It was revealed last month that The West Wing cast will reunite for the first time in 17 years, for a HBO Max special – to benefit Michelle Obama’s non-profit organisation When We All Vote – with hopes of inspiring people to vote in the 2020 election.
Now, filming of the much-anticipated reunion episode is underway, as original cast members Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, and more were pictured dressed up in character, while on location in Los Angeles last Friday.
However, rather than all-new material, the one-off special will actually be a theatrical stage presentation of a previous episode, that will stream on HBO Max this autumn. The cast are reuniting for the stage performance of season three episode ‘Hartsfield’s Landing’ which first aired in 2002.
The beloved Aaron Sorkin political drama aired on NBC from 1999 to 2006 for seven seasons and 156 episodes, with Sheen, 80, playing the fictional Democratic president Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet.
They’re back! Martin Sheen, Allison Janney and Rob Lowe are seen filming a special episode of The West Wing for HBO Max on Friday in Los Angeles
Both Sheen and Janney, 60, were pictured wearing face shields while filming, as other members of the crew wore additional facial coverings, abiding by strict social distancing rules for filming crews in LA.
Meanwhile, Lowe, 56, was also seen reprising his role as Sam Seaborn, the Deputy Communications Director to Toby Ziegler (played by Richard Schiff.)
Lowe posted a picture of himself on Instagram over the weekend which showed him reading through his lines for the show, along with the caption ‘Prepping for tomorrow.’
Also joining the returning ensemble cast were actors Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, Janel Moloney, and Mary McCormack.
This Is Us star Stirling K. Brown was pictured too, who did not appear in the original series. However, Sorkin has previously spoken about his desire to reboot The West Wing with Brown as president.
Janney is reprising her role as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, Whitford as Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, and Hill as Charlie Young, who went on to become the Deputy Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff.
Some political commentators have pointed out striking similarities between Sheen’s Bartlet and the current Democratic candidate Joe Biden, making the special episode all the more pertinent to the current political climate.
Reunited! Actors Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney film scenes for the much anticipated new episode
Safety first: Richard Schiff and Allison Janney are seen standing next to hand sanitizer stations while on set
Sorkin is producing the special, along with original director Thomas Schlamme.
It was originally reported that the episode will be shot under COVID Safe Way Forward Protocols, and it appears that the cast and crew are taking the guidelines seriously.
During filming, the actors were pictured standing next to hand sanitizer stations. Since lockdown in Hollywood, there have been instructions for every element of production including the setup of production offices, location scouting, travel, castings and catering.
New rules: Since lockdown in Hollywood, there have been instructions for every element of production including the setup of production offices, location scouting, travel, castings and catering
Power walk: Bradley Whitford, 60, is seen charging towards the set of the show
Producers hope to raise awareness for When We All Vote, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization co-chaired by Michelle Obama, who will also be sharing a special message to be aired during the show.
The series – following the highly-strung personal lives of presidential advisers – was critically acclaimed and loved by the Emmys, picking up a total of 27 awards.
Sheen’s Democratic President Jed was the dominant character as he weathered scandals and threats.
The series was produced by John Wells Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television.
Comfort: Oscar-winner Allison Janney was pictured wearing a pair of old sneakers underneath her grey power suit
New recruit: This Is Us star Stirling K. Brown was pictured on set
Safety: The actors all appeared to be wearing ZShield™ by ZVerse, products that are made in the US
An important message: The West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote is being produced with hopes of inspiring people to vote in the 2020 election
Sorkin – who is writing the original material for the event – released a statement last month saying: ‘Tommy (director Thomas Schlamme) and I are incredibly excited to be getting The West Wing cast back together for this staged reading and to support When We All Vote in their efforts to get all of us involved in this election.’
‘With A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote, we are excited to revisit this legendary series and offer our passionate fans something that is substantial, meaningful and unforgettable, while also promoting an important message for our time,’ said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max.
Back together: The cast of the hit TV series West Wing is coming back for the first time in 17 years for a good cause. A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote will be filmed at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles in early October and will air on HBO Max
‘Combined with WarnerMedia’s donation to When We All Vote, this special not only entertains, but also help ensure the organization can carry forth its mission to increase voter participation in every election.’
HBO Max is also working on an unscripted reunion special of Friends which has been delayed many times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the weekend, actor Bradley Whitford reunited with his West Wing co-stars Janel Moloney and Dulé Hill, as he waited to hear if he’d won at the Emmy Awards.
However, Whitford lost out on his performance in The Handmaid’s Tale to Billy Crudup for The Morning Show.