Was the West Wing’s Matt Santos Based on Barack Obama?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Congressman Matt Santos was based on Barack Obama.

Jimmy Smits’ Matt Santos’ campaign and ultimate election was the main plot of the last two seasons of the West Wing (and originally, was hopefully going to lead the show into a new Presidential term with a more or less brand new cast)…

In an amazing piece of seemingly life imitating art, the campaign of the charismatic young-ish minority Congressman (Smits) against the veteran Republican whose middle of the road ways endeared him to many Democrats (Alan Alda) seemed to repeat itself when Barack Obama took on (and defeated) John McCain.

Interestingly enough, though, the West Wing producers had contacted Obama’s people years earlier, when Obama was not even yet a Senator.

Jonathan Freedland had a great article about the connection in The Guardian back in early 2008…

For what those West Wing fans stunned by the similarity between the fictitious Matthew Santos and the real-life Barack Obama have not known is that the resemblance is no coincidence. When the West Wing scriptwriters first devised their fictitious presidential candidate in the late summer of 2004, they modelled him in part on a young Illinois politician – not yet even a US senator – by the name of Barack Obama.

“I drew inspiration from him in drawing this character,” West Wing writer and producer Eli Attie told the Guardian. “When I had to write, Obama was just appearing on the national scene. He had done a great speech at the convention [which nominated John Kerry] and people were beginning to talk about him.”

Attie, who served as chief speechwriter to Al Gore during the ill-fated 2000 campaign and who wrote many of the key Santos episodes of the West Wing, put in a call to Obama aide David Axelrod.

“I said, ‘Tell me about this guy Barack Obama.'”

Now here’s where it gets tricky.
Continue reading “Was the West Wing’s Matt Santos Based on Barack Obama?”

Was Arnold Vinick Going to Win the Presidency on The West Wing Before John Spencer’s Untimely Death?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Arnold Vinick was originally going to win the election until John Spencer died, and the producers decided they did not want Matt Santos to lose his running mate AND the election.

The West Wing was a critically acclaimed drama that ran for seven seasons from 1999 until 2006. For the vast majority of the series, the show was about the staff of President Josiah Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) and the President himself.

The sixth and seventh seasons of the show, though, held the spotlight a bit more to the two men running to become the NEXT President of the United States (Bartlett, of course, still had plenty of plots on the show), Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits)

and

Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda)

Santos ended up choosing as his running mate Bartlett’s long-time Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry (played by John Spencer)…

John Spencer tragically passed away before the election storyline finished.

My pal Chad, wrote in with a rumor…

Arnold Vinick was originally going to win the presidency, but John Spencer’s death meant that Matt Santos would have lost both his running mate AND the election, and producers thought that would a bit too much to lay on the character, so they changed it to a Santos victory.

True?
Continue reading “Was Arnold Vinick Going to Win the Presidency on The West Wing Before John Spencer’s Untimely Death?”

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