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The Death of the West Wing Dream? (with Bradley Whitford)

May 28, 2023
Notes
Transcript

Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Transparent) joins the Sunday show to talk The West Wing, criticisms of the show’s idealistic politics, and his own evolution into an advocate for liberal causes and much more!

Plus, Tim and JVL breakdown DeSantis’ attempts to shake off the “establishment” label after his presidential campaign launch.

Watch Tim and JVL interview Bradley here: https://youtu.be/6hbDyqu8qOo

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This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Hello, and welcome the next level Sunday show. I’m your host Tim Miller with my best buddy JBL coming live from North Jersey. JBL, how you doing?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:18

    Damn. Happy Memorial Day weekend, buddy. We’ve got
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:21

    a great Memorial Day episode. We did an interview on Tuesday of this week with Josh Limeman himself, Bradley Whitford, ugh so good. It was good. We taped it before all the DeSantis nonsense and so you know it’s just a nice little bit of it’s a little bit of candy here, New Orleans is called a little snowball for your for your memorial day weekend. We talked about the West Wing and how politics has changed and whether his his views on the show have evolved over time, looking back, given all the craziness that’s happened, talked about his career,
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:52

    and also acting and
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:53

    juicing too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:54

    Fun stuff. So you will enjoy it. But before that, I wanted to get into one substantive item I think we’ve done a lot of DeSantis analysis on on, you know, the the performance. If you wanna call it that in the Twitter space, his campaign’s positioning, a lot of strategic. I wanna play a clip that I think betrays a little bit of information about the substance of what around the Santa’s presidency would look like and ruminate on that a little bit before you get your Bradley wet for dessert.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:21

    Sebastian, can you play that?
  • Speaker 4
    0:01:22

    What do you tell the folks the truck voters who say, Ron DeSantis is lining up with the establishment wing of the party. The Carl Rose, the, you know, Paul Ryans over Fox, they’re very concerned about that.
  • Speaker 5
    0:01:36

    WELL, I CAN TELL YOU THIS THERE, I HAVE NOT SPOKEN TO PAUL RYAN SINCE I’VE BEEN GOVERNOR. I’VE MET CARLL ROVE ONCE IN MY LIFE they are not involved in my political operations. So that’s just manufacturers and garbage that people put out there online. So people are telling you that YOU KNOW, I HOPE THAT THEY’LL LOOK AT THE FACTS RATHER THAN DO THAT. YOU ALSO LOOK AT MY RECORD.
  • Speaker 5
    0:01:54

    HOW MANY ESTABLISHMENT REPUBLICANS WOULD HAVE SENT ILLEGAL ALIANS TO MARTHA’S VINER? HOW MANY ESTABLISHMENT REPUBLICANS WOULD HAVE STOOD UP AGAINST DISNEY. HOW MANY ESTABBLICANS WOULD HAVE SIGN THE BILL THAT I JUST SIGN TO BAN LAND PURCHESSES FROM PEOPLE AFFILIATED WITH THE C. C. P.
  • Speaker 5
    0:02:11

    IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA WE’RE NOW BEING SUED BY THE A. C. O. FOR THAT HOW MANY ESTABISHMENT REPUBLICANS WOULD HAVE LEENED IN TO SUPPORT OUR CHILDREN AGAINST THE PRONOWN OLYMPICS. WE BAND the pronoun Olympics, and our schools were the first state to do that.
  • Speaker 5
    0:02:26

    How many established
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:27

    here? JBL? What do you make of the the substance of of the Ron DeSantis campaign and the Ron DeSantis message. Is that something that appeals to you as a as a former You know, John McCain, Republican? You see a lot of overlap there?
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:42

    No. I I don’t. I mean, it’s it’s not sustainable. It’s the problem. Like, he can say that I haven’t spoken to Paul Ryan, and I haven’t met Carl Roeve.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:51

    But, like, Here’s the problem. Ron DeSantis may not want the establishment. The establishment wants Ron DeSantis, and everybody from Jeb Bush to Mitch McConnell is lined up for him. And at some point, his denials about, like, I I’ve never even met that guy. I’ve you know, he’s he’s like Peter denying Jesus three times before the cock crows.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:14

    And I just don’t see how that’s gonna work.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:16

    And he feels like here’s why he thinks
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:19

    Very defensive too, isn’t it?
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:20

    Yeah. So defensive. But here’s why he thinks it could work. I will do the politics first in the policy. Here’s why he thinks it could work.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:26

    He knows he’s got the Mitch McConnell world by the balls because he’s their only out. Right? And so he can do that. Like, he can slap him in the face over and over again and and expect that they’ll still come home to him. Now I think that the weakness of his campaign making that proposition a little riskier than it was a month or two months ago.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:44

    I think they’re starting to look around, but I think he feels like he can do that. Will that actually work?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:50

    The voters will know that?
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:51

    Yeah. Will the voters
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:52

    That’s the problem. Right? I mean, Mitch and and Jeb’s, like, those guys will stay with him no matter what he does to them. You know, he can rail them as as hard as he wants. But voters, you know, again, like the anti swampy types can look at that and be like, Wait.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:05

    Well, I’m I’m sorry, bro. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:06

    Well, and and I think that he risked losing potentially some people that that, you know, might throw their vote away for Tim Scott or Mike Pence? Right? He missed some people on that side, and then to your point on the MAGA side of the equation. It’s just like the try hard element of it. It’s gonna convince some people, but is it gonna convince enough and he still just smells like a Paul Ryan Republican whether he wants to or not.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:25

    I think it’s worth though settling for a moment on the actual kind of like agenda that he put out there. Right? It is the government is going to punish corporations, let’s say the wrong thing. The government is gonna tell schools and teachers what they can and cannot teach the federal government, I guess. You know, the the government is going to do human trafficking to own the whips?
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:52

    I guess. Right? I forgot the poor thing on the China thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:55

    And and the trans stuff. Trans of the government is gonna tell parents what they can and can’t do in terms of, like, you know, the health and welfare of their their children.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:04

    Right. That is what he lays out there as always anti establishment. I think that that is very telling because it also speaks to There’s this We got all a little bit in to the personal kind of media criticism side of the Nate Silver thing earlier this week. But but it’s interesting to me what a lot of I think these contrarian you know, Nate Silver types and a lot of the center right types don’t realize, as they have lost suburban voters, red dog voters, bulwark voters, real voters, not us, not the pundits, not the commentators, the real voters, because they listen to that clip of of him talking on Eric Bowling show. And they’re like, this is this is not what I signed up for.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:39

    When I signed up for compassionate conservatism, when I signed up for John McCain, when I signed up for the Shining City on the Hill stuff. It wasn’t what they signed up for now. Some of them still hold, you know, conservative beliefs and disagree with Joe Biden and on various things. But that agenda that he’s pushing forth is very big departure. And if DeSantis is supposed to be the guy that brings those folks back into the fold, that’s a that’s a ton of baggage that he’s carrying before you even get into Trump baggage.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:04

    Yeah. But the other thing is, those positions that he laid out
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:09

  • Speaker 2
    0:06:10

    Yeah. — those are now the mainstream Republican
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:13

  • Speaker 2
    0:06:13

    Right. Positions. Right? It isn’t
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:14

    That’s right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:15

    He’s not out there on on the fringe anymore. The the window moved and the people who still hold to the shining city on the hill, capacity, conservative McCain Republic I mean, those are what? Two percent of the party and everybody else has left. Right? Though the the people who were interested in that stuff ain’t Republicans no more.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:32

    And so there’s a weird thing where he’s like, look at all this transgressive stuff I did when his transgressive stuff is all exactly where the Republican Party voters are right now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:42

    The median position of Republican party voters. Anyway, well, we get into a lot of other stuff with Bradley Whitford. I hope you guys enjoy it. Just wanna promote a couple things Bradley’s got. He is just has become such a passionate advocate and he works on the Brady campaign for guns.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:58

    We talked about that a little bit. We didn’t get into this, but I do really wanna shout out the BeA Hero Fund, which he’s working on with Adi Barkin who’s a really inspiring guy. It’s never heard of Audibank and look up to be a hero fund. In particular, he’s raising money for ALS, but has expanded its scope broadly and his story is amazing. So I hope you enjoy this episode.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:18

    I hope you enjoy your memorial day weekend. We’ll see you back here on Wednesday for the standard next level with my besties, JBL and Sarah. Peace enjoy the sun. Welcome back to the next level Sunday show. I’m Tim Miller with my BFF Jonathan Last, and my aspiring, kind of friend slash uncle figure, you might know him from the West Wing or revenge of the nerds two colon nerd sesh, Bradley Whitford.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:04

    It’s great to see you, Tim. Colin nerds in paradise.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:07

    Colin nerds in paradise. Yes. I’m just gonna do this the best West Wing bit. About how you bet Toby over having to introduce people by saying I work at the White House. And so I’m I’m embarrassing that is to say I work at the White House, I’m just owning this right now, but it’s saying the impetus for this was that I saw Bradley Whitford at the White House.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:26

    He was walking in. I was walking in. He was walking out. I’m like, let’s do a podcast. Is there in a more embarrassing way to book a podcast than that?
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:33

    It was a very strange moment. I spent a day there walking around and As an actor, you are acutely aware of the fact that you get way, way too much attention given your contribution to society, There is no place. I feel that more than it when I’m in the fucking White House and people are more excited to see me than they are to see James Burling.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:59

    Gene’s contributions decided it’s not overstated. Alright. Well, first, I wanna talk to you a little bit about your politics addiction, but but but before we get to that, I do need to congratulate you up front. I know you saw this because I sent it to you, but you were named One of the best dressed at the White House correspondence dinner by congressman George Santos, who is doing kind of a Joan Rivers bit on Twitter. It’s kind of weird because he dresses like a four year old minor royal that as an adult, you made the winners list.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:31

    Well, he’s good people, you know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:33

    He really is. You know, Tim, I think you’re selling him short. I think George really pays a lot of attention to the stuff Wait. And the details I don’t know if you noticed this, but on his wrist, as a watch guy knows, he wears a cartier. What model?
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:46

    The cartier Santos.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:47

    Really? Get it. How does he afford that or stolen? Well, I mean, I
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:51

    assume it’s fake like everything else. But even so, I think he tries.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:55

    I’m excited about that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:57

    It seems like it. I was listening to you. I forgot on one of the other podcasts you did, and you talked about how that during the pandemic, the MSNBCBC logo. Got burned into your TV screen. I wanted to start there and I was like, man, this guy seems like he needs an intervention.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:11

    Then I went to your Twitter feed to, like, see your recent tweets. Can I see that you said anything interesting I should bring up? I worry that we need to confiscate your phone and television and that you could use like a dark mess for street.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:22

    Well, I hate to say when we came up on the sim, I absolutely recognized the plants I recognize the pinto beans thing, very aware of your — So healthy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:36

  • Speaker 3
    0:10:36

    your hair changes
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:38

    Good or bad on the hair changes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:39

    I like them both. I think you can’t go wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:42

    Thank you.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:42

    At one point, my wife accused me of dressing her like Katie Tur. It’s a little embarrassing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:50

    You dress your wife? Like, you got her a gift, and it was like a pantsuit.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:54

    No. It was a striped blazer.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:55

    I assume this is just love play.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:57

    When you bought it for, like, for for, like, a birthday or something? Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:00

    Yeah. It was And
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:01

    it looked Katie Turrest. Yeah. Interesting. I’m gonna let’s have rule know that you are modeling, you know, after Katie and not her. I don’t like that she’s gonna like that very much.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:10

    Okay. On a more serious note like, you know, this addiction stems from where. Like from your booking on the West Wing, from — No. — fear, from your childhood, like let’s get on the couch a little bit.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:21

    I grew up in a quaker family where, basically, the whole point of whatever religious training I had was that the faith had to be put into action. It was a very progressive tradition. I grew up in When I wasn’t in Philadelphia being a quaker, I was born and then went back in high school to Madison, Wisconsin, which has an incredible progressive Traditional politics was very alive in my house. My brother was a conscientious objector who at one point remember my mom weeping because he at one point, he ended up not having to go to prison but was gonna go to prison. So the consequences of politics were alive in the house.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:08

    I was born in nineteen fifty nine. One of my earliest memories is my mom, again, weeping when JFK was shot, everybody who we worshiped, it was a traumatic Time, obviously, but I’m like the mistakes friend in my family. My parents had three kids. Ten year break, my brother, the mistake. I’m the mistakes friend.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:34

    So my parents were, like, forty it’s a great title.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:37

    Took me aside. I was doing the math on that. I was like, okay. Got it. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:41

    The mistake’s buddy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:42

    But my parents went through the first pandemic. The horrible times during the thirties, they got married. My dad went off to war, but There was the red scare, but there was this sense that we internalized that the world was actually going to get better despite the sort of horrific, confusing polarization and events of the sixties. And I was growing up in what I knew was a very progressive quaker household I thought, well, there must be another side to the reason that we’re having this war in Vietnam and the older I got the stupider I realized it was. And I was doing West Wing, but it was more that my children were born.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:33

    I had young kids. And I felt very strongly that when the newspaper was hitting the driveway, I felt future was being attacked. When we were going to war without a plan, it felt like the Republican Party was on the rise under Bush, and we were treating the planet with contempt, and it was that combined with the access that I suddenly had because politicians had never been treated with any respect and storytelling. Unless they were sentimentalized, but usually they were mocked.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:13

    Yeah. This created some problems, which we’ll get into in a little bit. But, yeah, that’s true.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:17

    I get it. But there were a lot of issues that I really cared about, and I was ambivalent about it. You know, I remember seeing Ben Affleck talking about trade in China, and I was just thinking, man, my heart just kinda sinks a little bit. In the way I think everybody’s does when celebrities are yammering on and on. But ultimately, I felt like Well, I’m going to try to use the platform that I have from being lucky in this high school extracurricular activity.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:52

    And there’s nothing more democratic than telling other people to shut up so they should shut the fuck up. And then, of course, It was always self appointed celebrities who, on the right, who were chiming in about politics, whether we’re Bill O’Reilly, Sean, these are people who wear makeup for a living just as I do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:13

    That’s true.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:14

    And I actually had come to a place where I do think that anybody who’s lucky in Hollywood is absolutely deserves to be treated with suspicion and mocked, but I’m actually proud of a lot of the people who are active politically in Hollywood because don’t see anybody advocating for our own interests. I don’t think you need to worry about what Julia Louis Dreyfus is not asking for more money. I think you need to worry about the corporations.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:47

    For like a soft soft dictatorship run by Julie Lily Dreyfus. Nobody’s pushing themselves for that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:53

    Yes. You know,
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:53

    kind of like Donald Trump has. You don’t tend to see that at least so far.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:57

    No. She’s not asking to make reproductive decisions for other people. And then the world has just gone completely batshit to the point where even your wine has turned.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:10

    That’s true. We’re gonna get to them. Alright. You get the last five minutes to pick on us but I wanna go to because you coming from that progressive tradition that you laid out, there’s a big kind of critique of the left wing kind of from the left. Right that like maybe you guys were too pollyanna that there was a sense that bipartisanship was an end in itself, that was something good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:33

    How do you kind of perceive that now? Does that resonate with you in in looking in retrospect? Or you think those are like lefty online cranks? Who should who should shut up and think about all the possibilities that we could achieve if we just work together.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:46

    Look. You know, yeah, it’s fake. It’s it was a a TV show. Aaron goal was not to serve civic vegetables. I think even he would admit this, a pathological need that is at the core of any bunch of storytellers to, you know, keep the audience’s attention more than it was to serve an agenda.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:12

    The agenda was totally mirrored my pragmatic progressiveism and I think which was very close to Aaron’s. I mean, it’s ridiculous to see it as a model of solving something. The fakest thing about that show, by the way. Was that we had rational Republicans. I mean, that was the fakest fucking
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:34

    You know, you’d Arnold Vinick, which was my kind of Republican. Mean I’m watching the show and this is you know you drew me into the show. Oh yeah. Man, I love this guy. Arnold Vinick is a Tim Miller Republican, you know, running against Santos toward the end as the Alan Alda character, but had you presented Republicans like Sarah Palin or God forbid Donald Trump like you would have been ridiculed.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:57

    Absolutely. And you were already ridiculed by conservatives, but they would have gotten their high horsemen like you Hollywood Liberals like, you’re out of touch with what Republicans want. Republicans want William f Buckly. You know? They don’t want these clowns that you’re portraying us as, but you did the opposite?
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:13

    Yes. And this is the thing that I always find amazing being constantly accused, you know, for the last twenty five years of being a condescending out of touch, liberal Hollywood guy. If I’m doing an interview with Variety, for something and I were to say, are you recording good? This is what your readers need to know about Bradley Whitford. I am incredibly rich.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:38

    I’m phenomenally rich. And the reason I’m rich is I am the greatest actor, whoever lived Again, my work and revenge of the nerds too, Collins, nerds in paradise. Everything I’ve done is brilliant, and Christian Bale sucks. He’s a shitty actor. My stupid whatever this is, showbiz career would instantly be over.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:02

    I’m from Wisconsin so I go back all the time. It’s obviously an interesting place politically, which I would love to talk about. But I’ve been with people next to people running for president, you know, running for senate, running for state office, local office, mayors, and they’re constantly justifiably terrified that they will seem condescending. Or say something that might be interpreted as condescending. So this Trump thing is just I mean, not only an idiot from show business.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:38

    The biggest idiot from show business. And the worst human being. My first day this is true. In New York City, I went to Juliet after I went to college nineteen eighty one. Nineteen eighty one, and I walk into the changing room, and these guys are slamming the lockers and swearing because these fourth year guys had spent the summer working for this real estate guy who never paid them.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:05

    They had just confronted them, and he said, what are you gonna do? Summy? You’re fucking actors. And that was how I became aware of Donald Trump, who is, you know, a joke and a psychopath. And I’m jumping around a little bit, but from my unique perspective, having been an advocate in politics and making my living on TV.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:26

    You know, you can have an affair with an intern In the Oval Office you’ll be forgiven. You can go to war based on false intelligence without a plan. You’ll be forgiven. The death penalty in politics is reserved for my stupid concern, which is being bad on TV. It is on forgivable.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:49

    Howard Dean screams. Get the fuck out. I I you know, you’re done. Al Gore seems kind of condescending. We don’t wanna see it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:59

    And I guess the perverse logical you know, extension of this is a reality TV star who is hard to take your eyes off of. It’s like encountering basically because of his shamelessness. It’s like encountering somebody on the street who’s not at the mercy of gravity. It’s riveting television like a car wreck is but it’s not great for, you know, kinda policy with Nuance.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:33

    Yeah. You you can’t be touring on TV. Right? You can can be bad on TV, but you can’t be boring. That’s what they don’t want.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:40

    I actually wonder if Dean would be better suited to today’s politics — Yeah. — weirdly enough You know, I I got a question for you, Bradley. You said that the thing the West Wing did that was unbelievable was having, you know, Republicans who could work with. This is an ongoing conversation we have at the bulwark with each other, with other people all the time. Was it always thus was it always like this and just people didn’t realize it, you know, is Trump the logical extension of you know, bury goldwater and and, you know, the conservative movement, or did something shift and something happen?
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:14

    You know, I look, you know, the West wing comes on, Brooklyn is in office. Right? We’ve had, you know, the faces of the Republican Party have been George h w Bush, who, you know, whatever you think of him was a, you know, reasonably moderate guy who lived a long life of service to the country. The Republican nominees for president were Bob Dole, who was just, like, mister compromised, Reagan served eight years as president, got a lot of legislation passed, all with the Democratic congress for virtually the entire time of his presidency. And then sort of things seem to break.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:47

    I don’t know. I mean just after the first black guy gets elected president, who could say why? Maybe that’s just coincidental. I don’t know.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:53

    I always felt like The Republican Party was always vulnerable to I felt like even back then to this kind of exploitation. I mean, I remember beginning voting issues were coming up in Wisconsin. I didn’t see Trump happening, and it is absolutely different. And I think it is because we had a successful black president, and there’s always been a large percentage of this country that is, I guess, proudly racist.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:32

    Yeah. That stuff’s not as far in our past as a lot of people think. You know, just with Jim Brown’s passing, I was looking at video today of him on the dick Cabot show. And Tim won’t remember who that is. But you and I do.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:43

    I do.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:44

    And, you know, the dick Cabot show is not ancient history. It’s not black and white. It’s, you know, it’s like a thing that happened, not five minutes ago, but like an hour ago in terms of American history. And Jim Brown is on there, sitting having a conversation with the governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox, who is explaining why, you know, he’s proud of his wife. Race and why we shouldn’t have integration and why people who love their race should be allowed to say hey, look at this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:09

    You’re like, this is being broadcast on know, but there were only three Bulwark, you know, forty percent of America was seeing this. And this was just normal rational discussion. And this is not, like, civil war stuff. This is not Jim Crow, you know, set back during the days of to kill a mockingbird. This is like very recent history.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:27

    I remember that conversation. Didn’t dick Cabot call him a bigot, and he said you have to apologize. And I think dick Cabot said, if you’re not a bigot, I apologize. In my lifetime, the vast majority of the black people in the south couldn’t vote. You know — Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:44

  • Speaker 3
    0:24:44

    my entire horseshoe hanging out of my ass, gee, I think I’ll become an actor, existence. Is not because my father was rich, is not because I was given a lot of money, but it was because my father and my grandfather unlike Wendell’s father and Wendell’s grandfather could get a fucking mortgage. So sure. I think the West Wing was maybe smug about the durability of of our democracy, and I think it gave us a false sense of inevitability of it. I used to get defensive about it because everybody loved the sopranos and we were this kinda sentimental show, and some reporter was asking me about it saying like the West Wing was fantasy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:32

    And I was like, you know, I actually don’t think that, like, six people who work in the White House who really believe in the guy who’s president is a fantasy. I think a mob guy in therapy is a fantasy. Yeah. One thing I do think tons of stuff is fake about the show, obviously, because we are storytelling and heroicizing. One thing that I think the show got right, the quandary for my character and the quandary to some extent of each one of the episodes had something to do with the idea of how dirty do your feet have to get without you disappearing in the mud in order for you to get an inch of what needs to be done, done, which I think is an heroic struggle.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:22

    I think you can’t take away how the values of show business and the way we communicate about politics, has made things worse and more polarized. I’ve done a number of sort of quasi political panels on TV The last thing they want to hear in my experience is for somebody to go, wow. That’s That’s an interesting point. I haven’t thought about it like that. If Anderson Cooper’s talking about health care, we’re gonna have a single payer guy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:59

    It’s gonna be predictable we need conflict.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:03

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:03

    And I worry less about the influence of showbiz people on the political process than the adoption of the values of show business by the political world. I think the right has always understood that politics is the truth. Which is that politics is the way you create your moral vision. We tend to think that it’s culture, what we do. But I always say that West Wing won’t help you if you have a preexisting condition, you actually have to pass a law hammades tail, huge hit, won’t help you if your gut raped and you’re thirteen in Ohio, and I believe that’s part of the reason we have a kind of tyrannical minority rule, this is a huge simplification.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:59

    But I think the right is basically pursuing a business agenda that they use a lot of libertarian nonsense to justify that is fueled by culture wars. But for them, it is not an extracurricular activity. It is part of their business. The NRA is at every committee meeting. They do not need to be summoned to action by horrific tragedy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:35

    We, as a country, and the more progressive minded, have seen Bulwark person after black person shot in the back by cops, it takes the horrific strangulation of a human being in real time to summon us to the diagnosis, which is absolutely necessary. But we tend I think to not participate in the political process, which is necessary, which includes being, you know, aware of things like owe, we’re gonna lose the supreme fucking court.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:11

    The macabre observation on that is like everyone kind of self assesses that the other side’s doing it better. Like that a a common trope on the right. I’m like, among the Andrew Bright Bart Steve Van and Crowd is like politics is downstream from culture. We need to do better adapt. We need to have more Bradley Whitford.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:28

    Like, we need to have, like, famous people that are doing. And so they assess that. But I think that your assessment is Correct, it’s funny that not funny, it’s Macabre that, you know, they they haven’t looked at the last forty years and seen victory. Part of the reason we end up here. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:42

    A lot of the conservatives look at the last forty years and see defeat because they’ve had cultural defeats like despite the fact that they’ve had you know, policy victories because most of these guys as we found out during the trumpet era aren’t motivated by policy really. They didn’t really care that much. There’s a small percentage of people that care deeply about changing the abortion weak restrictions, but what they really wanted was dominance. And they feel like they’ve lost that. And so now they’re trying to assess, how can we regain it?
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:11

    More positive side of the West Wing thing that I’ve made positives in the right word. But JV all wrote in his newsletter about how Joe Biden is kind of like the moderate president that everybody says that they want that nobody gives him credit for it. And I was I was curious if you feel that way. Right? Like that if there is a Bart Lydian He
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:30

    is he’s Jed Bartlett. Kind of
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:32

    he maybe isn’t good at the speechifying. You know, Aaron Sorkin isn’t writing for him. John Meacham is. And, you know, he has his own Delaware stutter that he’s dealing with. But, like, He’s resisted the excesses of the left.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:44

    Despite the Republican party’s like insanity, he’s cut two or three pretty big deals on chips and on infrastructure. People say they want it but they don’t. So anyway, I wonder how you’d react to kind of that notion.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:56

    He’s been much more effective than I ever expected he would be able to be. And in very progressive ways that I think please the left that have surprised me in the infrastructure act A lot of the climate stuff is extraordinary on guns. The danger is that the left always seems to believe that they will be rewarded for governance, and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. The child tax credit, you know, was this extraordinary. And it went away, and the democrats get no credit for it
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:38

    You’re tickling JBLs around in his zones right now. It’s like a major theme of his.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:43

    I am. Well, let me lick my fingers and go a little deeper you know, we expect to get rewarded for it. We should be rewarded for it, but it’s not exciting to watch on TV. It’s more exciting to watch Marjorie Taylor, Green, tear a trans lives matter banner off her colleague’s door. That’s better television than we fixed it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:16

    As everybody read I’m using ourselves to death by Neil Postman because everybody needs to And what’s interesting about that book in terms of West Wing too is he’s, like, the worst kind of most damaging kind of television is television that it attempts to be edifying or educational in any way, which I think is part of the way people critique the West Wing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:41

    I have a different critique coming from my, you know, former Republican life of some of your work. I’ll move to that handmaid’s tale really quick. Do a little politics overlap. You know, it gets a little cringey for me sometimes. Like there’s some of the actor and actresses that are like doing the Handmaid’s Tail tour and they’re like, oh, we’re in pre gilead society now and, you know, the people with the handmaid’s tale protests like going around with Mike Pence events, I get that there’s trying to shock and all this and I get that we’re three men right now talking about this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:12

    But do you worry a little bit about that there’s a backlash to this like that there’s this over catastrophizing Hollywood tendency to want to talk about how society is going to shit when like a lot of people’s everyday lives. There’s some people who have very real concerns right now obviously the thirteen year old rape you were just mentioned, you know, people at the border, but a lot of people day to day, everyday life in Wisconsin, they don’t feel like we’re on the on the cusp of the handmaid’s tale. And it feels like folks have gone a little looney tunes when they start saying that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:44

    Yeah. I read that book in nineteen eighty five when it came out and it seemed a lot farther off than it seems to me to be now. I mean, I would be more open to that idea six years ago, but I’ve trans people in my family who I feel are not safe. I have many trans friends, people in that community who are really not safe, not only from violence from the outside, but from getting the the support they need to live their lives in a healthy way. I feel like the gay community is in a very fundamental way being, you know, kind of, I don’t know, lesser Americans I’m really alarmed with the erosion of abortion rights, and I just saw there’s a great play called Leopoldstadt.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:41

    That is exactly about assuming if you are an integral part of the culture you are safe. And don’t worry about those lunatic fascists. You know, nobody’s gonna fall for that bullshit. And I think what the handmade sale gets right that is alarming to me is weaponizing Christian fundamentalism, it’s basically what Trump did, and people’s willingness to sort of follow that. So I get your point, but I think that’s a really bad example.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:19

    That’s okay. That’s fair. No. No. That’s fair.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:21

    I think it is reasonable to be extremely alarmed. I I think that also sometimes, you know, JV always has a bit on this where it’s like, oh, Marjorie Taylor Green, like, insults people in the most base way. And, like, she’s, like, the most powerful person in the House of Representatives. And then there’s a both sides class that says, oh, some actor, you know, says that we’re on the cusp of Christ o Fashion. And it’s like, that means they’re crazy too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:46

    And it’s like, well, kind of silly. Like it’s okay. Everyone can express in their art, their varying levels of alarm. I wanna ask you about get out really quick and then we’ll get to Julie art. But I want to follow-up on trans folks in your family.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:57

    I’m just wondering how that’s impacted you. You also did the show transparent. Is that what it was called? Transparent? It was good.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:02

    And I was just curious to hear more about that from a personal perspective.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:07

    Well, you know, it was a very personal thing in my nephew transitioned a long time ago, and I’m really alarmed by the targeting of this. To go to the handmaid’s tale, fascists, perhaps, non overreaction, it is precisely I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, Tim, but sexuality and gender kinda short people out. And the otherizing people and targeting a vulnerable group like that can unify people and not to go back to the Hitler trough, but, you know, the documentary footage you see of the book’s burning are at a guy named Magnus Hirschfeld’s clinic, which is a place that was acknowledging that homosexuality was not a choice that was making a distinction between gender and sexuality and acknowledging a spectrum of gender, and that’s the first place The Nazis went to to burn the books. Like, it’s really alarming to me, and again there’s an ongoing epidemic of suicide in that community. So the sort of casual political football of it all is just I’ve seen.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:29

    When I was in high school, nobody was out. When I was in college, two guys were out. When I went to acting school, everybody was out and every ball my mentors and I remember reading in the village voice about gay pneumonia and then this horrible crisis happened that the president was ignoring. And I would go back to Wisconsin and the perception in the eighties of homosexuality, you know, people were alarmed and disparaging about it. I would always say, hey.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:03

    I’ve been taking showers with gay men for the last ten years. It’s no problem.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:07

    They’re humans.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:08

    Nobody’s doing anything they don’t wanna do. And the backtracking on that feels weird.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:14

    You didn’t feel groomed at Juliet? You didn’t feel groomed?
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:16

    No. No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:17

    Okay. JBL has to get to do it, but I just I have to ask you one question about get out. I have this opportunity to talk
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:22

    to you — Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:22

    — and I’m doing the get out question and then JBL gets it. The Obama third term joke. When you read it, how owned did you feel by them writing that for you? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a fictional scene where the fictional actor character says a line where they’re just completely owned by the person that wrote it. Because that is Bradley Whitford, and it was your character, and you are being mocked.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:47

    Absolutely. I laughed when I read it, Jordan Piel wrote that line. I asked him at one point why he thought I would be good for this part and he said, I just thought it’d be funny to see Josh Limen take the top of someone’s skull off. I made The mistake at some point, I was making a joke about it, and I I I sat on social media or something or or somebody saw me say, I was making a joke. And I said, yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:22

    I didn’t realize that was a joke. And then all these people are like, you’re you’re such an idiot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:27

    You’re so stupid. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:28

    Yeah. I think about this a lot. In my peculiar life, I spent a lot of time doing theater and regional theater, growing up as an actor. And the first thing you learn is do not go to the after play discussion.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:47

    It’s like don’t read the comments.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:48

    Yeah. Some subscriber Manhattan Theater Club, which sleeps four hundred ninety nine, is gonna say, I just don’t think you’re very good. You know, or I didn’t get it, or I was bored, you learn very quickly, do not go to the after play discussion. Now because of social media, the entire world is an after play discussion, and it’s a difficult way to function. Do you read your comments?
  • Speaker 3
    0:40:16

    On stuff?
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:17

    We have the bulwark commenters are so great. It’s such a joy and we’ve cultivated a great community. My Twitter replies our assess pool and I’ve just started blocking because it’s hard. It is hard. I like I used to go on MSNBC and then immediately search my name.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:33

    This is so embarrassing. Like, it’s just important to be embarrassed because, like, it’s like I wanna know what people think. Like, was that was it good? Was it not good? And now I try very hard to not do that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:43

    But it’s human nature. You know? You do wanna get feedback. Right? I try it a lot harder.
  • Speaker 3
    0:40:47

    You didn’t use any lube, but when you were reading that,
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:50

    didn’t use any I was I just kind of you know, I just start kinda doing this and reading my own comments. Yeah. I I will say I did go to the Amazon reviews of my book and like clicked on one star. And my husband’s like, what are you doing? Like, why are you doing that?
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:03

    And I’m just like, I can’t help buy something that’s compulsive. JBL. You’re up.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:06

    Julieard. I’m obsessed with Julieard. Have been my whole life because I because I didn’t get it. That’s why. Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:12

    You know, it’s the club that wouldn’t have me. I am curious as to how you got in, what you did in Val Kilmers documentary. I don’t know if you’ve seen that in the last year or so. It’s absolutely beautiful. He talks about how he did comedy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:25

    You know, everybody else is going super serious, and he was like, no. I’m gonna make people laugh. And and I love that idea. What it was like for you, what the community was like, what the experience of being just surrounded by the level of talent that you get at juilliard, which is unlike any place else in the world in any other you know, a picture like MIT for astrophysics, but but more so. You know, kicked up a notch for people who aren’t familiar with what Juliet is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:51

    And then what it was like for you post Juliet? Because they, you know, it does seem like some people get a fast pass into their careers. I love thinking about the careers of Renee Elise, and Philip Sue. So two actresses who both wound up in exactly the same place, which is Hamilton and then absolute superstardom. But the roots they took are so different.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:11

    Right? Renee Lees Goldberry toiled in the vineyards for decades. She was like a backup singer on Ali McBeal. She’s one of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard in the history of of humanity. But, you know, and she had to, like, work and sweat and, you know, went back and got an MFA and Jazz, you know, at USC, I think.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:29

    And then you have Philip Bassu, who goes to Juliet. And two years later, she’s cast in Hamilton. And so it I just what is because you were, you know, you’re a working actor. You’ve been a working actor for a long time. Everybody discovered you with wing, which is when you became like, you know, a household name, but you’ve been a working actor for for forever.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:47

    Right? So anyway, just go. Julieard, go.
  • Speaker 3
    0:42:50

    I had very conflicting one of the greatest communities in my life is my class at Juliet, which back when I it started out as like, twenty seven people and then went down to, like, twenty because they would cut people, which was brutal. It was a psychologically difficult place to be. If you talk to anybody who was an actor back then, I think it’s a lot different now. There were a lot of what I called British acting Nazis who proudly thought that intimidation was the best way to teach, which is an absolute crack of shit. One of my kids said to me, what just really casually.
  • Speaker 3
    0:43:34

    No offense dad. I’ve seen dogs be good in movies, which is only devastating because it’s absolutely true. One of the odd things about being a juilliard is if you’re a trumpeter or a pianist, there is a mountain of technique that you have to master before we can even begin to decide if you’re, I don’t know, gifted or talented in any way. On the other hand, dogs have been good in movies. There’s no mountain of technique.
  • Speaker 3
    0:44:03

    Acting is different from learning all those other things. It’s I think it should be taught more like the Iowa writers workshop. Nobody who’s any good at and I mean nobody is really dogmatic about it. It’s very personal. If you tell me I’m overacting it’s gonna be something mean something different to me than it is to Jim Carey.
  • Speaker 3
    0:44:30

    And I wish that they had been a little less kind of abusive and just sort of let us perform more. On the other hand, I’m really grateful that I just you know, I told my dad, I you know, think of it as med school with guaranteed unemployment at the end.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:50

    When I
  • Speaker 3
    0:44:50

    got to just act and go into debts and act in parts that I would not normally be allowed to act in because once you get into the world, they want you to be a closer version of yourself. Stage makes you more audacious. The luckiest thing about my career is I’ve been able to mix it. I think stage gives you an audacity, but film you cannot lie. And I feel really lucky about being able to combine those things.
  • Speaker 3
    0:45:23

    Our class got together this group And there’s like three of us who are making a living, you know? And none of them are women, the business is still extremely sexist in that way. Wendell Pierce, who is I think about to win a Tony award, I remember Ving Rames remember Wendell being very upset because Ving Rames who was a year too older said, you know, get your crepe hair out because you’re gonna be playing all the old men because that’s all they do with the African American kids. Here. I feel so much luckier than I ever thought I would be, and I still find this business like really disorienting way to live.
  • Speaker 3
    0:46:09

    There are these experiences like West Wing, which will never happen again. I mean, that was twenty two episodes of an incredible closeness. Now, you know, you’re kinda shooting things in much smaller doses and you don’t have that kind of community. And show business in general, it’s like dating a schizophrenic. I mean, and I get more insecure as I get older because I know how lucky I’d been.
  • Speaker 3
    0:46:36

    People say, how did you get on the West Wing? And if you track it back, I was really embarrassed because I was just playing assholes, and I got revenge of the nerds. And in the revenge of the nerds was this guy Tim Busfield who was really interested in theater, and we went to a one act festival And then he got replaced Tom Hulse and a few good men. And Tim Busfield said to Aaron, this guy really understands your stuff. And Aaron made me Eventually, the lead in a few good men, but I almost didn’t get Josh Limen.
  • Speaker 3
    0:47:10

    I Don’t know who but somebody turned down my part in Get Al? It feels really insecure. Feedback for me in Westwing, which was absolutely a really good audition. I don’t believe that about me all the time. You know, he’s not funny.
  • Speaker 3
    0:47:27

    He’s not sexy. It’s not gonna work.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:30

    We it’s been such a good show. It’s been so long. We’re over already. I have so many things we didn’t get to. You have a New Orleans show you’re doing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:36

    You’re in the Brady campaign. Yeah. I wanted to talk about guns with you. There’s the writer’s strike. You had a great tweet about making fun of ZaaS and Max the other day that people should look at.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:45

    But we got rapid fire. We have to do it. Three rapid fire questions. And then you might have time to ask one burning question about why we voted for George w Bush. K.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:54

    Are you ready for the rapid fire section?
  • Speaker 3
    0:47:55

    Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:57

    Gotta be rapid. One thing you’ve changed your mind about is a grown
  • Speaker 3
    0:48:00

    up. Nuclear energy. Pro, your pronoun? No. I I I think there might have been a safer way to approach it that might have helped us with climate or transit or not.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:11

    Yeah. West Wingline people quote back to you the most.
  • Speaker 3
    0:48:14

    What what in God’s name is happening right now?
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:19

    Adam Brody when he was on this show said that he thinks in Hollywood’s fucked up and there’s been too much of a glorification of guns and movies. Are you on board with that change? Hollywood reflection? Or do you think that he’s being a pansy lip?
  • Speaker 3
    0:48:32

    As a quaker, I have a very mixed feelings about violence because drama needs conflict violence is a distillation of it. I worry that we live in a society where our genitalia are the definition of obscenity and violence is seen as entertainment So I think it could use some introspection. I think violence portrayed with consequences is very effective, and then I look at the Greek plays, and it’s all about, like, sleeping with your kids and yanking your eyes out. So I don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:10

    That was thoughtful, that was a good rapid fire answer. Okay, finally, what about Josh Holly do you find the most masculine?
  • Speaker 3
    0:49:16

    His lips.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:18

    It’s a good answer. I would have set his shoulders, but he does have masculine lips. Okay, we have two minutes. Do you have any burning questions for us? Just want to save it for the green ring?
  • Speaker 3
    0:49:26

    Well, I mean, you wrote a book about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:29

    I did. You are in the first page. Josh Limen is literally in paragraph three. You had to open that up and be like, I can’t believe I’m on paragraph three of this part.
  • Speaker 3
    0:49:36

    I forgot that, but not just because I’m on your podcast. I thought it was an absolutely terrific read. By the way, in my favorite genre, which is conservatives acknowledging how wrong they’ve been.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:48

    We like to feed it to you. Bradley Woodford. Thank you so much for doing this. It was my great pleasure. JBL was so happy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:54

    JBL is parenting while doing this. He was so excited to do it. That he is multitasking. He was rejected from Julieard, but he did get to be on a podcast with Bradley Wetford, not a bad life trajectory. We’ll be here Wednesday for the normal next level podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:09

    Next Sunday we have a great guest too, not as good as Bradley, but really damn good. So come on back, subscribe, like, Hang out the bowl Bulwark.
  • Speaker 3
    0:50:16

    Get your next level lube.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:17

    That’ll be our TikTok. Turn to the TikTok camera on. We’ll see you guys next time. Peace. Peace.
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