Will Bailey

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For the British table tennis player, see Will Bayley.
For other people named Bill Bailey, see Bill Bailey (disambiguation).
William Bailey
The West Wing character
Will Bailey.jpg
Joshua Malina as Will Bailey
First appearance "Game On"
Last appearance "Tomorrow"
Created by Aaron Sorkin and Paul Redford
Portrayed by Joshua Malina
Gender Male
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)
Nationality American

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).

Character biography[edit]

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. (This is a factual mistake, since this role does not exist at Eton College, valedictorian being a distinctly American concept).[1] 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. He also owns a mug featuring the coats of arms of Cambridge colleges and a framed diploma with the University's coat of arms is visible on the wall of his office during Season Seven. 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 is originally introduced as the manager of the Horton Wilde campaign to represent California's 47th congressional district, and he gains notoriety for forcing a run-off election despite Wilde's death, Sam Seaborn arrives to tell him to shut down the "embarrassing campaign" but Will ignores him and Sam is won over by his efforts, despite the seat's traditional status as safely Republican in the conservative Orange County area. Sam later runs in Wilde's place in a special election and recommends Will as his replacement as Deputy White House Communications Director with a note to Toby Ziegler that reads: "Toby — He's one of us." Will also ghost-writes an acclaimed speech that California Governor Gabriel Tillman gives at the Stanford Club, which is what brings his writing skills in particular to Sam's attention, although Toby is more critical of the speech. Toby, after first meeting him, characterizes Will as "deeply schooled in Eastern philosophy", but is won over by a 500-word "test essay" Will writes about America's future foreign policy needs.

When Will moves into Sam's old office for a temporary three-week contract to help with Bartlet's second inaugural address, he has to endure the requisite amount of hazing from 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 leaves a goat in his office at one point. He slowly begins to win everyone over, and Bartlet eventually appoints him to replace Sam as Deputy White House Communications Director, although all of the staff writers quit afterwards and he has to turn a group of young female interns into a crack writing staff with help from his step-sister Elsie Snuffin.

Will leaves President Bartlet's staff soon after the appointment of Representative Bob Russell (D-CO) as Vice President of the United States, when he accepts Russell's offer to become his chief of staff. The main reasons for his move to Russell's office are 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 will result in zero potential for Will's own job growth. Bob Russell's offer, in contrast, comes with the explicit challenge to prepare the Vice President for a possible presidential campaign in 2006. Despite his initial distaste for Russell, Will agrees to run the Russell presidential campaign because, as a die-hard Democrat, Will sees the V.P. as the presumptive nominee in the general election, and wants 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. The character's career trajectory bears a number of similarities to that of Eli Attie, a writer and producer of the series and one of the architects of the character's storyline. Like Bailey, Attie had been a Presidential speechwriter and communications aide who left President Bill Clinton's staff to take a higher-ranking job with then Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee Al Gore.

On the series, when Leo McGarry looks unable to serve as Chief of Staff, following his heart attack at Camp David, White House reporter Greg Brock suggests that Will might be appointed as Bartlet's new Chief of Staff. This is 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 make him a better choice for the role than Josh or Toby. Ultimately, however, C.J. Cregg is chosen for the job and Will remains Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager for Vice President Russell.

When Russell loses the Democratic nomination to U.S. Rep. Matt Santos (D-TX), Bailey remains on Russell's staff until White House Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg "dragoons" 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 has also been serving as de facto White House Press Secretary, Will also inherits that role.

In the seventh season Will dates Deputy National Security Advisor Kate Harper, whom he had initially clashes with over Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking but later becomes friendly with. This begins when she asks him to Ellie Bartlet's wedding, but their first real date together is in "Running Mates". Their relationship is touched on again in "The Cold", where they seem 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, a move further encouraged by Bartlet.

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.

Character significance[edit]

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".

See also[edit]