Toby Ziegler

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Toby Zachary Ziegler
The West Wing character
First appearance "Pilot"
Last appearance "Institutional Memory"
Created by Aaron Sorkin
Portrayed by Richard Schiff
Information
Nickname(s) Toby, Pokey (Andrea Wyatt)
Gender Male
Occupation White House Communications Director (Seasons 1-7)
Family Jules "Julie" Ziegler (father), Dr David Ziegler (brother, deceased), two older sisters
Spouse(s) Andrea Wyatt (divorced before series started)
Children Molly and Huckleberry
Religion Jewish
Nationality American

Toby Zachary Ziegler is a fictional character in the television serial drama The West Wing, played by Richard Schiff. The role earned Schiff the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2000. For most of the series' duration he is White House Communications Director.

Creation and development[edit]

According to series creator Aaron Sorkin, Schiff was cast in the role of Toby Ziegler over many other actors who auditioned, including Eugene Levy.[1] Schiff created a backstory for the character as a widower and wore his own wedding ring, something Sorkin and fellow executive producer Thomas Schlamme, who were planning for the character to be divorced, did not notice until the show's eighth episode. "I had always imagined that his first wife had died, which accounts for his sadness, and why someone would devote himself to public service and be so singular about it," Schiff said. "But then, Aaron and Tommy threw that right out the window."[2] Richard Schiff claimed during an interview on Britain's BBC News 24[citation needed] that the character had been heavily based upon Scots-American political advisor Patrick Cohen, who was prominent in Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and is viewed as one of the key architects of New Labour.

Character biography[edit]

Tobias Zachary Ziegler was born on December 23, 1954. His is from a working-class background and grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York City, in a Yiddish-speaking family. His father, Jules "Julie" Ziegler was an immigrant who, according to one episode, "needed the G.I. Bill", implying that he fought in either the Second World War or the Korean War.[3] He made women's raincoats for a living; however, before this he was a member of Murder, Inc. - the Jewish mafia's enforcement arm - and served time in prison, complicating his relationship with Toby.[4]

Toby's mother has been dead for 12 years as of season 3.[5] Both he and his father mention sisters, whom Toby says took him to protest rallies in the mid-1960s, as well as nieces and nephews.[4][6] His younger brother, Dr. David Ziegler, is a mission specialist at NASA who commits suicide after learning that he has terminal cancer. Toby also makes reference to a grandfather who lived to be 96 years old, but for the last 20 years of his life "thought the Habsburgs still lived in a big palace in Vienna".[7]

In Season 4, Episode 19 Toby says that his draft number for Vietnam was not called. Toby was once married to Andrea Wyatt, who serves as a Congresswoman from Maryland. They divorced in the first year of the Bartlet administration after unsuccessful attempts to have children. Toward the end of the Bartlet re-election campaign, however, Andi becomes pregnant with twins.[8] Following this, Toby begins to actively pursue a renewed relationship with Andi. After his initial proposals of marriage are rejected, and imagining that she is making him chase her, he sets about attempting to eradicate the behaviors that Andi has found irritating in the past. He forces himself to eat salads,[9] and sells his bachelor pad, buying Andi the property she has always considered her "dream house".[10] Andi is mortified by the gesture, refusing his proposal once more and telling him that he is "too sad" for her. Moments later, her water breaks, and the twins—a boy and a girl—are born shortly thereafter. Huck is named for Andi's grandfather, and Molly for Molly O'Connor, the U.S. Secret Service agent who is killed in the line of duty on the day of their birth.[11]

Toby is rather morose, yet he is something of an idealist, often less willing than his colleagues and the President to compromise his political values. He is shown to be a more than formidable opponent in an argument, easily able to hold his own against even Bartlet himself. He is also known for his acerbic wit.

A Reform Jew, Toby sometimes attends synagogue on Sabbath, but is not observant of the Torah and its commandments.[12] At one point he suggests to Josh Lyman that, because he is from a Jewish neighborhood of New York City rather than the affluent town of Westport, Connecticut, he is more Jewish than Josh.

Toby's seems to have a particular fondness for grammatical correctness: he is able to name all the types of punctuation from memory and claims to have discovered a typographical error in the U.S. Constitution which, he believes, could change the interpretation of the Takings Clause. He attended City College of New York - he recalls during Season 5 that he had met the Chief Justice of the United States while a student there.[13]

Toby is a fan of the New York Yankees. He claims to have attended 441 games at Yankee Stadium as of May 2002.[14] He also reveals his fandom of the New York Knicks and is once seen wearing a New York Giants hat in his office. [15]

At the White House[edit]

Before joining the Bartlet for America presidential campaign, Toby was a professional political operative who worked for various campaigns including New York City Council seats, Bronx Borough President and U.S. House and Senate races. However, he had never been on a winning campaign before Bartlet's successful 1998 presidential bid.[16]

Once in the White House, Toby is rewarded for his work on the campaign, with Bartlet naming him Communications Director and Senior Domestic Policy Advisor.[6] Later, it is revealed that Toby was not the president's first choice for the job, although Bartlet confides that he is grateful his first choice turned down the job.[17] Of all the senior staffers, Toby is the most prone to clash with the President, being unafraid to challenge his judgment and question his actions when he feels Bartlet is not acting according to his true morality.

When Will Bailey leaves the President's staff to work for the Vice President, Toby interprets the move as a betrayal, and develops an antagonistic attitude towards Will. Similarly, when Josh leaves the White House to run a presidential campaign for Matt Santos, Toby views this as a betrayal as well, and is extremely hostile to Josh until long after. His reaction is eventually explained with the revelation that his brother David, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, committed suicide rather than live what time he had left, "He could have had years. But instead he just dropped everything and walked away." Toby feels "walking away" is what Josh has done also.[18] Josh later (successfully) moves to keep their friendship alive, and Toby keeps advising Josh as he tries to get Santos elected president.

Toby's oldest friend in the White House is C.J. Cregg, whom he met during an earlier campaign[19] and whom he personally recruited for the position of Press Secretary.[20] When Toby is fired in Bartlet's final year for leaking state secrets, their close relationship is hit hard and is not mended until the penultimate episode of the series and Toby's final scene.

Toby accomplishes much in his tenure as Communications Director, including writing both of Bartlet's inaugural addresses as well as his State of the Union addresses. His most notable accomplishment is "fixing" Social Security during the fifth season of the show, the sixth year of the Bartlet administration. He thinks of it early one morning, almost resigns after it is leaked by the Senator whom he is persuading to break with partisan politics, but then, tumultuously, fixes it at the end of the show with the help of Josh Lyman. After C.J. Cregg's promotion from Press Secretary to White House Chief of Staff in early season 6, he also serves as the de facto White House Press Secretary in addition to his role as Communications Director. Toby initially has trouble facing the press in the new role and makes several major gaffes, but learns to perform the duty well with the help of new Deputy Press Secretary Annabeth Schott.

Military shuttle leak storyline[edit]

In the episode "Things Fall Apart," the International Space Station develops a critical oxygen leak. With no civilian shuttles available to perform a rescue mission in time, a three-person crew finds itself trapped aboard the ISS. While the President contemplates rescue options, C.J. becomes aware of the possibility that a secret military space shuttle could be prepared in time to rescue the crew. However, this would involve revealing the secret shuttle's existence, particularly as one of the ISS crew is a Russian military officer. C.J. shares her speculation with several senior White House staff, including Toby. The information is leaked to Greg Brock, a reporter for The New York Times which triggers a full-scale investigation.

In the episode "Here Today," Toby admits to C.J. that he leaked the classified information. He knew that if the military shuttle's existence became public knowledge, the public would demand the safe return of the astronauts, which is what ultimately occurred. It's implied that his actions are related to the recent suicide of his astronaut brother via carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. The White House Counsel debriefs Toby until his lawyer ends the interview. Toby reveals that he discussed the possible existence of the secret shuttle with C.J., but does not state that C.J. initiated the conversation. Toby offers his resignation to Bartlet, but Bartlet does not accept the resignation because Toby must be fired "for cause."

Toby attends Leo McGarry's funeral, but sits in the back of the church to avoid press coverage. He is similarly unable to attend Leo's burial at Arlington National Cemetery because of the press circus his attendance might cause. Despite strong mixed emotions, Bartlet's final official act as President is to pardon Toby and thus spare him from having to serve his prison sentence. In the episode "The Ticket", a flash forward reveals that, at the time of the dedication of Bartlet's presidential library three years later, Toby has been teaching at Columbia University. Toby has been invited to the dedication by Bartlet and it appears they have moved on from the shuttle leak incident.

Schiff had publicly praised the show's writers — and creator Aaron Sorkin in particular — for the richness of the characters in the series. However, during the show's final season, Schiff said he felt let down by the writers as some of his episodes were cut "purely on a financial decision." He was particularly critical of the military shuttle leak storyline, which saw his character indicted for leaking classified information. "Toby would never in 10 million years have betrayed the President in that fashion," Schiff said. "Even if he had, there would have been seven episodes' worth of fights before he did it." He justified the story to himself by reasoning that Toby was covering for somebody else.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sorkin, Aaron (2002). The West Wing Script Book. New York: Newmarket Press. ISBN 1-55704-499-6
  2. ^ Rohan, Virginia (October 4, 2000). "'West Wing' player keeps a cool head." Bergen Record.
  3. ^ The West Wing, Episode 3.12: The Two Bartlets. Original airdate: January 30, 2002.
  4. ^ a b The West Wing, Episode 4.11: Holy Night. Original airdate: December 11, 2002.
  5. ^ The West Wing, Episode 3.10: H. Con-172. Original airdate: January 9, 2002.
  6. ^ a b The West Wing, Episode 2.16: Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail. Original airdate: February 28, 2001.
  7. ^ '"The West Wing, Episode 5.07: Separation of Powers. Original air date: November 12, 2003.
  8. ^ The West Wing, Episode 4.05: Debate Camp. Original airdate: October 16, 2002.
  9. ^ The West Wing, Episode 4.21: Life On Mars. Original airdate: April 30, 2003.
  10. ^ The West Wing, Episode 4.22: Commencement. Original airdate: May 7, 2003.
  11. ^ The West Wing, Episode 4.23: Twenty Five. Original airdate: May 14, 2003.
  12. ^ The West Wing, Episode 1.14: Take This Sabbath Day. Original airdate: February 9, 2000.
  13. ^ '"The West Wing, Episode 5.07: Separation of Powers. Original airdate: November 12, 2003.
  14. ^ The West Wing, Episode 3.21: Posse Comitatus. Original airdate: May 22, 2002.
  15. ^ The West Wing, Episode 2.15: Ellie. Original airdate: February 21, 2001.
  16. ^ '"The West Wing, Episode 2.01: In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part I. Original airdate: October 4, 2000.
  17. ^ '"The West Wing, Episode 1.05: The Crackpots and These Women. Original air date: October 20, 1999.
  18. ^ The West Wing, Episode 6.16: Drought Conditions. Original airdate: February 23, 2005.
  19. ^ The West Wing, Episode 5.18: Access.
  20. ^ The West Wing, Episode 2.02: In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II
  21. ^ Caesar, Ed (February 8, 2007). Richard Schiff: Life after 'The West Wing'. The Independent. Retrieved on December 14, 2007.