Few actors possess the versatility and raw talent exhibited by Bradley Whitford, who is beloved for his role as the fast-talking and fast-walking White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman on the hit show “The West Wing.” But with a career spanning over three decades, Whitford has captivated audiences on both the big and small screens with his exceptional performances, creative range and magnetic presence.
But the Emmy award-winning actor is the first to admit that despite his trademark dimples, he definitely has a flare for dastardly, dark and dynamic characters. Here, a rare peek into the real Bradley Whitford, the unconventional villains he brings to life and if we’ll every see him pacing the halls of the White House again in a “West Wing” reboot.
How did Bradley Whitford get into acting?
Born on October 10, 1959, in Madison, Wisconsin, Bradley Whitford discovered his passion for acting at an early age. After graduating from Juilliard School’s Drama Division, he went on to study theater at Wesleyan University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1981. Once he completed his education, Whitford began his professional acting career on stage, performing in various theater productions.
His first appearance on television was in a 1985 episode of The Equalizer, followed by a two-year recurring role on daytime’s All My Children. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Whitford started gaining recognition for his work in film. He appeared in supporting roles in movies such as Adventures in Babysitting (1987) and Scent of a Woman (1992). These roles showcased his ability to portray a wide range of characters, from comedic to dramatic.
Whitford’s breakthrough came in 1999 when he was cast as Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on the political drama series, “The West Wing.” The show, created by Aaron Sorkin, revolved around the inner workings of the White House and garnered critical acclaim for its sharp writing and stellar ensemble cast. Whitford’s portrayal of Josh Lyman, a passionate and driven political operative, earned him widespread praise and recognition.
Was Bradley Whitford worried about being typecast?
Over a seven season run from 1999 to 2006, Bradley Whitford won an Emmy in 2001 for his role as Josh Lyman. Whitford had previously been nominated for a Primetime Emmy three consecutive times and likewise three consecutive Golden Globe Award nominations for his walk and talk “West Wing” character. Yet with all the acclaim, Whitford never feared he would be typecast as Lyman.
“You’re going to get typecast at whatever you do, but to be typecast as that guy who was complicated, passionate, funny, that’s fine,” he said to the Los Angeles Times. “But yeah, people think you’re going to be a smart guy in a suit. But what a wonderful experience. The only problem with it is it does spoil you; honestly, not to be pretentious but the creative experience, that kind of writing and those kinds of actors and directors….it was like what do you do after that? A show about a canning factory?”
But Whitford garnered acclaim for many other roles in quick succession. This included “Transparent“, in which he won a second Primetime Emmy Award for his portrayal as Marcy. His third Primetime Emmy Award came in 2019 for his role as Commander Joseph Lawrence in the futuristic dystopian drama “The Handmaid’s Tale“. “I’ve really played a lot of creepy guys,” he joked to Esquire with much amusement.
What is Bradley Whitford like in real life?
“Early on in my career I was typecast as yuppie scum, and then with the film Get Out and [the show] ‘Handmaid’s Tale’, it’s become this very different kind of darkness. It’s bizarre, or at least I can only hope that it’s bizarre to the people that know me.”
People who have worked with and known Whitford over the years have only kind words to say about the man. His compassion and decency are characteristics that best describe the actor, and his zero tolerance policy for abusive behavior of any kind are known off and on a Hollywood set.
Not only has Whitford established a resume for acting, but he’s also directed a few “‘Handmaids’ Tale” episodes and produced documentary style series such as Valley of the Boom, a strange formatted series with an unconventional storyline. And his goal is to create a commonality among us all.
“I really believe that there is a tremendous opportunity to communicate in a way a culture needs it be attaching flesh and bone and heart to issues that are dividing us. All art is political because it obliterates the myth of separateness that we all walk around with.”
How is Bradley Whitford like Josh Lyman?
Bradley Whitford was raised as a Quaker in Wayne, Pennsylvania, so non-violence and pacifism are natural attributes, but there is one topic where he and Josh Lyman tend to line up: politics. “I’ve never been in a fight in my life – I can’t send a steak back if there’s a bug on it. But I seem to be able to rant in public about politics.”
Two years into the run of “The West Wing,” the 9/11 tragedy happened. “In the wake of that, I just thought why are we doing a television show about flirting, wisecracking Democrats? But it became a political statement. It kind of energized the audience to see an alternative world.”
Over the years, Whitford has been involved with Citizens’ Climate Lobby as well as contributed as a columnist to The Huffington Post. In 2007, he was honored by Alliance for Justice. Later that year, he was the keynote speaker for Class Day at Princeton University, sharing his views which focus on social justice and humanitarianism.
Who is Bradley Whitford’s wife?
One of Hollywood’s golden couples, Whitford and Malcolm in the Middle actress Jane Kaczmarek married in 1992. After three children together, they divorced following 16 years of marriage.
In 2014, Whitford appeared in a recurring role as a cross-dressing business man during the first season of “Transparent.” In the second season, he appeared in an entirely different role on the same series.
It was at this time, in 2015, that Whitford met “Transparent” co-star Amy Landecker, which resulted in a surprise elopement in Santa Barbara, California in July 2019 where the couple brought along their two dogs for the celebration. “Marriage is going very well,” he told The Today Show. “We just like being together.”
Is Bradley Whitford a heartthrob?
Gone is his full head of brown hair, only to be replaced by silver-fox white hair. Black horn-rimmed glasses outline his thoughtful and smiling eyes. Yet, the now 62 year-old actor bathed in the light of his inclusion in People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive issue in 2021. “My first thought was, ‘This is going to kill Josh Malina,’ which made me very happy,” Whitford joked about his on-going pranks with his previous co-star.
“This is basically Sexiest Man Barely Alive,” he quipped about his participation in the coveted issue. “Being in our ‘Dad Bod’ means that you kind of care a little bit about your physique.” But turning a more serious note, Whitford is the first one to tell you that he was in the best shape of his life “many decades ago. As my father would say, I have a bright future behind me.”
To stay in good health with physical stamina, Whitford makes time for regular exercise and enjoys long walks around his Los Angeles neighborhood with his wife. “I started walking a lot during the pandemic”, he told People. “I love to do that. It’s sort of an anti-anxiety, anti-depressant. As I’ve gotten older, I have to be careful with my knee. I can go to the gym and sort of pathetically lift weights.”
He admits that the key to his overall well-being is sleep. “If I don’t get enough sleep, everything falls apart. I used to be able to get away with not sleeping, which you can do when you’re young.”
Will Bradley Whitford be in a reboot of ‘The West Wing’?
Now that other classic shows from the nineties are being revived in one form or another, rumors of a “West Wing” reboot have been circulating. “I don’t think a conventional reboot is a good idea, although I do think a version of that show could have gone on and on and on,” Whitford told Esquire. “But it’s dangerous—I remember saying at the time, you have to get out before the banana gets brown.”
But hope isn’t all lost. Creator Aaron Sorkin has said: “Incredibly, the show has a legacy, the last thing I would want to do is harm that, so if I can come up with an idea that doesn’t feel like A Very Brady Christmas, if I can come up with an idea that works, then yeah.”
No matter the future of “The West Wing” one thing is for sure: Bradley Whitford still has a whole lot of acting left in him — and we can’t wait to see it!
Bonnie Siegler is an established international writer covering the celebrity circuit for more than 15 years. Bonnie’s resume includes two books that combine her knowledge of entertaining with celebrity health and fitness and has written travel stories which focus on sustainable living. She has contributed to magazines including Woman’s World and First for Women, Elle, InStyle, Shape, TV Guide and Viva. Bonnie served as West Coast Entertainment Director for Rive Gauche Media overseeing the planning and development of print and digital content. She has also appeared on entertainment news shows Extra and Inside Edition.