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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It's official: HBO Max's West Wing reunion special casts Sterling K. Brown as Leo

Martin Sheen and John Spencer as Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry on The West Wing (James Sorensen/NBC/Newsmakers); Sterling K. Brown (Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET)
Martin Sheen and John Spencer as Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry on The West Wing (James Sorensen/NBC/Newsmakers); Sterling K. Brown (Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET)

Aaron Sorkin may not have Sterling K. Brown playing the president just yet, but we finally know what the This Is Us actor was doing on the set of the West Wing reunion special in September. The A.V. Club was the first outlet to make note of Brown’s presence on set, but it was unclear if Brown had stopped by to perform a role in the reading; film an act-break bit like Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton, and Lin-Manuel Miranda will participate in; or just say hi. (Though, with COVID-19, we at least knew the chances of the latter were slim.) Now we can report with certainty that Brown will be reading the role of Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on the special, which premieres on Oct. 15 on HBO Max.

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The role of Leo was played on the NBC political drama by actor John Spencer until his death in 2005. While Spencer’s death was written into the show, the episode that the cast will be reading on the reunion special is season three’s “Hartsfield’s Landing.” While much of “Hartsfield’s Landing” deals with Donna (Janel Moloney) and Josh (Bradley Whitford) trying to solidify New Hampshire primary votes and President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) playing chess games with Sam (Rob Lowe) and Toby (Richard Schiff), Leo is at the President’s side in the Situation Room for war games the administration is trying to tamp down in the Taiwan Strait.

Brown, Moloney, Whitford, Sheen, Lowe, and Schiff will be joined for the reading by Allison Janney and Dulé Hill while other supporting cast members (including William Duffy and Peter James Smith who played Ed and Larry, respectively...or was it the other way around?).

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Helmed by series director and executive producer Thomas Schlamme, A West Wing Special To Benefit When We All Vote brings back the entire cast for the first time in 17 years. In addition to the act-break guests mentioned above, there will be a performance by composer W.G. Snuffy Walden, who will play the score for The West Wing theme song on his guitar. Folk-rock band The Avett Brothers will also close out the special, which is intended to raise awareness of When We All Vote, an organization dedicated to increasing participation in American elections.

Remember to make your voting plan ASAP. And while you’re at it, fill out your census form.

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A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

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