While HBO Max's long-awaited Friends reunion continues to be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the urgency of a looming federal election has fast-tracked a similar reunion special for The West Wing. Unlike Friends, fans will get to see the cast of The West Wing return to their roles here, with a live-on-stage reading of a season three episode that deals with the implications of an election in the Bartlet White House. The special will also give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the cast reuniting, complete with 2020-specific things like face shields and elbow bumps.
In the episode, Black Panther's Sterling K. Brown will play the role of Leo McGarry, the veteran political operative who served as chief of staff in the Bartlet White House for most of the series' run, before leaving to run for Vice President in the final season. McGarry was originally played by John Spencer, who passed away just before the series finale was filmed, and the character was given an offscreen death as well.
You can check the trailer out below.
Returning cast members include Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill, and Janel Moloney.
A number of folks who weren't originally part of The West Wing will be involved in the episode, with appearances by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michelle Obama, and Bill Clinton during act breaks, this special episode of The West Wing is designed to highlight the importance of voting, and to raise awareness (and ideally funds) for When We All Vote, a non-profit, non-partisan organization co-chaired by Obama whose goal is to increase voter participation.
The U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout, with only about 55% of the voting-age population turning out to vote in the 2016 Presidential election. Off-cycle elections (when the presidency is not on the ballot) tend to draw even fewer voters. Comparably, the U.S. ranks 25th out of 35 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
There are common institutional barriers to voting, including campaigns by major political parties to disenfranchise voters seen as more likely to vote against them, that mean the number of votes counted in the U.S. is also typically smaller than the number of votes cast. Potential solutions, aimed to increasing turnout and driving faith in the electoral process, tend to be proposed around the time of an election or shortly after, when the issue is in the zeitgeist, but forgotten soon after as Democrats and Republicans fail to come to terms on how such policies would be implemented.
As such, it falls to non-profit organizations to try to drive turnout in creative ways.
A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote premieres October 15 on HBO Max.