The Tab Meets: Bradley Whitford
JACK ANDERSON and JOSH GERTNER catch up with Emmy Award-winning actor Bradley Whitford at the Union on Monday night.
It’s not every day that you get to meet a Hollywood actor who played such an integral character in one of the most successful TV shows of all time.
The West Wing is still lauded as the greatest ever political drama and, for all seven seasons of the show, Emmy Award winner Bradley Whitford played White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua ‘Lemon’ Lyman.
He claims that while he always loved drama growing up, it wasn’t until he went to graduate school that he realised that it was a possible career.
“It was what I always loved. It never occurred to me all the way through to the end of college to say what I wanted to do professionally, because you don’t know anyone as an actor in Wisconsin. It’s not like being in New York or London where someone’s cousin owes someone something. It wasn’t until I got into graduate school that I realised.”
Whitford is a big liberal activist in the States, but he honestly believes that he won’t be taken seriously in politics unless he starts getting arrested.
Martin Sheen, President Jed Bartlet in the West Wing, has been arrested 66 times for protesting, and Whitford admits that he was politically inspired by his co-star: “Yeah, I hope at some point I get arrested…if you’re not getting arrested then you’re doing something wrong.
“Martin really puts his money where his mouth is, in terms of risking stuff. He got to the point where if he was arrested once more, he was on probation, but if he got arrested again, he would have to go to jail.”
Whitford spoke passionately about the gun debate during his speech at the Union on Monday, and he explains that it’s actually a Brit who has all the answers: “I actually talked to Piers Morgan at the White House Press Corp dinner. I totally agree with him. It is insane. What is especially disorientating now is that the Newtown massacre has became a victory.
“It is insane that they cherry-pick this one part of it, you know – ‘the constitution is infallible’ – we used to have slaves! Women couldn’t vote until my mum’s generation! I grew up in Wisconsin; I’ve hunted and I’ve taken my son hunting. I probably won’t ever again.”
As articulate as he was throughout his speech, Whitford does admit that he sometimes wishes that Aaron Sorkin (creator and lead writer of the West Wing) wrote him in real life.
“Yeah, that would be nice. That’s why it was such a good job, walking around with that stuff flying out of your mouth. It was awesome.”
Now for the big question: Will the West Wing ever return? If Sorkin phoned him up tomorrow and asked, “Season 8 – you in?” would he do it?
“If that happened I think everybody that was on the show would come back. There was a feeling, when you have an interesting experience like that, that you want to get out before the banana turns brown.
“And then John Spencer [White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry] died and we were all like ‘we want to stop’. I think every day about what would be great episodes. There’s certainly not a lack of material.”
Josh Lyman’s on screen secretary and occasional love interest Donna Moss (played by Janel Moloney) is often mocked for her roots in Wisconsin, Whitford’s home state.
He explains how much he enjoyed this part of the show: “Yes, that was fun. Sorkin has this – and you see it a lot in Hollywood – condescending worship of people from the Midwest. It’s like they’re wholesome; Sorkin loves the idea of Wisconsin.”
However, Whitford is ready to admit that Donna wasn’t the sexiest ‘Lyman Girl’.
As soon as I ask who his favourite was, he answers: “Amy Gardner [Mary- Louise Parker] I love her.”
I was truly worried that meeting Bradley Whitford would be a crushing disappointment, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. He was as smart and witty as any character he has ever played, and had all the time in the world for anyone who wanted a photo or an autograph.
A top guy, and another top night at the Cambridge Union this term.