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‘The West Wing’ casting director John Levey weighs in on the casting of Trump’s vice president

Last week, a jury found Donald Trump guilty of 34 crimes. This week, the Republican presidential nominee is checking on his running mates to make sure they don’t embarrass the ticket.

Sources told multiple news outlets that Trump’s campaign requested additional information from seven contenders: Marco Rubio, JD Vance, Tim Scott, Byron Donalds, Elise Stefanik, Ben Carson and Doug Burgum.

The reports don’t detail what questions will be asked, but based on Trump’s latest VP selection process, it’s the superficial questions that matter most. At the time, Trump made that clear when he repeatedly described Mike Pence as “straight out of central casting.”

“He’s a real talent, a real guy,” Trump said. “And he is central to the casting, do we agree with that? Central casting. He’s been great.”

Pence sure looked good. Every American vice president before him had been a white man, often with white hair and a white smile. That made Pence the obvious, stereotypical choice. And the American people bought it.

Then in 2020, Kamala Harris broke the mold. Suddenly a woman And a person of color could occupy the Naval Observatory.

So which actor would ‘central casting’ send for that role now? The stakes are even higher in 2024, as Trump turns 78 on June 14 and shows off his fast-food diet. Whoever he chooses will be just one heartbeat away from the presidency. So who will Trump choose?

To answer this, The Daily Beast turned to John Levey, one of the top casting directors in Hollywood. Levey has received four Emmys, two for his work ER and two for his work The West Wing, meaning he has actual experience casting a vice president. So we asked Levey to run through the top candidates based on what the couple would look like on TV… and what the most “central casting” option would be in 2024.

For Levey, the most important thing in good casting is avoiding redundancy. “You want to achieve a balance, a differentiation,” he said during a telephone interview. “In my book Suitable for the role, I talk about how to cast a pilot the same way you cast a cell phone. So if you have George Clooney on one end of the spectrum, you would have to balance his mischievous sense of humor with the reliability and solidity of Anthony Edwards. And then you would balance the innocence of Noah Wyle with the kind of arrogance and seriousness of Peter Benton, played by Eric LaSalle. And then of course you’d have to balance all that masculine energy with a sort of down-home-regular girl of Sherry Stringfield and a slightly more exotic and complex Julianna Margulies. None of those six people infringe on the others’ territory and you get a whole spectrum of human experience.”

Levey offered the following comments on Trump’s reported VP list… and a few others.

The best central casting candidates

J.D. VANCESenator, Ohio

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring JD Vance

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

TOM COTTONSenator, Arkansas

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Tom Cotton

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

“I think Vance is a very viable, central casting choice. The Midwest and Ohio are obviously a very important state in terms of the Electoral College. But it also has that very calming, everyday vibe. And then you add the obvious inference of intelligence that an Ivy League educated person carries, and he’s attractive and seems like a decent guy. That’s an important quality to differentiate and balance the manic madness of his potential boss.

Vance and Cotton are both standard, unimaginative, low-risk picks. That’s not my style of casting, but I think it could be appropriate casting in this environment.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Vance starts shaving. In New York Yankees tradition, facial hair is against the rules. I think his potential future boss will insist on that.”

The short list

MARCO RUBIOSenator, Florida

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Marco Rubio

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

“It’s clear that Rubio has his ethnicity as an advantage, which would certainly play a role. And he has the experience as a United States Senator, so he knows how to behave. But I think he should try to find a way to accentuate his universal intelligence, instead of identity politics. Basing himself on his Cuban and Floridian character would be a mistake. He needs to appeal to the white supremacists who are part of the base. You would also have to eliminate all of Rubio’s past rhetoric about Trump to be accepted as Trump’s partner. Although that doesn’t seem to matter much.”

ELISE STEFANIK, Representative, NY

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Elise Stefanik

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

“I definitely see her gender as an advantage and her regular bile quality would play well. Some advisers may see her age as an asset, but I would worry she would make Trump look old. It reminds me of when we cast Noah Wyle in the pilot ER, we didn’t want him to come across as Doogie Howser so we explained that we wanted his youth, but we also wanted to make sure he was credible as a doctor. So for her ‘callbacks’ my advice would be: ‘Don’t accentuate your youthful energy – in the way you dress, the way you present yourself. Maintain a serious attitude because you would be just a heartbeat away from the presidency. ”

TIM SCOTTSenator, South Carolina

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Tim Scott

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters/Getty

“Scott satisfies the look, but he’s an empty vessel. In some ways he is is central casting, because with central casting everything revolves around the facade. For him, a lack of content could be an asset. I think he can make the older white man feel hipper – and older white men like me need all the help we can get in the hip department.

Still, I’m not sure Trump would feel comfortable with a black man as his running mate, and that could tip the balance toward Rubio.”

DOUG BURGUMGovernor, North Dakota

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Doug Burgum

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

“Again, in casting you want to avoid dismissal and he’s just another billionaire with a beautiful wife. Still, Burgum is shorter than Trump, which could give Trump a good feeling in the ultimate penis measuring competition.”

BEN CARSON

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Ben Carson

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

“Carson is redundant with Trump in two crucial ways: his age and his association with the first term.”

BYRON DONALDS, Representative, Florida

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Byron Donalds

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

“Donalds was born in one of the boroughs and now lives in Florida, which gives the ticket a notable lack of geographic diversity.”

Killed her chances

KRISTI NOEM, Governor, South Dakota

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Kristi Noem

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

“Noem would be an absolutely unacceptable candidate as a result of the shooting of her dog. And if she were to become vice president, she would have to dress like Annie Oakley at all times.

The wild card

NIKKI HALEY

Vice presidential campaign poster featuring Nikki Haley

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

“I think Haley would be the most favorable candidate for vice president, as others would be redundant or too boring to make any impact at all. Moreover, if Trump were to choose her, it would sell the idea that his rivals could become his partners. Conflict can be a good thing. It is an important part of drama and therefore an important part of casting.

I think this would provide an opportunity for internal discussions in the Oval Office about policy. Trump and Haley are different. They have different perspectives. They are from different generations. I think she would be by far the most interesting “TV vice president” for “the television version of Donald Trump.” And by the way, that’s the only version.”

The verdict

“For me, central casting means ‘on the nose’. which isn’t always the best casting. Vance is the safest choice and Haley is the choice I would advocate with my showrunner.

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