The first episode of The West Wing aired on television on September 22, 1999, and the country's new favorite TV character quickly became the strong-willed, outspoken, witty, and intelligent C.J. Cregg. In the American political drama written by Aaron Sorkin, Allison Janney is the mastermind who played the character of White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg for nearly seven years.
Fans of the long-running TV show already know how influential and inspiring Janney's character on the show became to audiences. From inspiring students to study law and communications to proving the importance of strong female roles on screen, it's no question that C.J. Cregg is an audience favorite. Here's everything even the most dedicated West Wing fans may not know about C.J. Cregg.
10 Who Exactly Is C.J. Cregg?
Claudia Jean Cregg - known to most everyone as C.J. - works as the Press Secretary and first line of defense between the press, the media, and the Bartlet White House. C.J. was born in Dayton, Ohio, and thanks to her height (as she jokes many times on screen that she stands, six feet tall), used to play basketball in high school where her father, Talmidge Cregg, was a math teacher. During President Bartlet's first term in office, C.J.'s father begins to suffer from Alzheimer's disease and is an influential event that affects C.J. throughout seasons.
What many fans love about her character is that C.J. is unafraid of expressing her own opinions, holds her own, and proves herself smart, worthy, and capable of her work and her job within every episode.
9 Where Did She Study?
As a National Merit Scholar, C.J. first attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. A few years later, she earns herself a master's degree in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. She states jokingly in an episode that she went to school "for twenty-two years."
Though her undergraduate major is never revealed on the show, her quick intelligence and skill to always find the right words to deliver show how her studies might have shaped and prepared her for the job. The character of C.J. Cregg on The West Wing has inspired many real-life college students to pursue political science as career paths.
8 How Did C.J. Get Her Job At The White House?
In 1998, C.J.'s future colleague and future White House Communications Director, Toby Zeigler, traveled to California in search of C.J. He asked her to join the Bartlet campaign then, after stating that her work with political action committee Emily's List, was admired by Bartlet (though later, he admits to her that Bartlet had never heard of her and only said it to get her to join the team).
The 1998 Bartlet Campaign is where C.J. begins her work publicly utilizing her communication skills and collaborating with the White House Cabinet West Wing fans know and love.
7 What Are Her Political Views?
C.J. works for a Democratic White House and shares views that are many times in line with the Democratic Party. Inspired by much of the Clinton administration, The West Wing was written with characters of the Democratic Party in mind. However, the show constantly displays Republican opposition, PR problems, and the hard waters that need to be navigated while trying to run a White House.
C.J. Cregg is an outspoken, well-rounded woman heading the media in defense of her White House while working with a mostly all-male staff. Throughout the show, she can be seen fighting for human rights, financial fairness, serving her country with integrity, all while being a trust-worthy friend to her fellow staff members. Her standing her ground and holding her own in her position in the Bartlet White House has been inspiring to and commendable by many, no matter their political party.
6 What Is C.J.'s Secret Service Codename?
Just like real-life White House staffers, the members of President Bartlet's cabinet on The West Wing have all been given secret service codenames. In several episodes, White House security revolving around the President, his family, and his staff is a constant storyline.
In most episodes, secret service agents can be spotted standing guard around the rooms of The West Wing. From White House security threats to suspicious tourists on the White House lawn, even the show takes strong precautions. In the third season, C.J. begins receiving death threats after a comment she makes publicly is criticized. As she also travels closely with the President, C.J. ends up once or twice caught in the line of fire. For safety reasons, her codename given to her by the secret service is "Flamingo."
5 What's Her Connection To Goldfish?
If you're a constant follower of the West Wing, you'd quickly learn that C.J. Cregg and goldfish are many times brought up in the same sentence. While reporter Danny Concannon works as a reporter on the show, he quickly develops feelings for C.J. as they are always crossing paths while trying to do their jobs.
In an effort to help him win her over, White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman, tells Concannon that, "C.J. likes goldfish." He promptly shows up to C.J.'s office later with a bowl filled with water and a goldfish named, "Gail." C.J. gratefully accepts the gift and then laughs at the fact that he misunderstood Lyman -- goldfish, "The crackers, the cheese things you have at parties," are actually her favorite snack.
4 How Did Allison Janney Get The Part?
Allison Janney read for the role of C.J. Cregg as The West Wing was still being written. The West Wing writer and creator, Aaron Sorkin, revealed that casting for C.J. was a lengthy process that kept the team wondering constantly about who was the perfect fit for the part. Sorkin, who became interested in Janney after seeing her in the movie Primary Colors, later said, "When we closed our eyes at night, we wanted Allison. So we cast Allison."
In 1999, she was cast and given the part. Her portrayal of the White House Press Secretary led her to win a total of four Primetime Emmy Awards. Her first two Emmy wins were for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2000 and 2001. Her second two Emmy wins were for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, inspiring many young women to take on more leading roles.
3 What Was Aaron Sorkin's Inspiration?
Aaron Sorkin has revealed in stories about his writing and inspiration for the show that the character of C.J. Cregg was inspired by real-life press secretary Dee Dee Myers, who served the White House during the Clinton administration. Myers served as a regular consultant while the show was being developed.
Though many of the show's situations and C.J.'s reactions loosely mirror how Myers' experience in the White House was, the episode titled, "Lord John Marbury," is a storyline that closely reflects Myers' being kept in the dark about important information that her White House staff failed to share with her. As the show went on, Sorkin quickly wrote C.J.'s character to closely fit more of Janney's shining personality.
2 What Do Other Cast Members Have To Say About C.J.?
In a reflection on the show 15 years after it last aired, Allison Janney states, "It's rewarding for me to have people come up to me still to this day and say, 'C.J., your character, made me change my major in college, and now I'm going into public service because of what you did.'" Though grateful for the inspiration her character has granted the show's fans, it turns out that her co-stars have been grateful for her.
When Allison Janney was honored with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019, Richard Schiff (Toby Zeigler) gave a speech entitled, "Why I love Allison Janney in 2 minutes," reflecting on their time together shooting The West Wing.
1 What Happened To C.J. In The Future After The West Wing?
C.J. and Danny Concannon's relationship develops over the course of several seasons, and just like their courtship, so does C.J.'s job status. By the sixth season, he is recommended by White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry to succeed him to continue to serve the President after he suffers a heart attack. She receives multiple job offers and promotions after the Bartlet administration and during the Santos administration.
In the last season of the show, the first episode flashes forward in time to show the C.J. and Danny Concannon are happily married and living together in Santa Monica, California with their child.