"I think the legacy [of 'The West Wing'] is that a group of people can raise the bar as high as they want in television, and can maintain it if all their energy just goes to making it great. Somebody once said, 'Well, all shows can't be as good as 'The West Wing,' but I don't know why all shows can't be as good as 'The West Wing.' If 'West Wing' can do it other shows can do it, too."
About This Interview
In his three and-a-half hour Archive interview, Thomas Schlamme discusses his early life and how he chose directing over working in his father's business. He talks about his interest in sports and theater during high school and describes his first jobs in advertising, commercials, and music videos. He shares how his stint in advertising led to directing several television specials in the early 1980s, and discusses directing It's Garry Shandling's Show and how the show's writers would work into the wee hours of the morning on scripts. He recalls directing The Wonder Years, Mad About You, Friends, and several David E. Kelley-produced shows. He gives his perspective on directing for two competing medical dramas: ER and Chicago Hop e, speaks fondly about working with Tracey Ullman on her series Tracey Takes On…, and recalls his difficult experience on the feature film So I Married An Axe Murderer. Schlamme then details working with Aaron Sorkin on the series Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He describes the "walk and talk" filming technique which has been employed on each of these series, the casting of The West Wing and his work with the ensemble, and the challenges of shooting a show within a show on Studio 60. Steven J. Abramson conducted the interview in Burbank, CA on December 19, 2006.