Thomas Schlamme

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three and-a-half hour Archive interview, Thomas Schlamme discusses his early life and how he chose directing over working in his father's business. He talks about his interest in sports and theater during high school and describes his first jobs in advertising, commercials, and music videos. He shares how his stint in advertising led to directing several television specials in the early 1980s, and discusses directing It's Garry Shandling's Show and how the show's writers would work into the wee hours of the morning on scripts. He recalls directing The Wonder Years, Mad About You, Friends, and several David E. Kelley-produced shows. He gives his perspective on directing for two competing medical dramas: ER and Chicago Hope, speaks fondly about working with Tracey Ullman on her series Tracey Takes On…, and recalls his difficult experience on the feature film "So I Married An Axe Murderer."  Schlamme then details working with Aaron Sorkin on the series Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He describes the "walk and talk" filming technique which has been employed on each of these series, the casting of The West Wing and his work with the ensemble, and the challenges of shooting a show within a show on Studio 60. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on December 19, 2006 in Burbank, CA. 

"I think the legacy [of 'The West Wing'] is that a group of people can raise the bar as high as they want in television, and can maintain it if all their energy just goes to making it great. Somebody once said, 'Well, all shows can't be as good as 'The West Wing,' but I don't know why all shows can't be as good as 'The West Wing.' If 'West Wing' can do it other shows can do it, too."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Thomas Schlamme on directing "walk and talk" shots on Aaron Sorkin's shows
Thomas Schlamme on Aaron Sorkin's writing process on The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on how visiting the White House informed his directing of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on directing the pilot for Spin City
Thomas Schlamme on the lessons he learned from directing the film "So I Married an Axe Murderer"
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life; on early television memories; on college and early career aspirations
On working at an advertising agency; on moving to New York City; on creating animated commercials and commercials for Broadway shows

Chapter 2

On directing music videos; on working with Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg; on directing It's Garry Shandling's Show
On directing Mad About You;  on directing comedy for television; on his wife, actress Christine Lahti; on directing children on The Wonder Years

Chapter 3

On directing his friend Brent Spiner in several projects; on directing Chicago Hope;  on directing large ensemble casts
On David E. Kelley; on directing Ally McBeal; on directing Friends

Chapter 4

On directing Friends and Tracey Takes On; on directing the feature film "So I Married an Axe Murderer"; on directing Spin City and ER
On directing Sports Night;  on Sports Night's laugh track; on winning Emmy Awards

Chapter 5

On the genesis of The West Wing  and the cancellation of Sports Night; on the "walk and talk"
On the set of and casting The West Wing;  on significant episodes of The West Wing;  on The West Wing and the Clinton White House

Chapter 6

On shooting The West Wing in Washington, DC; on his role as executive producer on The West Wing;  on Aaron Sorkin's writing process
On Aaron Sorkin's arrest; on the cast of The West Wing;  on leaving The West Wing and the end of the series

Chapter 7

On The West Wing and 9/11; on creating Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; on the challenges of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
On casting and directing the pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip;  on technological innovations in television; on advice to aspiring directors
Shows

Ally McBeal

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Ally McBeal
Thomas Schlamme on his disappointment with the condensed versions of Ally McBeal

Chicago Hope

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Thomas Schlamme on how he came to direct Chicago Hope
Thomas Schlamme on directing an ensemble cast in Chicago Hope

Democratic National Convention

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Thomas Schlamme on watching the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention with his father

ER

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Thomas Schlamme on directing "Ambush", a live episode of ER

Friends

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Friends
Thomas Schlamme on directing the "The One with the Lesbian Wedding" episode of Friends

It's Garry Shandling's Show.

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Thomas Schlamme on how he came to direct It's Garry Shandling's Show
Thomas Schlamme on directing It's Garry Shandling's Show

Mad About You

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Mad About You

Practice, The (1997-2004)

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Thomas Schlamme on directing John Larroquette in The Practice

Spin City

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Thomas Schlamme on directing the pilot for Spin City

Sports Night

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Thomas Schlamme on how he came to direct Sports Night
Thomas Schlamme on the process of directing Sports Night
Thomas Schlamme on doing away with the laugh track on Sports Night
Thomas Schlamme on the cancellation of Sports Night

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

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Thomas Schlamme on creating Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Thomas Schlamme on creating the main characters on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Thomas Schlamme on the show within a show on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Thomas Schlamme on casting Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Thomas Schlamme on directing the pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Thomas Schlamme on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip ratings

Tracey Takes On ...

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Tracey Ullman on Tracey Takes On ...

West Wing, The

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Thomas Schlamme on the genesis of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on how visiting the White House informed his directing of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on the "Take the Sabbath Day" episode of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on casting The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on the set of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on directing "walk and talk" shots on Aaron Sorkin's shows
Thomas Schlamme on shooting The West Wing in Washington, DC
Thomas Schlamme on his role in Aaron Sorkin's writing process on The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on Aaron Sorkin's writing process on The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on the cast of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on the end of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on the rise and fall of the ratings of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing and 9/11
Thomas Schlamme on the legacy of The West Wing

Wonder Years, The

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Thomas Schlamme on directing children on The Wonder Years
Topics

9/11

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Thomas Schlamme on the rise and fall of the ratings of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing and 9/11

Bill Clinton

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Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing and the Clinton White House

Characters & Catchphrases

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Thomas Schlamme on Martin Sheen as "President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet" on The West Wing

Emmy Awards

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Thomas Schlamme on winning Emmys for Tracey Takes On and Sports Night

Memorable Moments on Television

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Thomas Schlamme on watching the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention with his father

Pop Culture

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Thomas Schlamme on Martin Sheen as "President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet" on The West Wing

Technological Innovation

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Thomas Schlamme on then-new delivery methods for television

Television Industry

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Thomas Schlamme on the hierarchy of television

Television and the Presidency

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Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing and the Clinton White House

We Considered

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Thomas Schlamme on watching the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention with his father
Professions

Animation Professionals

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Thomas Schlamme on animating television commercials

Animator

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Thomas Schlamme on animating television commercials

Directors

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Thomas Schlamme on directing comedy
Thomas Schlamme on directing It's Garry Shandling's Show
Thomas Schlamme on directing large ensemble casts
Thomas Schlamme on directing Ally McBeal
Thomas Schlamme on the process of directing Sports Night
Thomas Schlamme on directing "Ambush", a live episode of ER
Thomas Schlamme on directing "walk and talk" shots
Thomas Schlamme on how visiting the White House informed his directing of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on advice to aspiring directors
Thomas Schlamme on directing the pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Producers

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Thomas Schlamme on his role as executive producer on The West Wing
Genres

Comedy Series

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Thomas Schlamme on directing It's Garry Shandling's Show
Thomas Schlamme on directing Mad About You
Thomas Schlamme on directing children in The Wonder Years
Thomas Schlamme on directing Ally McBeal
Thomas Schlamme on directing Friends
Thomas Schlamme on directing Tracey Takes On
Thomas Schlamme on the process of directing Sports Night

Drama Series

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Thomas Schlamme on directing "Ambush", a live episode of ER
Thomas Schlamme on the genesis of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on casting The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on The West Wing  and the Clinton White House
Thomas Schlamme on shooting The West Wing  in Washington, DC
Thomas Schlamme on the cast of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on Aaron Sorkin's writing process on The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on the legacy of The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on creating Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Medical Dramas

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Thomas Schlamme on directing the ensemble cast in Chicago Hope

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Whoopi Goldberg's HBO special Whoopi Goldberg: Direct from Broadway
Thomas Schlamme on directing Bette Midler's HBO special Art or Bust
People

Whoopi Goldberg

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Whoopi Goldberg's HBO special Whoopi Goldberg: Direct from Broadway

Christine Lahti

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Thomas Schlamme on meeting and marrying actress Christine Lahti

John Larroquette

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Thomas Schlamme on directing John Larroquette in The Practice

Rob Lowe

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Thomas Schlamme on Rob Lowe leaving and returning to The West Wing

Janel Maloney

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Thomas Schlamme on Janel Maloney as "Donna Moss" on The West Wing

Bette Midler

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Bette Midler's HBO special Art or Bust

Mike Myers

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Mike Myers in "So I Married an Axe Murderer"

Mike Nichols

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Thomas Schlamme on his relationship with director Mike Nichols

Garry Shandling

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Thomas Schlamme on Garry Shandling's comic dexterity  

Martin Sheen

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Thomas Schlamme on Martin Sheen as "President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet" on The West Wing

Aaron Sorkin

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Thomas Schlamme on meeting Aaron Sorkin
Thomas Schlamme on directing "walk and talk" shots on Aaron Sorkin's shows
Thomas Schlamme on his role in Aaron Sorkin's writing process on The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on Aaron Sorkin's writing process on The West Wing
Thomas Schlamme on Aaron Sorkin's arrest

John Spencer

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Thomas Schlamme on John Spencer as "Leo McGarry" on The West Wing

Brent Spiner

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Thomas Schlamme on directing childhood friend Brent Spiner

Tracey Ullman

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Thomas Schlamme on directing Tracey Ullman on Tracey Takes On ...

John Wells

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Thomas Schlamme on John Wells role on The West Wing

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