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Josh Malina Talks Post-Sorkin WEST WING!!

Will Bailey himself visited Herc’s alma mater to give us all a glimpse of what life is like on the "Wing" now that Aaron's been gone over a year.

“Leo” was there to jot down every juicy detail:

Hello, Herc.

Thought you might be interested in this.

Last night, Joshua Malina (of West Wing and Sports Night fame) visited The University of Texas campus to give a presentation for Texas Hillel (, a student Jewish organization on campus. From the moment he did this strange little spinning stomp onto the stage, you could tell this was going to be an entertaining evening.

The speech was called "How to Make it in Hollywood and Remain a Mensch." For those of us non-Yiddish speakers, a mensch is "a person of admirable moral characteristics." So, the overall theme of the evening was how his faith and whatnot had helped him in his career.

He said that buying into that title requires two things: one, that he is in fact a mensch, and two that he has in fact made it in Hollywood.

"I am at that point where people recognize you on the street, but its because they think they went to high school with you."

The evening wasn't as heavy handed as that might seem. It was mostly him being uncommonly amusing.

He told the story of how one day when he and all of his poker buddies (Malina is the creator of Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo) from the original broadway cast of A Few Good Men went bowling one night. Aaron Sorkin took a bite out of a burger and began choking. Malina then performed an impromptu heimlich on him, and cracked three of Sorkin's ribs. "It's funny, in retrospect, because he's alive," he said.

And as history would have it, Malina has been in every Sorkin project Since then.

The moral of the story, according to Malina, is that if you want to break into show business, "heimlich someone more talented than you."

He also told the story of pitching Celebrity Poker Showdown. Poker plays a major part in his life and career, as well as that of Aaron Sorkin (anyone who has watched Sorkin's work knows that he writes the best poker scenes around). And so, one day when he and a few of his buddys were at a poker tournament, they came up with the idea for the show during a break.

The show, as originally pitched, was going to be titled something more edgy, like "The Shoot-out." But the NBC/Bravo execs said that the show must have the word "Celebrity" in the title, as well as the word "Poker." "This leaves little room for creativity," said Malina.

Among the titles thrown out: "Celebrity Poker Rumble," and "Celebrity Poker Bitchslap."

But anyway, onto the VERY MILD SPOLERS AND INSIGHTS about The West Wing that he sort of revealed (he said he wouldn't say too much "for fear of reprisal"):

He said that the advertising for this season declaring it as a time of change is very accurate. He referred to the most recent episodes he had been shooting as "The West Wing: The Quickening."

(paraphrasing): "as you can see, something very bad is happening to Leo in the woods." (laughter from the audience) "something very bad indeed."

He also hinted at some major fighting that occurred in the writing Sessions while the staff tried to grind out the first few episodes of the show. Apparently, the writers disagreed over how to handle the issues of middle-east violence and the peacemaking process. Malina, in tone with the theme of the evening, said he was at least happy that Israel was getting the spotlight in the show, which he called a brave move.

Though it seems that in the weeks to come at Camp David (and it seems that it will be a few weeks), the peace-talks might not go as smoothly as hoped. "Obviously, mid-east peace: not gonna be solved on any one-hour TV drama."

He also voiced fears that many characters, including his own, may be Saying goodbye this season, which all but confirms fears of an impending John-Wellsian "revolving door" cast. "I don't know if there is going to be a change of administration, or not, but a lot is changing," he said.

But if there is a regime change, Bingo Bob apparently won't be the new president. And with his buddy no longer calling the shots, Malina fears that there will be no room for Will Bailey in the new presidency. "I now work for the Vice President on a show about the President. So, that's a lateral career move at BEST."

And speaking of John Wells, he had nothing but good things to say about Him (perhaps simply out of necessity). He said he was naturally crushed when Sorkin and Shlamme announced to the cast that they were leaving the show, but that Wells had done a decent job of picking up the slack.

And also, dealing with the topic of the evening, he had apparently talked to Wells one day about his opinions about Israel while the first episodes of this season were being written, and Malina's own views ended up being expressed by Will Bailey on the show ... almost. "Will sits a little more to the right than I do."

So, overall, he didn't vilify Wells, but he didn't glorify him either. He described him as someone who had with his staff done a passing job of filling the shoes of a close friend and "genius" (his words) in writing the show.

(Paraphrasing again): "Aaron wrote 89 of the first ninety episodes of the show. Now, twelve people write each episode. So, it's different, and they may have some trouble trying to find their footing."

He did suggest some disappointment in the changes made to his character Since Wells and co. took over. During an autograph session that followed the speech, someone asked about how Will had gone from being such an optimistic "Mr. Smith" character to being the guy who defends a VP of dubious moral fiber. Malina sighed and said "I used to make it rain."

He also mentioned that the episode of the show where Charlie and CJ Exchange pranks was very much based on real-life prank wars that happen on the set. Malina is apparently notorious for coating telephone receivers on set with Vaseline. One time this met with reprisal in the form of Alisson Janney and one of the directors teaming up and gluing down everything on Malina's desk.

Well, there's that. Joshua Malina talking about being Jewish and being on the West Wing and playing poker. Helluva night.

Now, as for the complaints about the new season... well, I think that everyone's complaints are pretty valid. But it doesn't keep me from watching the show. People are comparing the show to an aging athlete, saying that the longer it stays on the air, the less people will remember how good it once was. Meaning that people who think themselves as real hardcore West Wingers are actually pulling for the show's cancellation (

I don't believe that, personally. Yes, there is some groan-inducing stuff in these new episodes, and yes, Sorkin's levity is SORELY missed. But, it is still one of the better shows on TV. Nobody is the best forever. And watching these new episodes doesn't cheapen the experience of the Sorkin days at all for me.

Another venture into the "Wells Wing" that we're being promised is an Improvement airs Wednesday. I'll be watching. Some fans won't be. Shrug.


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