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Toby Ziegler: Happiness Is My Default Position

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Toby Ziegler - the guy so smart and so driven that he's frustrated wherever he goes by the limitations of this world.

I'm not sure if I would like Toby's character so much if he weren't played by Richard Schiff, who brings everything to the part.  He savors his lines as one would finely aged whiskey.

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President Bartlet: “You’re are a wise and brilliant man, Toby…. did you mean what you said? My demons were shouting down the better angels in my brain?… You think that’s what is stopping me from greatness?”

Toby Ziegler: “Yes.”

President Bartlet: ”I suppose you’re right.”

Toby Ziegler: ”Tell you what, though, in a battle between a President’s demons and his better angels, for the first time in a long while, I think we just might have ourselves a fair fight.”

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When our introduction to Toby was listening to him rant at a flight attendant who was nice enough to give him a message, I had no idea I'd wind up liking him so much.  But he quickly became my second-favorite character (behind CJ).  By the time he said, "There is literally no one I don't hate right now," I was hooked.

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There really is something about the way Richard Schiff delivers his lines that makes them resonate strongly. I think I can recall more Toby quotes than any other character.

That quiet, assuredness and the time he takes (both actor and character) to clearly think things through before he says them, and I always, always felt like Toby was a made whose every word should be listened to. And because of the thought he always shows, his reactions to other people's dialogue were always pure gold.

One shining moment for me was in Six Meetings Before Lunch, where he was happily (and unnervingly) celebrating his Day of Jubilee, right until the moment Mandy asked him to help her get a new Panda for whatever zoo it was. Just that absolute loss of everything resembling thought... it has me laughing, just thinking about it.

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Toby making Sam turn around and spit on election day so as to prevent the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing remains one of my all-time favorite little WW moments. It's such a throwaway moment, but it makes the episode for me.

I think one reason I always enjoyed Richard Schiff's portrayal is that he never sounds like he is racing to keep up with Aaron Sorkin's dialogue. In the hands of a lesser actor, Sorkinese is just...too much. Too much verbiage spewing all over the place in some mad, headlong rush to get all the words out before the scene ends (Newsroom, I'm looking at you). But there's such restraint and deliberateness in the way that Richard Schiff plays Toby. I never think that it's an actor reciting lines of dialogue; I just buy that this is the way Toby speaks, and having watched plenty of Aaron Sorkin shows, that's actually quite an accomplishment.

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Richard Schiff is in the new TNT drama "Murder in the First", playing a lawyer to the supposed bad guy. (If you see 30 seconds of the show, you will know that is not a spoiler). One of the first times we see the character, he is on a plane and I flashed back the first scene in the Pilot where he talks about how unlikely it is that something he bought at Radio Shack could disable the plane. However, he played the character as mopie Toby the whole time so I was disappointed, even with Tommy Schlamme directing.

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Toby making Sam turn around and spit on election day so as to prevent the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing remains one of my all-time favorite little WW moments. It's such a throwaway moment, but it makes the episode for me.

I think one reason I always enjoyed Richard Schiff's portrayal is that he never sounds like he is racing to keep up with Aaron Sorkin's dialogue. In the hands of a lesser actor, Sorkinese is just...too much. Too much verbiage spewing all over the place in some mad, headlong rush to get all the words out before the scene ends (Newsroom, I'm looking at you). But there's such restraint and deliberateness in the way that Richard Schiff plays Toby. I never think that it's an actor reciting lines of dialogue; I just buy that this is the way Toby speaks, and having watched plenty of Aaron Sorkin shows, that's actually quite an accomplishment.

Totally agree. Even very good actors can fumble with Sorkin's writing quirks. It can be like watching someone try to do Moliere and end up sounding like a 3rd grader at a poetry recital. Sometimes even good actors can't quite get a handle on how to make something so stylized sound natural (ironically, I like Josh Molina as an actor but hated him in both Sports Night and West Wing. I felt like really brought out the smug douch-bag in Sorkin's writing). With Sorkib it's like everybody can't wait to get to the joke. RS never did that, even with the jokes. He slowed everything down a beat. His intensity wasn't a bright flame, it was a low flicker that survives after every other light goes out. It was a sorely needed take on Sorkin and I feel like it's a noticeable absence in his other shows.

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I named one of my cats Toby so yeah....I'm a fan (the other is Leo, btw).  

 

I always loved that Toby was the one who could really challenge the president.  He was respectful but not unrealistic about the fact that despite his position, he was just a man with issues all his own.  

 

And well, the fact that he didn't know that babies came with hats will always charm me.

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Richard Schiff really does some great work in his final scene of the show.  He got so screwed by the writers in the last season - I was so gratified they let Toby be Toby in that next-to-last episode, with CJ.

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I have just finished season 4 in my rewatch, and I have a new appreciation for Toby. Always loved him, but now I LOVE him, you know?

 

The scene with his new babies. Richard Schiff is just so, so good I could've watched him for hours with his twins. So sweet.

(And with what I assume is Emilio Estevez playing a younger Jed in Bartlet home movies on the TV behind him. Kids!)  

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TCM played The Candidate last night.  I am reasonably certain that the campaign manager character (Marvin Lucas) played by Peter Boyle was who Sorkin drew most upon in creating Tobey.  He was even balding with a beard!

 

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Sorkin used other elements in this movie as he created the series.  I didn't see a "Leo," though.  Have any of you heard or read of any influence this movie had on Sorkin?

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I have to agree with all the above comments regarding Richard Schiff's great acting.  Toby may have spoken slowly and deliberately, but his amazing facial expressions always let us know what was coming.  His last scene with C.J. was very powerful.

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Toby was a very complex character, but Schiff understood the role completely: sometimes Toby would be passionate about whatever cause he personally believed in; sometimes he would come over all sanctimonious, bullying (usually by shouting people into submission); and sometimes he comes off as dry and shrewd.

He wasn't my favourite character in all honesty, but I certainly believed in him and his idealism; even to the point of getting into the President's head, pushing the boundaries of protocol in order to make Bartlet a better person!

There were many great episodes, but one of my favourites would be "Drought Conditions" - which included his awkward office "punch up" with Josh! That bit was a tad silly, but probably necessary for the story; but overall I loved the entire episode, and how emotionally vulnerable he becomes over his brother's death.

Shame about the silly "It was me!" storyline running through S7 - the writers really shafted him on that one! It would have been great to have seen him in "Tomorrow", but alas, it wasn't to be. 

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On 1/17/2015 at 2:54 AM, marriedaniac said:

I have just finished season 4 in my rewatch, and I have a new appreciation for Toby. Always loved him, but now I LOVE him, you know?

 

The scene with his new babies. Richard Schiff is just so, so good I could've watched him for hours with his twins. So sweet.

(And with what I assume is Emilio Estevez playing a younger Jed in Bartlet home movies on the TV behind him. Kids!)  

Yes! I'm watching this right now, for the first time, and I love him. 

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I felt for him when Andi turned him down despite buying her the house of her dreams in S5.

Given the internal conflicts with other senior staffers and their partners, I guess the Toby/Andi Thing was always going to be doomed, primarily because Andi knows him far too well, and probably couldn't bare trying again, even with the twins bringing them a little closer together. 

I was watching Brad Pitt, in that classic thriller "Se7en", and a small appearance by Schiff as a shifty lawyer: despite such short screentime I could already see one or two Tobyisms in his performance and demeanour.

 "Babies come with hats." - wonderful

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On 4/15/2017 at 10:26 AM, Only Zola said:

I felt for him when Andi turned him down despite buying her the house of her dreams in S5.

Given the internal conflicts with other senior staffers and their partners, I guess the Toby/Andi Thing was always going to be doomed, primarily because Andi knows him far too well, and probably couldn't bare trying again, even with the twins bringing them a little closer together. 

I was watching Brad Pitt, in that classic thriller "Se7en", and a small appearance by Schiff as a shifty lawyer: despite such short screentime I could already see one or two Tobyisms in his performance and demeanour.

 "Babies come with hats." - wonderful

I understand why she turned him down but the way she did it made me so mad at her.

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Richard Schiff was among the panelists in LA last night as the Los Angeles PaleyFest, put on in LA (& at least sometimes in NYC) by the Paley Center for Media, saluted The Good Doctor, the hit ABC show which currently counts Richard among its cast. If you're 1 of the apparently few who haven't seen it yet, the show's protagonist (played by Freddie Highmore) is a medical resident who happens to be on the Autism Spectrum & have Savant Syndrome. It's based on a South Korean TV show,with the same premise, from a few seasons back.

Richard's character is a doctor on the staff of the hospital where Freddie's character is eventually accepted to do his medical training, mostly after Richard's character goes to bat for him & won't take no for an answer until the hospital accepts Freddie's character as a resident-level physician employed by that hospital (the other doctors, etc., who make the decisions as to who does & doesn't get accepted as a resident, are worried--& I think probably rightfully so--that Freddie's character will be negatively affected by his Autism at a critical/life or death point for 1 of the patients who's been assigned to him; like Freddie won't be able to understand directions given by more senior doctors, on how to treat a patient, causing the hospital to be sued for a huge amount of malpractice damages if Freddie's character is actually allowed to treat patients & someone dies or is left with irreparable damage due to his Autism). Once Freddie's character is allowed to do his residency in the show's hospital, Richard's character becomes a mentor to him. 

The video's about 55 minutes long; almost an hour, anyway. It's worth watching; especially if you're a fan of Richard's, The Good Doctor, or any of the other actors in the cast.

The show was recently renewed for a second season beginning in the Fall of this year.

Edited by BW Manilowe · Reason: To fix spacing.
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