|The West Wing character|
Janel Moloney as Donna Moss
|Created by||Aaron Sorkin|
|Portrayed by||Janel Moloney|
|Occupation||Senior Assistant to the Deputy White House Chief of Staff (Seasons 1-6), Russell Campaign Senior Aide (Season 6), Santos Campaign Spokeswoman (Season 7), Chief of Staff to the First Lady (end of Season 7)|
|Title||Chief of Staff to the First Lady|
|Family||Unnamed mother, unnamed father.|
|Spouse(s)||Josh Lyman (boyfriend)|
|Religion||Protestant, denomination unspecified|
Donnatella "Donna" Moss is a fictional character played by Janel Moloney on the television serial drama The West Wing. Although Donna is a recurring character during the first season, she appears in every episode of that season and is therefore a de facto regular. Further, she becomes a regular character at the beginning of the second season.
During most of the series Donna is the senior assistant to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (or, as she jokingly calls herself in one episode, the "Deputy Deputy Chief of Staff"). Although all of the senior staff's assistants are continuing characters with personal backgrounds, Donna is the most well-defined and most often featured staff member on the assistant level, and her difficult, semi-romantic relationship with Josh is a major plot device during the later seasons of the show.
Donna was born outside of Warroad, Minnesota, to an Irish-American father and an Italian-American mother. Donna's United States citizenship was briefly revoked after the Minnesota town in which she was born ended up in Canada due to border changes. However, her citizenship was quickly restored after the discovery of a grandfather clause in the law. Donna has been identified by Josh as Protestant. He also made a remark about her Catholic school uniform, although it could have been his sarcasm.
She later moved to Wisconsin where she attended University of Wisconsin–Madison and dropped out half-way through to support her boyfriend as he went through medical school. After breaking up with her boyfriend, Donna left Madison and drove to New Hampshire to work for the "Bartlet for America" campaign, even going so far as to pretend she'd already been hired as Josh Lyman's assistant. Josh discovered the deception but was somewhat amused by it and, impressed by her initiative, eventually hired her. It is mentioned that she briefly left the campaign to return to her boyfriend, but returned following an incident when, after Donna sprained her ankle in a car accident, her boyfriend chose to meet his friends for a drink rather than immediately pick her up from the hospital.
Donna remained Josh's assistant during Josiah Bartlet's first presidential term and the beginning of his second. Her job during this time usually took the form of little more than a secretary (albeit in an unusually challenging and glorified environment) until Josh sent her as an observer for an American diplomatic mission to Gaza in response to her request for opportunities for job growth. While in Gaza, Donna was seriously injured as a result of a terrorist attack on the American convoy. She gradually recovered from these injuries.
Donna returned to her duties at the White House but eventually quit her job (as depicted in the season 6 episode "Impact Winter") to become senior aide to Will Bailey, Vice President Bob Russell's presidential campaign manager (as revealed in the episode "Faith-Based Initiative"). Her new position placed her in direct conflict with Josh, who had convinced US Congressman Matt Santos to also run for the Democratic nomination, with himself as campaign manager. After Santos won the nomination, Donna applied to work for Josh at the Santos campaign. However, all of the personal attacks on Santos that Donna made as Russell's press secretary forced Josh to refuse her application, although he did reveal during the job interview he missed her "every day" ("The Ticket").
Later, on the Santos campaign trail, Donna was hired (unbeknownst to Josh) by Communications Director Louise "Lou" Thornton as a campaign spokesperson. Josh was initially upset with Lou for hiring Donna, and implied in a tense conversation with Donna he was reluctant to hire her since he felt betrayed by her decision to work for a competing candidate he, her "mentor", did not support. After Santos's victory, Donna was offered a position in the new administration as Deputy White House Press Secretary. However, having become close with Helen Santos during the campaign, she was also offered the position as Chief of Staff to the First Lady. She chose to accept this offer, as she felt she could not work for Josh while something was also happening between them personally. Her large White House office, which she was shocked to see, symbolizes her growth since the beginning of the series, when her place of work was a cubicle in Josh's bullpen.
Donna is a Democrat, but is sometimes critical of the logic behind various Democratic Party policies. Her political debates with Josh, which are often left unresolved, are one of the show's trademark methods of exploring multiple sides of an issue.
Relationship with Josh Lyman
The chemistry between Janel Moloney and Bradley Whitford, who portrayed Josh Lyman, caught producers' attention early in the series. After seeing Moloney and Whitford perform together in the pilot, Aaron Sorkin added a scene in which Donna argues with Josh to change his shirt before attending a meeting, eventually convincing him by saying, "All the girls think you look really hot in this shirt." Although Mandy Hampton was originally intended to be Josh's romantic interest, by the end of the show's first season the character has been written out and the role taken over by Donna.
During the first four seasons, the relationship remains in stasis, with neither daring to make any real romantic move on the other. Sorkin admits that he was more inclined to move the relationship forward, but every time he discussed the possibility fellow executive producer Thomas Schlamme would shout, "No! Wait another year!" Besides, adds Sorkin, "Sexual and romantic tension is, to me, much more fun than taking the tension away by having the sex and romance."
Other characters occasionally speculate on the pair's relationship. When Donna encourages Josh to ask Joey Lucas on a date, Joey guesses that Donna is attempting to cover her own feelings for Josh through misdirection. During her first meeting with Josh, Amy Gardner asks him if he is dating his assistant, and later asks Donna directly, "Are you in love with Josh?", although the show cuts to another scene before viewers can see the answer. When Donna recruits Josh to help her get a date with Jack Reese, Josh's behavior leads Jack to wonder whether he is getting "in between anything".
- List of characters on The West Wing
- List of politicians on The West Wing
- List of The West Wing episodes
- Writer: Aaron Sorkin & Paul Redford Director: Alex Graves (March 6, 2002). "Dead Irish Writers". The West WIng. Season 3. Episode 15.
- Moore, Frazier (February 12, 2001). West Wing Lovers Are in Limbo. Associated Press. Retrieved on December 15, 2007.
- The West Wing, Episode 2.14: The War at Home. Original airdate: February 14, 2001.
- The West Wing, Episode 3.08: The Women of Qumar. Original airdate: November 28, 2001.
- The West Wing, Episode 4.22: Commencement. Original airdate: May 7, 2003.
- The West Wing, Episode 4.10: Arctic Radar. Original airdate: November 27, 2002.