Fiderer definitely filled that role. Though she was a little off-beat when it came to some of her decisions. Even so, Deborah is entirely strong-willed, yet still respectful as befits a woman of her era. She was also one to stick to her conviction, even when they angered the wrong people and resulted in her getting fired, but she was always willing to go above and beyond for her work.
Lily Tomlin – Now
Lily Tomlin is one of those timeless actresses whose career seems to keep on giving. Not only was her artistic excellence in The West Wing recognized, she’s continued to gain critical acclaim on television in the decade since the show went off the air. She was a regular on Desperate Housewives throughout 2008, and moved on to the series Web Therapy, which ran until 2015, beginning in 2011. The past few years, however, Tomlin has been starring alongside Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie.
Moira Kelly – Then
Mandy Hampton, Ph.D might have only been around for the first season, but she’s still often remembered as an integral part of the cast. Intensely intelligent, Mandy bounced around in different roles, first coming to the Bartlet White House as a political advisor, before eventually becoming a media consultant to the President on Toby Zeiglar’s team. Despite Kelly’s adept performance, Sorkin struggled to adequately place the character and ended up cutting her by the time season two rolled around.
Moira Kelly – Now
Moira Kelly parted ways with The West Wing in good faith after the conclusion of the first season, which freed her up to pursue a number of film projects before being cast in her next TV role. In 2003, Moira Kelly began working on the hit teen drama, One Tree Hill, in which she starred as a single mom to Chad Michael Murray’s character until 2009. Her career has since slowed down a bit since her earlier years, but she’s recently appeared in two TV movies.
Teri Polo – Then
Teri Polo as Helen Santos, the First Lady-elect in the final season of the show, brought new life to the political arena of the The West Wing. From the start, Helen appeared to be reluctant to be placed in such a public facing position but eventually supports her husband throughout his campaign. One of the greatest challenges Helen had to face as the series drew to a close was deciding what kind of First Lady she would like to be.
Teri Polo – Now
Before being cast on The West Wing, Teri Polo was already well known for her role in Meet the Parents, which also translated into roles in the film’s sequels. Between 2011 and 2012, Polo appeared in the series, Man Up, while also taking on roles in a handful of TV movies. Polo came back to the small screen full time in 2013, when she was cast in the series The Fosters, in which she plays Stef Adams Foster, a role that continues to today.
Stockard Channing – Then
Playing the First Lady, Dr. Abbey Bartlet, Stockard Channing brought with her the gravitas necessary to portray such an accomplished character who also happened to be married to the President of the United States. Despite Abbey’s skill as a physician, some of the practices she engaged in order to protect details of her husband’s health from the public put her medical license under scrutiny. In the end, she had to put her medical practice on hold, until she was no longer the First Lady.
Stockard Channing – Now
Stockard Channing has been a fixture on American screens for decades ever since she shot to stardom as bad girl Rizzo in the film adaptation of Grease. In addition to her long-running role on The West Wing, Channing has frequently starred in blockbuster movies, including Six Degrees of Separation, Life or Something Like It, and Must Love Dogs. Channing returned to television screens in 2012, when she began working on The Good Wife. She most recently appeared in The Guest Book.
Emily Procter – Then
Associate, and later, Deputy, White House Counsel, Ainsley Hayes, was a character who often ran counter to the status quo of the Bartlet White House. Being an outspoken Republican in a Democratic administration, Ainsley could easily butt heads with her colleagues, but was well read enough to be able to back up her positions. With allusions to the real-life conservative figure, Ann Coulter, Ainsley brought a new layer to the views espoused by the show’s characters.
Emily Procter – Now
Much like her West Wing character, Emily is a southern girl at heart, having been born and raised in North Carolina. Between 2002 and 2012, Emily had a starring role on the procedural drama, CSI: Miami, where she played Calleigh Duquesne. Since she ended her run on the show in 2012, Emily has slowed down the pace of her career, appearing only in two episodes of White Collar in 2013, playing Helen in Love Everlasting in 2016, and filming the movie It’s Time, which is slated to debut this year.
Martin Sheen – Then
President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet was the clear anchor of The West Wing. Though the show was initially constructed to revolve around Sam, rather than the President himself, Sheen’s charisma as the President often caused the storylines to revolve around him. Throughout the course of the show, President Bartlet often seemed to be an idealized version of a President, despite the many challenging issues he was forced to contend with throughout his political career, both personal and professional.
Martin Sheen – Now
Father of the volatile Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen’s career has managed to outshine his son’s continued antics. Considered to be one of the most accomplished actors of the era, Sheen was a heavy hitter when he was added to the cast of The West Wing. Though he has continued to maintain his film career, with films like The Amazing Spider-Man and Rules Don’t Apply, Sheen hasn’t shied away from taking on new television roles. He can currently be seen on the Netflix show Grace and Frankie.
Elisabeth Moss – Then
The youngest of the three Bartlet children, Zoey Bartlet is the one who is most often featured with her parents. Described by her mother as most resembling her father, this causes Zoey an undue amount of stress as she tries to separate herself from his legacy. Zoey also becomes involved with Charlie Young, which prompts backlash from groups who are bothered by the interracial couple. The implications of this relationship end up becoming an extremely political affair.
Elisabeth Moss – Now
These days, Elisabeth Moss has stepped away from playing the role of the daughter, as she is now playing a more mature role as a mother separated from her child in The Handmaid’s Tale. Following the completion of The West Wing, Moss moved on to another critically acclaimed drama when she began playing Peggy Olson on Mad Men, which wrapped in 2015. Between 2013 and 2017, she also starred in the TV series, Top of the Lake, in the role of Robin Griffin.