'The West Wing Weekly' Podcast Promises To Break Down Every Episode | KUOW News and Information

'The West Wing Weekly' Podcast Promises To Break Down Every Episode

Mar 20, 2016
Originally published on March 23, 2016 5:47 am

During its original run from 1999 to 2006, The West Wing was critically acclaimed, racking up 26 Emmy wins. The drama created by Aaron Sorkin frequently appears on lists of the best television shows of all time.

And since it began streaming on Netflix in 2013, a whole new generation of fans have discovered the show praised for its depictions of goings-on inside the White House.

But once you've binge-watched all seven seasons, how can you keep satisfying your Sorkin fix? Joshua Malina has your answer.

Malina, who played Will Bailey on the last four seasons of the show, is launching a new podcast devoted to breaking it down episode by episode. On The West Wing Weekly, Bailey and co-host Hrishikesh Hirway plan to spend each week on one of The West Wing's 156 episodes. They spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin about their favorite episodes and why they thought the show was worthy of a podcast.


Interview Highlights

On the genesis of the podcast

Joshua Malina: I've been a frequent guest on other people's podcasts, and I have always wanted to find something that I could call my own. And Hishi had this idea and my first reaction was: I don't know enough about The West Wing. Because though I appeared on it for the last four seasons and I had been a huge fan of it and I've seen every episode, I saw them when they first aired — and I really haven't revisited them. So I'm enjoying the experience now because I am going back and revisiting a show that I watched 16 years ago.

Hrishikesh Hirway: I've probably watched the show, certainly at least the first four seasons, I watched those — because I had them on DVD — maybe five, six times all the way through, if not more.

On why he's a fan

Hirway: I'm a fan of the idea of the American dream and the American experiment. I love the potential [of] the country's democracy and our Constitution — all the things that we want out of government and out of the process of codifying our society. I love all of that stuff and I want it to be great. And I think that idea of America is really inspiring, and Aaron Sorkin tapped into it in such a profound way.

On the podcast

Malina: Our dream is that we will in fact talk our way through the entire series. It'll always be the two of us, occasionally it'll be solely the two of us jawing about each episode — what we liked about it, maybe what we didn't like, how Aaron's writing tends to be very prescient. And while it was topical then, it's just as relevant now. And so we'll certainly talk about things that are happening today and have a tie-in to older episodes. And for sure I will function as a conduit to other people who were on the show.

I like to be not a celebrity myself really; I can be a conduit to actual celebrities. [Laughs]

On their favorite episodes

Malina: There's an episode called "No Exit." Every series, usually late in the game, starts contemplating having these "bottle" episodes, which are episodes that are self-contained and thus less expensive to produce because people are on one set or a limited number of sets. ... I think in "No Exit" there's been an anthrax scare at the White House. And so in little groups of two or three we are locked down in the White House, and my own storyline has Will Bailey in a room with Toby.

And I always enjoyed — I enjoyed working with everybody on the show — but I particularly enjoyed working with Richard Schiff, in part because he and I are just absolutely antithetical in our approach to acting. Which is probably one of the reasons why he's so much better at it than I am. I tend to memorize the lines and show up and say them in the right order at a reasonable volume, but he really thinks deeply about what it is he's going to do.

He's the kind of guy — I remember in one episode, as we rehearsed and blocked the scene, [he was] demanding to know, "Why at this point am I picking up the phone?" I remember saying, "Richard, because your next line is 'Hello,' and it's addressed to the person who's calling you. What other possible piece of blocking could we have?"

So I remember not so much the end result of the episode, though I'm looking forward to seeing it — I remember the making of it. I enjoyed battling with him, and we had a lot of fun shooting that episode.

Hirway: I also have one that I'm excited to talk about with Josh because it's another great Will and Toby moment, which was in "Holy Night." The entire cold open is done in Yiddish, which I remember being blown away by. And it has the music of Cole Porter in it. That's one of my favorites.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE WEST WING")

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Hey, "West Wing" fans, this next segment is for you. Now, maybe you choose relive your "West Wing" moments by watching clips on YouTube. Maybe you hardcore fans just went ahead and bought the whole DVD set so you can get a dose of that Aaron Sorkin "West Wing" repartee any time you want. There is now, however, another alternative out there. It is a podcast all about "The West Wing," and it's hosted by Joshua Malina, who played the White House adviser Will Bailey on the show. He co-hosts this podcast with Hrishikesh Hirway, and they both join me now. Thanks so much for being with us, you two.

JOSHUA MALINA: Thank you for having us.

HRISHIKESH HIRWAY: Thanks so much.

MARTIN: Joshua, I understand this is something you'd been wanting to do for a long time.

MALINA: I think it's more something Hrishi has wanted to do for a long time (laughter) and pulled me in.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MALINA: Hrishi had this idea. And my first, I think, reaction was - I don't know enough about "The West Wing" (laughter) because...

MARTIN: Really?

MALINA: Yes. Because though I appeared on it for the last four seasons...

MARTIN: Yeah.

MALINA: ...And I had been a huge fan of it and I've seen every episode, I really haven't revisited them. So I'm enjoying the experience now because I am going back and revisiting a show that I watched 16 years ago.

MARTIN: So this has now become clear to me. Hrishikesh, you are the uber-fan.

HIRWAY: I am.

MARTIN: You are.

HIRWAY: It's true. I've probably watched the show, certainly at least the first four seasons, five, six times all the way through, if not more.

MALINA: Now that you're listening to Hrishi's voice, my other hesitancy was that he's got that mellifluous, NPR voice.

HIRWAY: (Laughter).

MARTIN: Yeah, he's kind of a pro.

MALINA: And you'll probably notice that I do not. And I was wondering - do I really want to do a podcast with this cat? But then it occurred to me - I was willing to appear on-camera with Rob Lowe.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MALINA: So if I could do that, I probably...

MARTIN: That didn't stop you (laughter).

MALINA: Yeah, I could probably face this.

MARTIN: (Laughter) So Hrishikesh, you - obviously, you have another job. You host "Song Exploder," which a lot of our listeners will know. This was, though, so important to you - your "West Wing" fandom was so central to your being that you decided you had to make time to pursue this passion project.

HIRWAY: Yeah, I mean, "Song Exploder" is a very arduous podcast to make, and I love doing it. But talking to Josh is just fun. And I thought if I could get him to do, then I could keep going in this medium and do something that's actually a little more relaxed.

MARTIN: Why do you love this show? I mean, I'm a fan of the show. So many of us are fans, but I want to hear you say it.

HIRWAY: I'm a fan of the idea of the American dream and the American experiment. I love the potential that the country's democracy and our Constitution - all the things that we want out of government and out of the process of codifying, you know, our society. I love all of that stuff. And I want it to be great. And I think that that idea of America is really inspiring, and Aaron Sorkin tapped into it in such a profound way.

MARTIN: As I understand it, you're going to do a breakdown of every episode that - over seven seasons.

MALINA: This presumes success.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MALINA: Our dream is that we will, in fact, talk our way through the entire series.

MARTIN: Wow.

MALINA: It'll always be the two of us. Occasionally, it'll be solely the two of us jawing about each episode - what we liked about it, maybe what we didn't like, how Aaron's writing tends to be very prescient. And while it was topical then, it's just as relevant now. And so we'll certainly talk about things that are happening now and how they tie into older episodes. And for sure, I will function as a conduit to other people who are on the show.

MALINA: I like to be - I'm not a celebrity myself, really. I can be a conduit to a actual celebrity.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MALINA: So that's one of the other great allures of doing this - is that I can finally associate myself with the early years of "The West Wing..."

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MALINA: ...When it was really great. A lot of people tie the slow decline of the show to my appearance on it...

MARTIN: Oh, come on (laughter).

MALINA: ...In season four. So now I'm part of it all - from the beginning.

MARTIN: Do you each have a favorite episode?

MALINA: There's an episode called "No Exit." Every series, usually late in the game, starts contemplating having these bottle episode, which are episodes that are self-contained and, thus, less expensive to produce because people are in - maybe on one set or a limited number of sets. And I think in "No Exit," there's been an anthrax scare at the White House. And my own storyline has Will Bailey in a room with Toby. And I always enjoyed - I enjoyed working with everybody on the show. But I particularly enjoyed working with Richard Schiff and in part because he and I are just absolutely antithetical in our approach to acting, which is probably one of the reasons why he's so much better at it than I am.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MALINA: I tend to memorize the lines, show up and say them in the right order at a reasonable volume. But he really thinks deeply about what it is he's going to do. So I remember - and not being so much the end result of episode, though I'm looking forward to seeing it, I remember the making of it. I enjoyed battling with him, and we had a lot of fun shooting that episode.

MARTIN: And Hrishikesh, is there one episode that you can't wait to talk about?

HIRWAY: I also have one that I'm excited to talk about with Josh because it's another great Will-Toby moment, which was in "Holy Night." The entire cold open is done in Yiddish, which I remember being blown away by - that I felt like that was so daring to do on network TV. And it has the music of Cole Porter in it. It's one of my favorites.

MARTIN: Joshua Malina and Hrishikesh Hirway - they are co-hosts of "The West Wing Weekly" podcast. Can't wait for it.

Thanks so much, you guys.

MALINA: Thanks for having us.

HIRWAY: Thanks so much for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WEST WING THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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