Joshua Malina

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Joshua Malina
Joshua Malina 2013.JPG
Malina in 2013
Joshua Charles Malina

(1966-01-17) January 17, 1966 (age 56)
Alma materYale University
Years active1992–present
Melissa Merwin
(m. 1996)

Joshua Charles Malina (born January 17, 1966) is an American film and stage actor known for playing Will Bailey on the NBC drama The West Wing, Jeremy Goodwin on Sports Night, US Attorney General David Rosen on Scandal, and Caltech President Siebert on The Big Bang Theory.

Early life and education[edit]

Malina was born in New York City. His parents, Fran and Robert Malina, were founding members of Young Israel of Scarsdale in New Rochelle, where he grew up.[1][2] His father was an attorney, investment banker and Broadway producer. The actor has commented that while the name "Malina" does not sound Jewish to most people and often leads them to assume he is Latino (often due to confusion of "Malina" with the Spanish surname Molina), the name is Czech in origin, from the "Czech [word] for 'raspberry.'"[3]

Malina attended middle school at Westchester Day School and high school at the Horace Mann School. He earned a B.A. in Theater from Yale University. At Yale, he was a member of The Spizzwinks, an a cappella group, together with fellow actor Noah Emmerich.[4]



He made his acting debut in the Broadway production of Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men,[5] and later in the play's run moved into a major role. Malina had contacted Sorkin initially at the suggestion of his parents when he first went to New York City, as they knew Sorkin was a high-school classmate and friend of Malina's cousins. The cousins, in turn, had spoken highly of Malina to Sorkin, who suggested he audition for the play.[6] Malina has joked in interviews that Sorkin's casting him in subsequent productions may owe to the fact that he once performed the Heimlich maneuver on Sorkin, saving his life, when the writer began to choke while eating a hamburger at a bowling match with the cast of the play.[6][7] He has since appeared in many Sorkin film and TV projects.

Film and television[edit]

Malina's first job in the film business was as a production assistant on the Chevy Chase comedy Fletch Lives, an ill-received sequel to the star's hit movie Fletch.[7] His first on-screen appearance was a three-line, five-word role in the film version of A Few Good Men,[6] where he has said he appreciated the dedication that star Jack Nicholson showed by performing his lines in the scene himself even though his character was off screen and could easily have been played for him by a crew member.[7] In his next film, Sorkin's The American President, Malina had a somewhat larger role as assistant to Annette Bening's environmental-activist character.[8]

Malina played two different characters over four episodes on the talk-show satire The Larry Sanders Show. He appeared first in 1993 as Robert Brody, a fictional reporter for the real-life magazine Entertainment Weekly, to whom actor John Ritter gives a scathing interview after having his appearance in the show cancelled to make room for musician Warren Zevon to play a second song (episode: "Off Camera"). Five years later, Malina returned in a recurring role as Kenny Mitchell, a sleazy network executive who pushes Larry Sanders out of the show in favor of Jon Stewart.

From 1998 to 2000, Malina starred as character Jeremy Goodwin on Sorkin's Sports Night, a show that attracted him from the moment Sorkin sent him the pilot script.[8] The Goodwin character began as a research analyst, but was promoted to associate producer by the second season, creating a larger role for Malina.[9] The critically acclaimed show was unable to find a large fan base and was canceled after two seasons, with some critics saying the show's troubles were exacerbated by having to share Sorkin's time with his concurrent project on rival network NBC, The West Wing.[9] The actor counts Sports Night among his most popular roles and noted on the occasion of the show's 10th-anniversary DVD release, "If my straw poll of who stops me to say what is any indication, West Wing may only slightly edge Sports Night."[10]

Following the panned[11][12][13][14] Hank Azaria vehicle Imagine That – where both he and Azaria were described as "talent going to waste"[15] – Malina played Will Bailey on The West Wing from 2002 to 2006. His character initially was perceived by the public as an attempt to replace departing series star Rob Lowe,[16] although Malina said in numerous interviews that the two actors and characters were too dissimilar to be viewed as anything but a change.[6][7] During his tenure on The West Wing, Malina was known to the rest of the cast as a tireless prankster. It is said he coated telephones with Vaseline and reset producer Alex Graves's iPod menus to Mandarin Chinese.[17] He stole some of Bradley Whitford's letterhead stationery and used it in an elaborate prank. At the suggestion of co-star Janel Moloney, Malina sent a $200 Valentine's Day bouquet to season-six newcomer Jimmy Smits that included a card crafted on Whitford's stolen letterhead stating: "Jimmy, You are a delight. I enjoyed every moment we've had together. Be my Valentine."[18] Following the end of The West Wing, Malina campaigned for the leading role of Danny Tripp in Sorkin's next TV project, Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip, but the role went instead to Whitford. When the show was cancelled in its first season, Malina was teased by some in the industry who suggested he was Sorkin's good luck charm, but he pointed to Sorkin's upcoming film Charlie Wilson's War as evidence his friend could succeed without him.[19]

In 2007, Malina became one of the four stars of the short-lived ABC dramedy Big Shots. His character, Karl Mixworthy, was a pharmaceutical company executive juggling a wife and a mistress,[19] who meet when the jilted lover tries to expose him to his wife but befriends her instead.[20]

Malina is a co-creator and producer of Bravo's cable TV series Celebrity Poker Showdown. In private life, he is an avid poker player, having played with Sorkin while on Broadway,[6] used poker winnings to pay his rent early in his career,[21][22] and organized a cast-and-crew game that lasted the full duration of Sports Night and occasionally delayed the start of shooting.[10] The idea for the show came from a weekly high-stakes poker game hosted by Hank Azaria, which Malina and friend Andrew Hill Newman attended.

From 2011 to 2019, Malina appeared as University President Siebert on The Big Bang Theory.

In 2012, Malina held a recurring role on ABC's Scandal as Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen. He was promoted to a series regular for season 2.

Malina co-hosted the podcast The West Wing Weekly with Hrishikesh Hirway. The series debuted in March 2016, and ended in January 2020.[23]


In 2004, Malina was a participant in the first-ever national television advertising campaign supporting donations to Jewish federations. The program featured "film and television personalities celebrating their Jewish heritage and promoting charitable giving to the Jewish community" and included Greg Grunberg, Marlee Matlin, Kevin Weisman, and Jonathan Silverman.[24]

Personal life[edit]

In 1992, Malina met costume designer Melissa Merwin through his friendship with her sister, Jenny, and ex-brother-in-law, actor Timothy Busfield.[6] Merwin converted to Judaism under Conservative auspices.[25] They married in 1996 and have two children, Isabel and Avi.



  1. ^ "The Vindicator – Google News Archive Search". Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  2. ^ "Actor Casts His LotWith Jewish Ideals – Arts". Jewish Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  3. ^ Alan Pergament. "'West Wing' speechwriter addresses celebrity politics," The Buffalo News (NY), September 13, 2005, page E7.
  4. ^ "Josh Malina". The Yale Spizzwinks(?). Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  5. ^ Curt Schleier (September 2, 2005). "A 'West Wing' Jew close to the president". Jewish News Weekly of Northern California. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Rick Kushman. "White house rookie – Joshua Malina rode the inside track to NBC's 'West Wing,'" The Sacramento Bee, March 2, 2003, page TK24.
  7. ^ a b c d Kevin D. Thompson. "A familiar face, a singular faith," Palm Beach Post, November 30, 2005, page 1E.
  8. ^ a b Charlie Patton. "ABC's 'Sports Night' hard to categorize, but very enjoyable," The Florida Times-Union. November 10, 1998, page C5.
  9. ^ a b Sylvia Rubin. "Malina gets into the swing of `Sports Night' – but critically acclaimed show may need a ratings boost to survive second season," The San Francisco Chronicle, October 5, 1999, page B1.
  10. ^ a b David Barron. "New on DVD – Sports Night 10th anniversary edition available – ABC series is credited with changing much about sit-coms," Houston Chronicle, October 7, 2008, "Star" section, page 4.
  11. ^ Rob Owen. "'Imagine That' another brainless comedy from NBC," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 8, 2002, page D1.
  12. ^ Robert P. Laurence. "Too bad 'Imagine That's' writers don't show talent, imagination," San Diego Union-Tribune, January 8, 2002, page E6.
  13. ^ Matthew Gilbert. "'Imagine That,' another dud," The Boston Globe, January 8, 2002, Page E8: "Azaria's sidekick is played by Joshua Malina, the I'll-never-find-a-better-role-than-I-had-on-'Sports Night' comedian who is reduced to setting up see-how-randy-guys-are gags for Azaria over and over again."
  14. ^ Frazier Moore (Associated Press). "Momentous happenings in TV Land for 2002," The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), December 21, 2002, page D1: "Many of the bad things that TV gave us in 2002 have already been forgotten. Who can remember the blessedly short-lived sitcom "Imagine That," which came and went on NBC last January?"
  15. ^ Tom Jicha. "You can't imagine how bad NBC's Imagine That is," Sun-Sentinel, January 8, 2002, page 1E.
  16. ^ No author. "Delightful addition to 'West Wing' madhouse," The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), February 20, 2003, page 34: "'Someone on the internet referred to me as "that horrible little man who's replacing Rob Lowe," which is hurtful, because I think of myself as a delightful little man,' Malina said."
  17. ^ Gag Order, Josh Malina's Prank-Related Campaign of Terror,
  18. ^ Transcript of Joshua Malina's personal appearance Archived September 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, Jewish Student Union of the University of Florida, Reitz Union Grand Ballroom, March 23, 2005. Retrieved January 1, 2009.
  19. ^ a b Heather Salerno. "Meet the 'Big Shot': Joshua Malina," The Journal News (Westchester County, NY), September 24, 2007, page 1D.
  20. ^ Jamie Gumbrecht. "Lineup creates TiVo nightmare," Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY; reprinted from The Seattle Times), September 13, 2007, page F2.
  21. ^ Jonathan Storm. "Stars sweeten the pot as Bravo bets on TV poker," The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 2, 2003, page F01.
  22. ^ Heather Salerno. "Lucky guy," The Journal News, November 30, 2003, page 1E.
  23. ^ "'The West Wing Weekly' Podcast Promises To Break Down Every Episode". Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  24. ^ Jewish Federations of North America: "Film and Television Celebrities Promote Jewish Federations in First-Ever National Television Advertising Campaign – Jewish Stars Promote Federations' Initiatives and Mission" Archived November 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine August 2, 2004.
  25. ^ Joshua Malina (March 23, 2005). "Reitz Union grand ballroom speech". Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  26. ^ Schneider, Michael (May 11, 2009). "NBC passing on 'Legally Mad'". Variety. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  27. ^ "CSI: Miami - Season 9, Episode 21: G.O. -". CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 4, 2015.

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