By Judy Kurtz
A producer of “The West Wing” says the lines between fact and fiction appeared blurred at least one time, when cast members from the former NBC series once downed alcohol in the real-life White House.
In a look back on the show about 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the May 23rd issue of The Hollywood Reporter, former executive producer Tommy Schlamme, says, “The first time we went to Washington, D.C., it was very difficult to get anyone to let us shoot anywhere. They just thought it was another bad political TV show. Then we came on the air and everything changed.”
According to Schlamme, “Next thing we know, we've wrapped and we're in the situation room at 2:30 in the morning drinking vodka.”
That’s not the only surprising tidbit about the Emmy Award-winning drama, which ran from 1999-2006.
The role of the fictional President Bartlet almost didn’t go to Martin Sheen.
Scott Sassa, who at the time served as the president of NBC Entertainment, West Coast, tells the mag, “It was one of the first shows green-lighted that season but the last one cast. One of the things we got crap for was not having enough minorities, but what people didn't realize is we had offered Sidney Poitier the president role.”
When talks with Poitier “didn’t get far,” producers tossed around a few other names to play the commander in chief, before ultimately deciding on “The American President” star. While Sheen was originally poised to appear in only four out of 13 episodes, viewers enjoyed him so much in the pilot that NBC told the crew, “We probably want to have more of him.”