C. J. Cregg

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C. J. Cregg
The West Wing character
CJ Cregg.jpg
Allison Janney as C. J. Cregg
First appearance "Pilot"
Last appearance "Tomorrow"
Created by Aaron Sorkin
Portrayed by Allison Janney
Information
Nickname(s) Flamingo (Secret Service code name)
Gender Female
Occupation White House Press Secretary (Seasons 1-6), White House Chief of Staff (Seasons 6-7)
Family Talmidge Cregg (father)
Molly Lapham Cregg (stepmother)
Libby Lapham (stepsister)
Hogan Cregg (niece)
Older brothers
Spouse(s) Danny Concannon (Season 7, episode 1, set 3 years later)
Children at least one child, name unknown (born after series ends)
Relatives at least two brothers
Religion Roman Catholic
Nationality American

Claudia Jean "C. J." Cregg is a character played by Allison Janney on the television serial drama The West Wing. The role earned Janney the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2000, 2001) and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (2002, 2004). From the beginning of the series until the sixth season, she is White House Press Secretary in the administration of President Josiah Bartlet. After that, she is White House Chief of Staff until the last episode, when Bartlet's successor is inaugurated. The character is supposedly loosely based on Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, who served as a consultant to the show.

Creation and development[edit]

According to series creator Aaron Sorkin, casting for C.J. Cregg was a problem. While everybody had "fallen in love" with Allison Janney, she, like every other actor who had been cast at the time, was Caucasian. The cast's lack of racial diversity was making the network nervous, and another "wonderfully talented" Afro-Guyanese actress (CCH Pounder) was also reading very well for the role of C.J. "Still," says Sorkin, "When we closed our eyes at night we wanted Allison. So we cast Allison."[1]

The character is loosely based on Dee Dee Myers, a show consultant and former press secretary to the Clinton administration. One particular storyline in the episode "Lord John Marbury", in which C.J. is left in the dark about troop movement on the Indo-Pakistani border, is taken directly from one of Myers' experiences in the White House. Myers was kept out-of-the-loop with regard to the 1993 assassination attempt on former President George H. W. Bush and subsequently, she assured the press that there would be no more news coming out of the White House hours before the United States bombed Baghdad. Myers was upset with the resolution of this episode's plot, in which Leo McGarry brushes off C.J.'s anger by saying, "Just tell them you spoke without being informed." "This is like saying, 'I'm an idiot; you can't trust me,'" says Myers. "I wanted to make her more angry. I wanted there to be some resolution, in order to preserve the strength of her character, where she calls 'the boys' on the rug." Sorkin admits that he "dropped the ball" in this instance.[2][3]

C.J.'s lip-synched performance of "The Jackal" by Ronny Jordan in the episode "Six Meetings Before Lunch" was written in after Sorkin witnessed Janney doing "some impromptu lip-synching" in her trailer on the set.[4] Janney's performance was deemed too "good" by Sorkin during initial production, and she was advised to make it more "awkward" to fit the character for the final screen version.

Character biography[edit]

C.J., a Catholic, is originally from Dayton, Ohio (like Janney in real life, as well as fellow cast member Martin Sheen). Her father, Talmidge Cregg, was a math teacher West Dayton High School and begins suffering from Alzheimer's during Bartlet's first term in office (first mentioned in the season 3 episode "The Two Bartlets," with a more in-depth storyline in the season 4 episode "The Long Goodbye"). Her mother had died some time ago and Talmidge subsequently remarried twice, most recently a fellow teacher named Molly Lapham. C.J. also has at least two older brothers, one of whom has a teenage daughter named Hogan (whose name is the result of the brothers being "golf-crazies"). Several jokes are made about C.J.'s height, particularly in an episode in which Big Bird visits the White House. She graduated from West Dayton High School, and in the season 4 episode "The Long Goodbye" (set in late 2002 or early 2003, between the Christmas and Inauguration episodes) she attends what is presumably her 20th high school reunion, making her approximately 38 years old in 2002 (34 when she joined the Bartlet campaign).

A National Merit Scholar, C.J. attended college at Williams College as indicated by the mug in her bookcase in Season 5 Episode 18. She later earned a master's degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and it is revealed in Season 1 Episode 21 that she is considered an expert in polling models; her undergraduate major is never disclosed. She was making $550,000 a year for her work at Triton Day, a prominent California public relations firm, before coming to work for Bartlet's 1998 presidential campaign for $600 a week ($31,200 a year). Coincidentally, she is fired from that job on the same day that Toby Ziegler comes to California to ask her to join the Bartlet campaign; He tells her Josiah Bartlet was impressed by the work C.J. had done at EMILY's List, then admits Bartlet has never heard of her: she is his and Leo McGarry's choice. She is less than pleased to discover that her Secret Service codename is "Flamingo", a bird which C.J. describes as being "ridiculous-looking".

During the third season, C.J. receives a series of death threats, which leads to her being placed under the protection of Secret Service agent Simon Donovan (played by Mark Harmon), with whom she becomes romantically involved. Shortly after going off-duty, Donovan is shot and killed after becoming caught up in the armed robbery of a New York City grocery store in the episode "Posse Comitatus". C.J. also has a long on-again, off-again relationship with the Washington Post's White House correspondent Danny Concannon, although C.J. feels that they should not date because it would be a conflict of interest with her job. In the 7th season (when C.J. has become Chief of Staff and no longer deals with the press on a daily basis) the subject is slowly revisited. At series' end, she and Danny are learning how to have a romantic relationship with each other.

In the fifth season, it is revealed that C.J. had a one-night stand with Vice President John Hoynes, who was married at the time, approximately four years before the Bartlet Administration entered the White House. She tells Toby that she considers that night to be one of the greatest mistakes of her life. This history is foreshadowed a few times in the series, years before the revelation. Also, during the fifth season episode "Access", a documentary episode that is scripted within the role of the show to only be aired after the Bartlet administration left office, it is revealed that C.J. Cregg remains the only woman to have served two terms as press secretary.

C.J. succeeds Leo McGarry as White House Chief of Staff in the sixth season (halfway through Bartlet's second term) after McGarry suffers a heart attack at Camp David. She is recommended by Leo himself, giving the President a list of "just one name". There has never been a female White House Chief of Staff in the real U.S. Government—it is unknown if the same is true in The West Wing fictional universe. It would also be the first time any press secretary was elevated to the position. In spite of initial warmth (the Press Briefing room gives C.J. a standing ovation when Bartlet announces her appointment), C.J. receives criticism on her appointment to the position of Chief of Staff because of her relative lack of foreign policy experience. While her subsequent performance as the Chief of Staff appears at first to be procedural in nature and lacking the independent advice which McGarry brought to the position, C.J. grows into the role. The episode The Wake Up Call marks a significant turning point in C.J.'s relationship with both the President and her new role, when she tells Bartlet he needs to trust her to do her job after an international crisis involving Iran. By the seventh season, C.J. is as confident with her new role as she was with her old, and has learned to gauge the President's mood and when he will be most receptive of her ideas. She successfully navigates the murky waters of UN politics, setting up a UN Security Council resolution to end the (real-life) humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan.

After the election of Matt Santos as President of the United States, C.J. is offered any position she wants in the incoming Santos Administration by Chief of Staff-designate Josh Lyman and is later offered by President-elect Santos a job as Special Counselor to the President. This is only one of many job offers she receives, including several positions in the private sector, notably an offer by Frank Hollis (a Bill Gates/Ted Turner-like character) to manage a new $10 billion charitable organization. She initially declines, but tells Hollis the best way to spend his money is to start building proper roads in Africa in order to make it easier to get food and services to people in need, and if there is money left over to start on the plumbing. Hollis is deeply impressed with this response, particularly when C.J. admits that nobody will give Hollis credit because the task is so mundane that the media won't even notice. She feels obligated to take the position in the Santos Administration, but is convinced by Danny Concannon to do what she wants, which is to take Hollis's money and change the world.

In the opening episode of the final season a flash-forward to the time of the dedication of the Bartlet presidential library, three years after the end of his presidency, reveals that C.J. lives in Santa Monica, California with husband Danny Concannon and their child.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sorkin, Aaron (2002). The West Wing Script Book. New York: Newmarket Press. ISBN 1-55704-499-6
  2. ^ Miller, Matthew (March 1, 2000). The Real White House. Brill's Content. Retrieved on Dec. 14, 2007.
  3. ^ Thompson, Krissah (November 22, 2012). "Meet the players in the Petraeus scandal". The Washington Post (The Washington Post). Retrieved November 21, 2012. 
  4. ^ Moore, Frazier (August 7, 2000). Allison Janney takes humor to the heights on 'West Wing'. Associated Press. Retrieved on Dec. 14, 2007.