Barack Obama is not the President of the United States to these people.
Instead, a man named Matthew Santos leads the free world.
After seven seasons chronicling the presidency of fictional President Josiah Bartlet, NBC closed the curtain several years ago on the “West Wing” series. But that curtain stayed open for a number of die-hard fans.
Some are using Twitter to assume the identities of the fictional characters, keeping the dialogue going just like the show never ended. They write as if Santos — and not Obama — is president today, having moved into the White House after Bartlet’s eight years as the nation’s commander in chief.
Yes, it might be kind of weird. Those behind the Twitter accounts, though, say it’s all in good fun. “I think it’s a great way to keep the fans interested, as well as bring in new ones,” says the man who operates an account for the British woman-chasing character Lord John Marbury, who was the UK’s ambassador to the United States in the show.
But the guy behind the Marbury account — also known to fans of the show as the Earl of Croy, Earl of Sherborne, Marquess of Needham and Dolby, and Baronet of Brycey — is far from British aristocracy. In fact, he’s not even British. He’s just a 27-year-old politico from Oklahoma.
Others tweeting as if they were fictional White House aides or other characters from the series spend their days role-playing by reacting to real news, but through the lenses of their acquired identity. For example, when President Obama this weekend took an elbow to the mouth playing basketball, some likened it to the episode in season one of the “West Wing” when President Bartlet ran his bike into a tree in Jackson Hole.
The Daily Caller contacted others behind the most active “West Wing” character accounts. While most were more than enthusiastic to discuss their role-playing, none would agree to disclose their real identities.
“I don’t want to give out too much about my identity,” said one man behind a Bartlet account. “I think that some mystery as to who is behind these accounts is good, and that the less you know about me the better, to be frank. I’d rather they see Jed Bartlet when they read the tweets, and not me.”
Says the man behind the Marbury account: “I’m actually involved in politics and media and I don’t want what Lord_Marbury says to jeopardize my real life.”
It’s not exactly clear whether all the accounts have different people behind them. “I even suspect that several characters were created by the same person,” said one man who tweets under the character Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the show. “I myself have created an account for another [West Wing] character but I don’t really use it.”
That person elaborated on why he spends his days role-playing: “It’s the one of the very few shows which I developed a real attachment with. I guess it’s the same for most of the [West Wing] fans. Each characters have so much depth, with their qualities and defects, that after 7 seasons, you know them almost like a friend or a colleague.”
The person behind Fitzwallace, a recurring but minor character, says the role-playing is challenging, especially since “Fitz” died during season five. But he likes that there’s a lot of freedom to explore the military man. “I always found kinda frustrating that his character wasn’t really developed throughout the series, but it gives me some kind of freedom in the way I make him ‘live’ on Twitter,” he said.
Oftentimes, the man said, he uses the Obama administration’s recent “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal promises to pontificate on the subject on Twitter.
Interestingly, not all the people behind the accounts are from the United States. “A couple of years ago, I knew nothing about America,” says one British woman who is tweeting under the identity of Donna Moss, the assistant and eventual love interest in the show to deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman.
Why spend hours everyday writing as if she was Moss? “Like many girls I have a bit of a crush on Josh Lyman, so when the opportunity came up to play with him, I couldn’t pass it up,” she said.
Her Twitter adventures, she says, have also changed the way she watches the show. “I find it hard to get through an episode of the West Wing without making some kind of note of something I can tweet about later,” she said.
The person behind one Lyman character said his favorite part of tweeting is “when real or official accounts start tweeting at Josh like he’s a real person.”
The man, who only describes himself as someone in his late 20s who has worked in Democratic politics, says he misses “the show desperately.” His “dream job,” he said, “would be writing a new season” of the show.
The man behind one Twitter account of former President Bartlett, who has the most followers of any of the characters, says “this thing was all pretty much an accident.”
“To be honest, I’m a bit of a struggling writer,” he explained in an e-mail. “I had hit a writers block and was struggling to get into a character, so I decided to start a twitter account for a television character.”
As for playing the role of Bartlet on Twitter, the man says he has “a few political pages bookmarked on Twitter… and I read those every morning to sort of get a bearing on what I’m going to tweet about that day and what President Bartlet would have to say about that.”
The person behind Marbury said the “idea for Lord_Marbury came about, perhaps ironically, over a round of drinks with some friends one night.”
“We were talking about how President Bartlet was tweeting some great lines and we thought Lord_Marbury would be a good foil,” the Oklahoma man explained.
Continuing he said: “Being Lord_Marbury is a blast. The only downside is [more] women flirt with him on Twitter than they flirt with me in real life.”