The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sidney Poitier for president?

Placeholder while article actions load

Without it there might not be a “Scandal,” or “Veep,” or “House of Cards.” New revelations about the show that helped make politics must-see TV, “The West Wing,” appear in an oral history published in Hollywood Reporter’s May 23 issue in honor of the drama’s 15th anniversary.

The first shocker? Actor Martin Sheen, who starred as President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet in “The West Wing,” almost didn’t make the cut.

“One of the things we got crap for was not having enough minorities, but what people didn’t realize is we had offered Sidney Poitier the president role,” said Scott Sass, former president of NBC Entertainment West Coast.

Apparently talks with Poitier, the first African American man to receive an Academy Award (he won the best actor award in 1963), didn’t go far and three more names floated around before the folks behind the scenes landed on Sheen.

“At the outset, I’d imagined that the president was a character we’d only see once in a while,” said Aaron Sorkin, the show’s creator, “and so Martin was originally signed to a contract that would have him appear in four out of 13 episodes.” Plans quickly changed when Sheen tested great with audiences in the series pilot.

More from the Reliable Source:

Gilbert Arenas forgives Donald Sterling via Instagram

Redskins legend Joe Theismann gets roasted at an annual fundraiser

The Scene: The Washington Performing Arts’ annual gala

Even more sightings, surreal estate, BOLO and Love, etc: Sign up for The Reliable Source newsletter. And follow us on Facebook and Twitter.