‘The West Wing’: Martin Sheen Helped Shape President Bartlet’s Background

The West Shield This is arguably one of the best drama shows ever televised. The show aired at a very controversial time. Writer Aaron Sorkin began working on the script of the show during the Bill Clinton administration.

There were few political demonstrations at that time, and the show barely saw the light of day. One of Sorkin’s requests was that the script remain as it was. However, Martin Sheen played a major role in shaping one of the show’s main characters.

‘The West Wing’ barely made it to TV

The crew of 'The West Wing.'
L to R: Allison Janney as Claudia Jean ‘CJ’ Cregg, Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler, John Spencer as Leo McGarry, Martin Sheen as President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet, Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Dule Hill as Charlie Young, Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman NBC / NBCU Photo Bank

The West Shield first aired in September 1999. The series followed the popular show President of America, also written by Sorkin. Initially, the series was intended to focus on the show’s administrators, with the president taking a back seat and appearing exclusively in specific titles.

However, the audience began to notice Sheen’s performance, and it wasn’t long before his character, the president, grew up. The writers had to incorporate President Bartlet into many of the scenes, thus greatly reducing the need to focus on the other administrators.

The show was based on President Bartlet and his administration dealing with legislative and political issues. Other perspectives addressed some serious social problems such as post-traumatic disorder and family issues.

When Sorkin was asked to work on the show’s script, he didn’t want to do it. However, he managed to write and present the pilot to network operators. When he submitted the pilot version, NBC was keeping an eye on him and was not sure anyone would see a political show.

In addition, the news of President Clinton’s relationship with a country rock worker shocked the country, and studio executives feared that the show would fail because of this. Whatever circumstances the show set in motion when it began, it was hugely successful in becoming one of the most watched shows of all time.

Who is Martin Sheen?

Martin Sheen in 'The West Wing.'
Martin Sheen as President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet on ‘The West Wing.’ | Scott Garfield Photo Bank / NBCU

Sheen was born on August 3, 1940, as Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez. Actor James Dean made a huge impact on Sheen’s work. In hopes of gaining recognition, Sheen opened a production company.

In 1963, Sheen appeared in a program of the series The Outer Borders in 1968. He also appeared in The Subject Were Roses and repeated his role in the 1968 remake of the same name. His achievement earned him a Golden Globe award for Best Actor.

In the 1960s and 70s, Sheen appeared in many more films such as My Three Sons, Hawaii Five-0, Columbo, The Rookies and The streets of San Francisco. In 1972, the 80-year-old actor appeared That summer. The film won an Emmy Award despite being involved in a number of controversies. This was the only film that showed homosexuality in the best light by the standards of that time.

Sheen’s favorite role came in the film Badlands, where he played multiple murderers. His other favorite role was in the film Apocalypse, where he played U.S. Army Special Operations Officer. Sheen played President John F Kennedy in the show Canadian and White House Chief of Staff AJ McInnerney in the President of America.

Sheen played a vital role in his role on ‘The West Wing’

Martin Sheen and Dulé Hill in 'The West Wing'
Martin Sheen and Dulé Hill in ‘The West Wing’ NBCU Photo Bank

When Sheen was brought forward to play President Bartlet, he thought he was taking on a recycling role. Sorkin expected the president to appear in a few moments and focused on the staff.

However, when Sheen appeared at the end of the first scene, his accomplishment was so special that everyone wanted to be around. When Sheen reconfigured to feature more in the series, the network offered its recommendations for Bartlet’s background.

However, being a Catholic himself, Sheen wanted Bartlet to create a Catholic and his views from a moral reference like Sheen did. He also requested that Bartlet be a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Sorkin agreed to all the terms, so President Bartlet became the main character.

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