Whither Moira Kelly?
July 19, 2005 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Moira Kelly, who played the annoying Mandy in the first season of The West Wing, disappears from later seasons. We are given some elusive suggestions to what may have happened to her character on the show, but what was the real-world story? Did Aaron Sorkin get sick of Kelly, and if so, why?
posted by willbaude to Media & Arts (34 answers total)
In one of the commentaries (in the first season, I believe), someone says the character had run it's course, so they just dropped her.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:50 AM on July 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

Apparently she just didn't test well with the focus groups. You yourself called her annoying.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:17 AM on July 19, 2005

The character wasn't working out in light of the growing popularity of Martin Sheen's character. In reality, it's unlikely a PR freelancer would have top-level access, so with the larger spotlight being placed on POTUS (which was a change from the original concept of the show), Mandy had to be set aside. Plus, the creators didn't want the character of the president to be so shallow as to (appear to) care about image and whatnot, so if Mandy stayed, her ideas would have had to be shot down all the time.
posted by o2b at 8:24 AM on July 19, 2005

Can I piggyback and ask what happened to Ainsley Hayes, played by Emily Proctor?
posted by darsh at 9:13 AM on July 19, 2005

darsh, based on a West Wing fan page about Ainsley Hayes and some other pages, it just appears that Emily Proctor got the job on CSI: Miami and left. She was always credited as a guest star, so it was mostly whenever the writers decided to include her character. Why they didn't offer her a standing role, I haven't been able to find out.
posted by skynxnex at 9:35 AM on July 19, 2005

Fun trivia... the disappearance of Moira Kelly's character led to the coining of a term, especially popular in Television Without Pity discussions:

When a recurring character no longer recurs, he/she is said to be "off to Mandyland".
posted by skyboy at 9:41 AM on July 19, 2005

Ainsley Hayes was another horribly implausible character (a Republican lawyer in the White House?) and I figure they couldn't write her in to storylines without doing backflips. So when another job came up, the actress took it.
posted by smackfu at 10:00 AM on July 19, 2005

Ok, what about Danny, the Washington Post reporter that had the thing for CJ? What ever happened to him?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:21 AM on July 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

And what happened with Sam? Did he win, or what? (I've only seen what's out on DVD...) There are a lot of continuity issues with WW. That said, I like it a lot.
posted by jaysus chris at 10:42 AM on July 19, 2005

These are the kind of questions I used to go to TvTome.com to get answered before they got bought up and changed to teh suk :(. You might still be able to find such things there but the new overly business interface makes it much harder.
posted by phearlez at 10:55 AM on July 19, 2005

When Danny is writing the Kumari story in the 4th season, they seem to imply pretty heavily that he left the white house press corps and became a foreign correspondent. (Oh how I love to geek out over The West Wing...why can't we have conventions and shit like Trekkies? Y'know....Wingers?)
posted by MostHolyPorcine at 10:57 AM on July 19, 2005

jaysus: Sam did not win, and was "promoted to Senior Counsel to the President." This was only discussed by other characters, you never see Sam again after the campaign.
posted by o2b at 11:16 AM on July 19, 2005

another horribly implausible character (a Republican lawyer in the White House?)

didn't the guy from Friends play a Republican lawyer in the West Wing, too? when the VP wants to resign because of a sex scandal?
posted by matteo at 11:18 AM on July 19, 2005

Matthew Perry did indeed play Joe Quincy, Ainsley's replacement. The episode with his interview is the last time Ainsley is mentioned. The next episode, Joe's first day on the job, is the one in which he uncovers the VP has been having an affair.
posted by o2b at 11:21 AM on July 19, 2005

Wingnuts is the term I've heard for someone who is delighted to see an early episode that she hasn't seen before. Someone who loves the Monday Wingathon on Bravo. Conventions? maybe we need a 12 step group.
posted by theora55 at 11:38 AM on July 19, 2005

Another reason for getting rid of the Mandy character:

It was pretty obvious from her earliest appearances that there was supposed to be some romantic tension between Mandy and Josh stemming from a past relationship. First, it's possible that there just wasn't any chemistry (as they say) between Bradley Whitford and Moria Kelly. I know I didn't detect any. But probably more to the point, the romantic tension between Josh and Donna became more prominent as the series progressed. Perhaps this was planned all along, perhaps things developed this way because the Donna character turned out to be more popular than expected, perhaps Sorkin and company just had some good ideas while they were holding story conferences and doing 'shrooms; I don't know. But however you slice it, It seems fairly unlikely that they could have interwoven both Josh-romantic-tension plot threads. So one of them had to be cut.
posted by Clay201 at 12:48 PM on July 19, 2005

Danny does make it back at some point, doesn't he? I thought the implication was that he'd written a story (maybe the Kumari one?) and won a Pulitzer, and thus had moved on to bigger and better things for a while...
posted by hototogisu at 12:59 PM on July 19, 2005

I've heard a rumor that Danny is coming back next season to work in the WH. Seems unlikely, but CJ's character appeared to take an unlikely step into stupidity at the end of last season, so who knows.

As for Sam -- who lost and went into oblivion, as far as I know -- Liz Smith reports that he may be back, thanks to some real-life maneuvering by Martin Sheen. Nothing was signed, but it appeared awfully likely, was how Smith put it.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:01 PM on July 19, 2005

WCityMike, the whole reason Thorton Wilde won in the first place was because the GOP had stopped paying attention to the race. That would NOT have happened with Sam as the Dem nominee in a special race -- and since it was Orange County (IIRC), Sam would likely lose.

I also recall dialogue suggesting that they knew Sam would lose, but he was going to fight the good fight, etc. I don't recall any explicit explanation for Sam's disappearance, though.

So despite your finding it not "the least bit plausible," I believe Sam lost and did not return to the WH for unspecified reasons ... which would likely be addressed if he does in fact return.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:11 PM on July 19, 2005

WCityMike, in rebuttal, I don't understand your position here:

>>given the heavy idealistic brush they painted the end of #417 with ("they're gonna throw rocks at you next week, and I wanted to be standing next to you when they did"), I'm positive Sam won.

"They" were going to "throw rocks" at Sam because of how badly he was going to lose. The meaning of Sam's campaign wasn't "underdog coming outta nowhere and winning", it was "sometimes it turns out badly, but it doesn't mean it wasn't worth doing, and doesn't mean your friends won't still love you."

Occam's razor doesn't need to be satisfied because it's fiction -- they can choose who to feature and who not. Until Josh Molina took the job, we had never known who the VP's chief of staff was. Mary McCormack's character has been advising the president as the National Security Advisor had been until that point, even though she's actually the assistant Sec. Adv.

However, I concede that we certainly don't *know* what he's doing right now, but the snippet you quoted is the only reference (cause they had to appease the Sam-lovers :)..
posted by o2b at 1:13 PM on July 19, 2005

Wingnuts is the term I've heard for someone who is delighted to see an early episode that she hasn't seen before. Someone who loves the Monday Wingathon on Bravo. Conventions? maybe we need a 12 step group.

Yeah, Wingnuts was at one time the preferred nomenclature, though I can hardly even imagine never having seen one of the early episodes. It's more like I'm excited if an episode comes in Bravo that I haven't seen twelve or fifteen times yet.

That said, I stopped watching new episodes after Sorkin left, cause, frankly, what's the point? It was like everybody in that universe suddenly became noticeably less interesting.

How is the show doing these days, by the way?
posted by Hildago at 1:32 PM on July 19, 2005

Hildago: There were some dark days, but the upcoming election has injected new life into the show. The latter part of last season was well worth watching, as will be next season, I hope.
posted by o2b at 1:38 PM on July 19, 2005

They later replaced Moira Kelly's role as the Josh-romantic-tension with Mary-Louise Parker.

When they locked Ainsley Hayes in the basement, didn't they replace her with another short, staight-haired, blonde Republican lawyer that was a little smaller and squeakier?

CJ's character appeared to take an unlikely step into stupidity at the end of last season

I love The West Wing (and frankly I'm happier when I believe it's real; sweet, sweet Monday marathons), but I have a major problem with one thing about how they write CJ's character. She often speaks up for the idealistic and morally correct point of view versus the politically pragmatic side. That's fine, but in a couple of episodes they've had her make emotional outbursts in inappropriate settings, like meetings with people that don't work in the White House. (The women of Kumar episode, I think, and the one with the North Korean pianist who wanted to defect.)

She's such a smart, strong, tough character that I don't believe she would raise her points in the settings she raises them in. (Although she would raise them in private with Leo or somebody.) And I don't believe she wouldn't have been seriously rebuked after the first outburst and fired after the seond one.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:42 PM on July 19, 2005

According to the Wikipedia entry, which jives with my memory, they never actually said whether Sam won the election or not, though he was way behind in the polls when they last mentioned it. Since he obviously didn't return to the White House, he must either have won the election, or decided he didn't want the promotion to Senior Counsel to the President he was set to receive, but either way, it was never mentioned.

I've assumed since that little story arc ended that Sam lost the election and decided he'd had enough of politics for a while. Why? Because if he had won the election, he would then have become a Democratic Congressman, and would surely have worked with his former colleagues at the White House on things. And, since he didn't return to the White House despite having a job waiting for him that anyone in Democratic politics would kill to have, he must therefore have decided to leave politics.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:52 PM on July 19, 2005

Hildago, my teevee watching is sporadic, so I didn't see any of the early seasons until Bravo picked it up. When I realized the writer/director was the same guy who did Sports Night, I made sure to catch it.

I feel compelled to comment that the idea of Leo as the VP nominee is horrible, absolutely ludicrous, much as I love John Spencer's work.
posted by theora55 at 1:55 PM on July 19, 2005

Not that it actually helps resolve storyline issues, but it seems Sam Searborn was cut at the request of Rob Lowe
posted by darsh at 2:37 PM on July 19, 2005

I think this is the news item referred to by pmurray63 above:
"Rob Lowe will return to NBC's The West Wing for at least five episodes next November, syndicated columnist Liz Smith reported today (Friday). According to Smith, who cited no sources, Martin Sheen is responsible for negotiating Lowe's return. "Sheen was very unhappy when Rob left the show in a dispute over salary and story line," Smith wrote, adding, "The dotted line has not yet been signed, but the pen is hovering." When Lowe left The West Wing in 2003, it was explained that his character, Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, had left the White House to run for a seat in the House of Representatives. In real life, Lowe starred in two TV series, The Lyon's Den and Dr. Vegas, each of which quickly flopped."
posted by o2b at 2:48 PM on July 19, 2005

It may be too late to piggyback on this askme, but if anyone's still reading, I've wondered what happened to Danica McKellar's character. Did Elsie Snuffin go "off to Mandyland" as well? I haven't seen her since Sam's campaign, but I thought she was going to continue working in some capacity with her step-brother Will Bailey...
posted by PY at 3:55 PM on July 19, 2005

Getting back to the original topic, I heard that one of the reasons that the production company fired Aaron Sorkin was that he was infamous for turning in scripts very, very late, and that that created problems with guest stars who could not get commitments from him as to when their character might return so they'd go get other gigs. Specifically, this was the reason given for Ainsley Hayes departure, but I suspect it played a role for Moira Kelly, Sam's first season prostitute, and others. I give this theory a lot of credence simply because the vanishing character syndrome as all but ended since Sorkin's departure.

On the other topic, I too agree that Leo as VP is horrible. (Come on, like we'd ever elect a VP with a bad heart condition. Oh wait...) However, from a story perspective, it makes sense. They have a problem for the end of next year after Santos wins that it would be unrealistic for any of the cast other than Josh to hang around. The two biggest problems would be Leo and Toby, so I think they are setting up Josh as Chief of Staff, Donna as Press Secretary, and Toby as Leo's Chief of Staff. Possibly, they'll have Josh Molina come on as a speech writer or something, but while I like him as an actor, his character is annoying, so I hope he'll go away. Same thing with CJ. And by the way, CJ as Chief of Staff is infinitely less probable than Leo as VP. At least Leo has some of the qualities necessary for the job.
posted by robhuddles at 4:01 PM on July 19, 2005

re: CJ doing something stupid at the end of last season, I thought it was Toby that leaked? Both him and CJ knew about the asset, and when Kate went into his office, she said the FBI had a theory about the leaker that he wouldn't like... I thought that implied Toby was the leaker. But everytime I see people refer to that arc, they always say that CJ was the leaker. So what am I missing? And I'm very happy to see that other mefi folks love WW, it's one of my favorite shows...
posted by beaverd at 5:35 PM on July 19, 2005

o2b: Yep, that was the blurb. Also right about last season being great.

robhuddles: I don't think Sorkin was "fired," technically. I think he was tired of catching grief about the late scripts and just decided to walk. Also, I suspect that this upcoming season will actually be the last.

beaverd: They didn't say that it was CJ, but they were non-verbally implying it. Which could be a feint -- maybe you're right and it was Toby, but that seems less likely to me. We shall see...
posted by pmurray63 at 7:56 PM on July 19, 2005

PY: Elsie Snuffin was never a legit regular, she had half a dozen lines in three or four episodes. I think her character was a combination of wanting to make use of a smart and freshly-available actor, and 'legitimzing' Josh Molina's role by surrounding him with smart support staff.
posted by o2b at 8:12 PM on July 19, 2005

I don't recognise much of the comment in this thread. The West Wing has never felt the need to explain or tie up every last plot point. Moira is dropped. She didn't work. She ceased to be interesting. Better to stop talking about her than contrive a way to write her out of the series. A similar thing happened with the end of Charlie and Zoe's relationship. You don't know it's over until Charlie talks about wanting her back much much later. The coming and going of characters is a strength of the early series: it's always great when Danny turns up again.

Re: Sam -- I haven't seen the episodes surrounding for his departure for a long time but two things are very clear in my mind (I am not in a position to check at the moment). 1: he did not win his election, and 2: where he went instead isexplained -- I don't recall the whats or wheres, though... many episodes require at least two viewings to pick everything up.
posted by nthdegx at 5:07 AM on July 20, 2005

By Moira, I did of course mean Mandy, her character's name.
posted by nthdegx at 5:08 AM on July 20, 2005

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