|This article does not cite any references or sources. (August 2009)|
|The West Wing character|
Joshua Malina as Will Bailey
|First appearance||"Game On"|
|Created by||Aaron Sorkin and Paul Redford|
|Portrayed by||Joshua Malina|
|Occupation||Wilde Campaign Manager (Season 4)
Deputy White House Communications Director (Seasons 4-5)
Chief of Staff to the Vice President (Seasons 5-6, briefly 7)
Russell Campaign Manager (Season 6)
White House Communications Director and Press Secretary (Season 7)
U.S. Congressman (D-OR 4th) (Season 7, set 3 years later)
|Family||Tom Bailey (father), Elsie Snuffin (stepsister)|
William "Will" Bailey, is a fictional character played by Joshua Malina on the television serial drama The West Wing, holding various posts in the White House Office of Communications, Office of the Vice President, and as a backbencher Congressman (as seen in Season 7, Episode 1).
||This section describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (October 2009)|
Will grew up in Belgium, as his father was the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Thomas Bailey, in whose ideological footsteps he seems to follow while making a name for himself with quiet resolve. Will is also an Air Force reservist, a fact that President Josiah Bartlet applauds, serving in the JAG Corps. In the episode Guns Not Butter he says he is an Eton valedictorian. He may have attended Carnegie Mellon University, since he was seen wearing a Carnegie Mellon shirt while jogging at Camp David. He appears also to have attended the University of Cambridge, England, since he claims he was "President of Cambridge Union Society" on a Marshall Scholarship. Will went into politics, working as a campaign speechwriter on three congressional races. These included the 2002 Horton Wilde campaign (see below) and a 1994 congressional race in Oregon's 4th congressional district, in which Will's candidate, Chulo (D), had lost by 15 points to Congressman John Heffinger (R).
Will was originally introduced as the manager of the Horton Wilde campaign to represent California's 47th congressional district, and he gained notoriety for forcing a run-off election despite Wilde's death, Sam Seaborn's arriving to tell him to shut down the "embarrassing campaign" (Will ignored him and Sam was won over by his efforts), and the seat's traditional status as safely Republican in the conservative Orange County area. Sam Seaborn later ran in Wilde's place in a special election and recommended Will as his replacement as Deputy White House Communications Director with a note to Toby Ziegler that read: "Toby — He's one of us." Will had also ghost-written an acclaimed speech that California Governor Gabriel Tillman had recently given at the Stanford Club, which is what had brought his writing skills in particular to Sam's attention, although Toby was more critical of the speech. Toby, after first meeting him, characterized Will as "deeply schooled in Eastern philosophy", but was won over by a 500-word "test essay" Will wrote about America's future foreign policy needs.
When Will moved into Sam's old office for a temporary three-week contract to help with Bartlet's second inaugural address, he had to endure the requisite amount of hazing from the White House senior staff, including "Seaborn For Congress" posters plastered on the walls and people parking their bicycles in his office. CJ Cregg regularly put olives in his pockets and even left a goat in his office at one point. He slowly began to win everyone over, and Bartlet eventually appointed him to replace Sam as Deputy White House Communications Director, although all of the staff writers quit afterwards and he had to turn a group of young female interns into a crack writing staff with help from his step-sister Elsie Snuffin.
Will left President Bartlet's staff soon after the appointment of Representative Bob Russell (D-CO) as Vice President of the United States, when he accepted Russell's offer to become his chief of staff. The main reasons for his move to Russell's office were Toby's gruff attitude as his direct superior, and more significantly, a belief that Toby's tendency to personally take charge of challenges for the Communications Office would result in zero potential for Will's own job growth. Bob Russell's offer, in contrast, came with the explicit challenge to prepare the Vice President for a possible presidential campaign in 2006. Despite his initial distaste for Russell, Will agreed to run the Russell presidential campaign because, as a die-hard Democrat, Will saw the V.P. as the presumptive nominee in the general election, and wanted to get an early start grooming Russell for the Oval Office. However, in the episode "365 Days," Will secretly admits to Leo McGarry that he has doubts about his choice for candidate, and has been backing him so vigorously only because he has been accepting on faith that Bartlet and McGarry must have had noble reasons for selecting Russell as V.P. (as opposed to the other purposefully weak shortlist candidates put to President Bartlet by the Republicans and fellow Democrats eying potential presidential campaigns).
When Leo McGarry looked unable to serve as Chief of Staff, following his heart attack at Camp David, White House reporter Greg Brock suggested that Will might be appointed as Bartlet's new Chief of Staff. This was due to a rare meeting between Bartlet and Will about NATO peacekeeping, Will's experience with the military and his proven ability to "manage up", qualities that perhaps made him a better choice for the role than Josh or Toby. Ultimately, however, C.J. Cregg was chosen for the job and Will remained Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager for Vice President Russell.
When Russell lost the Democratic nomination to U.S. Rep. Matt Santos (D-TX), Bailey remained on Russell's staff until White House Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg "dragooned" him on very short notice to become White House Communications Director after the firing of Toby Ziegler for his role in the military space shuttle leak. Since Toby had also been serving as de facto White House Press Secretary, Will also inherited that role.
In the seventh season he dated Deputy National Security Advisor Kate Harper, whom he had initially clashed with over Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking but later became friendly with. This began when she asked him to Ellie Bartlet's wedding, but their first real date together was in "Running Mates". Their relationship was touched on again in "The Cold", where they seemed awkward together.
On Election Day, with the Bartlet Administration soon to be replaced, Will reveals that he is considering a return to election campaigning, citing a job offer to run a Californian mayoral contest. This would mean leaving Washington, D.C. and cause problems in his relationship with Kate. In the penultimate episode Institutional Memory, Will considers taking a job as the Chief Executive of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but becomes preoccupied with the task of finding a candidate to challenge incumbent Republican Congressman John Heffinger in the Oregon 4th in 2008. Kate realizes that Will himself would be the perfect candidate, and insists that he move to Oregon (in time to gain residency status there under Oregon election law) and run for the seat.
By the time of the dedication of the Bartlet Presidential Library in New Hampshire three years later, Will is a Congressman representing the Oregon 4th and sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He describes himself as a "back bencher who may have a shot at chairman in 32 years." It is not revealed what happens to his relationship with Kate.
Will Bailey is portrayed by Joshua Malina, an actor who at that time had appeared in every work (both on stage and on screen) written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin (although he did not appear subsequently in Sorkin's TV series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). After the series spent much of Will's screen time establishing his struggle to fit in with the rest of Bartlet's staff, his decision to leave the staff in favor of working for Russell again establishes him as an outsider, while his later decision to pour his considerable political acumen into running Russell's presidential campaign frequently puts him at odds with several of the more familiar characters, most notably Josh Lyman, who runs the Santos presidential campaign, and Toby Ziegler, who points out (in the episode "365 Days") that Toby and Will used to make fun of Russell together.
The Josh/Will conflict in particular is an example of a theme that runs throughout the series—namely, the contrast between two different approaches to politics, idealistic (Josh backs a long-shot candidate because he believes in the candidate's noble character) versus practical (Will backs a candidate he is unsure of, because he thinks Russell is the best chance of a Democrat winning the race). Placing Will on the side of compromise and practicality contrasts sharply with his earlier idealism, when the character was introduced running a campaign for a deceased Democrat in a traditionally Republican district, and defending his actions as "a campaign of ideas".
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- List of The West Wing episodes