“West Wing” Stars Discuss Voter Suppression and Democracy

For the first time in 17 years, the cast of “West Wing” has reunited for a theatrical staging of the “Hartsfield Landing” episode of the show, streaming free on HBO Max, all in the name of encouraging voter turnout. Actors Dulé Hill and Richard Schiff join the program to tell Christine more about the project.

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DULE HILL, ACTOR, “THE WEST WING”: Well, I think, I mean, it’s definitely an effort that is out there to keep us on the outside of the process, to keep us on the outside of democracy and not let our voice be heard. But when I see the numbers and I see people coming out to exercise their right to vote and overcoming all of the obstacles that are there to, hopefully, overwhelmingly let their voice be heard, it’s inspiring to me. It gives me some sense of faith in the process and faith in people, because as I look and see around, it doesn’t seem that those in power are really trying to engage people in democracy. It seems like they want to really keep people on the outside of it. You know, it’s not really anything new to me, though. It’s not surprising to me that this is all going on. I mean, I guess it’s a little surprising to me that you would hope that we would be in a better place than we are at this particular point, but America has never really given up certain things freely. You have to demand it through action. So, that is what I trust is happening with the numbers that are there right now.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: And obviously, you both are doing that with this reunion. Let me just clarify. Richard Schiff, you are Toby Ziegler in “The West Wing,” the communications director. And you, Dule Hill, are Charlie Young, the presidential aide. And it’s a throwback to a moment when there was such optimism. I think Aaron Sorkin, the writer, director and creator of this, said to Stephen Colbert, it’s nostalgia for “competence porn.” I wonder if you can talk to me both, first you, Richard, about the idea of reuniting for this. How did you feel about it? What did it take, particularly in, you know, COVID land and COVID world?

RICHARD SCHIFF, ACTOR, “THE WEST WING”: Yes, that is a big deal, was trying to come up with the protocols necessary to protect us elderly actors and everybody else. But we — “The West Wing” cast, Dule and Brad and Allison and Mary and Josh and I and a few others, seem to get together quite often to do kind of make the good trouble that John Lewis talked about and to get together, do PSAs. We’ve campaigned in the past. We’ve gotten together and traveled in the past. We came together to talk about what we can do for this election. And concurrently, Aaron had an idea of his own, and we kind of messed it too, and we thought we would be doing like a Zoom reading. Then Aaron and Tommy Schlamme, who was our regional and great director, had this master plan to do a stage greeting and bring music to it. And we just thought, that’s fantastic. So, we overcame the COVID obstacles. And when we got together, honestly, it was like going back to work. It was as normal as it could be. It was so glorious to see everybody, to work with Martin again, those three scenes I had with Martin, who is my favorite human being on the planet. And it was just joyful to be back together to do something meaningful again.

About This Episode EXPAND

French European Parliament Member Nathalie Loiseau reacts to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice. “West Wing” actors Richard Schiff and Dulé Hill discuss voter suppression and the 2020 election. Yonit Levi discusses the 25-year anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “Dopesick” author Beth Macy explains how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the opioid crisis.