The West Wing characters: CJ Cregg
”One in forty American men wear women’s clothing and we’ve had well over forty presidents. I’m just saying, one of these guys was dancing around the Oval Office in a prom dress. Now let’s get to the bottom of that.”
In my opinion, CJ is one of the most essential members of the ensemble. She is the poster girl for 21st century feminism, as the brilliant and (would you believe!) capable woman of the White House. I think the audience becomes attached to CJ quickest, actually, because she comes from a more relatable mindset. Where Josh is duty-bound, Toby carries an undeniably melancholic tone, Sam is the eager up-and-comer, Leo is the voice of wisdom and the President is their charismatic leader, CJ is there for a cause. I think, unlike a lot of the other characters, her primary reason for joining the Bartlet campaign was the direction of a cause led by people she respects (as understood from In The Shadow of Two Gunmen Part 2). Her biggest flaw is, arguably, her morality. It shines through at certain moments that, for CJ, it is not about the politics but about whether or not they are truly doing the best they can to achieve what is right. One moment that comes to mind, occurs in The Women of Qumar, in which Allison gives an outstanding performance.
I think CJ is as entertaining as she is, because she’s one of the boys while also being the strongest female presence on television in that era. I truly believe she was. Josh, Toby and Sam treat her like a sister, and that familial bond between the core characters is a huge part of the draw with this show. The backdrop is so serious, dramatic and compelling that to have CJ’s flirtatious humour contrasting that, is vital. While every single character has made me laugh countless times, CJ always seems to be at the centre of the amusing chaos of the White House - Gail the goldfish, the root canal surgery, ‘I’m too sexy’, Josh vs. CJ (in A Proportional Response and Third Day Story), CJ and the turkeys, The Jackal, the prank war with Charlie, her reaction to Josh’s fansite etc. She never becomes a one-note character, though. Janney delivers the heartbreaking humanity of CJ on as many occasions as she lets audiences hear that infectious laughter of hers. While Sorkin brings a great deal to defining CJ’s character from the start, Allison Janney brings her alive in a way that simply no other actress could have done. It is effortless with her, and I am constantly in awe of the talents of this cast.
Frankly, I am of the belief that you could not watch The West Wing and not fall in love with CJ Cregg. If not simply because, if you loved any single member of ensemble, she had a wonderful rapport with all of them.