Trying to get your campaign video to go viral? How about getting the cast of the “West Wing” to reunite?
It worked for Bridget Mary McCormack, a candidate for Michigan’s State Supreme Court. The four-minute video stars Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney and six other familiar faces from the beloved, long-running series explaining the less-than-scintillating dynamics of non-partisan ballots — with a sweet plug for the first-time candidate thrown in for good measure.
Soon after being posted to YouTube early Thursday, it lit up the Internet like a rocket.
How did the Michigan law professor, 46, snag the Emmy-winning cast? Connections: Her sister Mary McCormack, who played Deputy National Security Adviser Kate Harper for the show’s final three seasons — and has some of the best lines in the video.
“I’m very happy today,” McCormack told us Thursday, just a few hours after it hit the web. “And I love my little sister.”
McCormack, who launched her bid for office in March, told her sister about a common problem on many state ballots: People vote for the party candidates, but often skip the non-partisan portion where judicial candidates are listed. For years, people have been trying to get the word out, without much luck.
Lightbulb moment! Mary called Janney and Whitford, her closest friends from “West Wing,” and asked them to do a campaign video. “They said ‘sure’ and it spiraled from there,” said McCormack. Others signed on to reprise their old roles: Richard Schiff, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney, Lily Tomlin and Melissa Fitzgerald. “I think it’s a testament to their good will and good friendships,” the candidate said.
In early August, McCormack found herself in a nondescript office building in Los Angeles with the Emmy-winning actors. Veteran TV writer John Cockrell wrote the script; Mary’s husband, producer Michael Morris, helped with editing.
Series creator Aaron Sorkin was not involved, but was definitely evoked: The video is filled with rapid-fire deadpan patter that’s a pitch-perfect parody of all those walking-through-corridors-bantering-about-the-agriculture-bill you remember so fondly from the show.
“Stupid coffee maker.”
“Please tell me this isn’t the crisis.”
“This isn’t the crisis.”
“Is this the voting thing?”
“What ‘the voting thing’?”
“The crisis. Is the crisis the voting thing?”
“What voting thing?”
“It’s the voting thing. How’d you find out?”
Little sis even threw in a plug for herself:
“Who’s Mary McCormack?”
“No clue. But something tells me she’s delightful, and whip smart, possibly hot.”
The video was shot in just one day; the cost to the campaign was a little under $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for insurance and lunch. The creative team, McCormack told us, donated their time.
McCormack, founder of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, was endorsed by the state’s Democratic Party but will appear on the non-partisan section of the ballot with no listed party affiliation. The video also does not mention her affiliation — despite the apparent support from fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet, embodied by real-life liberal activist Sheen.
She’s competing against nine other candidates (Republicans, Democrats and other parties) for three seats. But plenty of voters — in Michigan, 38 percent, according to McCormack — don’t bother to vote in those races. That’s the focus of the video, and the main reason the actors agreed to do it.
McCormack is the only kid in her family who didn’t go into show business: After “West Wing,” her sister went on to star in the cable series “In Plain Sight,” while little brother Will McCormack co-wrote and appeared in this year’s film “Celeste and Jesse Forever” with Rashida Jones.
“I think I’ll stick to law,” said the mother of four teenagers and wife of fellow Michigan law professor Steven Croley — who, as it happens, currently works in the real-life West Wing as a deputy White House counsel.
Read earlier: Over a barrel? Meet White House gun policy adviser Steve Croley, 4/11/11
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