As he set about adapting “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the stage, Aaron Sorkin found himself troubled by its protagonist, the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch. Harper Lee’s Finch, he thought, is tolerant to a fault—understanding rather than condemning the violent racism of many of his neighbors. Sorkin also felt that Lee’s two black characters, the maid Calpurnia and the falsely accused Tom Robinson, lacked a real voice. “I imagine that, in 1960, using African-American characters as atmosphere is the kind of thing that would go unnoticed by white people,” he tells David Remnick. “In 2018, it doesn’t go unnoticed, and it’s wrong, and it’s also a wasted opportunity.” Sorkin’s changes in his adaptation led to a lawsuit from Harper Lee’s literary executor, who had placed specific conditions on the faithfulness of his script. In Sorkin’s view, the criticisms of the executor, Tonja Carter, were tantamount to racism, in that they reinforced the lack of agency of black people in the South in the nineteen-thirties. (Carter declined to comment on Sorkin’s remarks, and the lawsuit was settled before the play was produced.) Sorkin says that, of his own volition, he cut some of his new lines that hinted too broadly toward the current Presidency. But Atticus Finch’s realization—that the people in his community whom he thought he knew best were people he never really knew at all—mirrors the experience of many Americans since 2016. Plus, Ocean Vuong, the author of the best-selling autobiographical novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” visits the food court at a largely Asian mall in Queens that reminds him of home.
We’ve reached the end of the fourth season, and the end of Aaron Sorkin’s tenure on The West Wing. For this special farewell, Aaron himself joined us on stage at the historic Town Hall in New York to teach us how to say goodbye. He surprised us with his candor, and we surprised Aaron and the audience with special guest Emily Procter, as well as heartfelt messages sent in by the cast and crew.
For more, visit thewestwingweekly.com/424
To discuss the Season 3 finale, we traveled to San Francisco to record a live episode at the Castro Theatre. We'd announced the show would be with a special guest: Aaron Sorkin. But what we didn't tell anyone was that we'd also be joined by a couple of surprise guests: Allison Janney (@AllisonBJanney) and Melissa Fitzgerald (@MaffyFitz). You can hear the audience go crazy when they come out; you wouldn't believe how thunderously loud it was in the actual theater. This one was so much fun to record. Thanks to our guests for joining us, thanks to Sketchfest for hosting us, and thanks to you for continuing to watch the West Wing along with us. Okay, what's next?
For more, visit thewestwingweekly.com/322.