'Newsroom's' Season 2 Consultants: MSNBC's Chris Matthews, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield, New Republic Editor

9:00 AM PST 06/19/2013 by Lacey Rose
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MSNBC's Chris Matthews, left, and CNN's Ashleigh Banfield

The show assembled the editors responsible for the Tailwind controversy for its modern-day retelling, part of a crew of A-list insiders -- from cable news anchors to magazine editors to political strategists.

This story first appeared in the June 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

In a bid to make season two as realistic as possible, Aaron Sorkin enlisted 13 paid consultants whose experiences he could mine.

"I'll be coming to you for everything from simple research questions to: 'What kinds of conversations would there be about how to cover Trayvon Martin? Sandra Fluke? The contradictory stories about the circumstances under which Bin Laden was shot?'" he wrote in a lengthy welcome note to the group last fall.

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He added: "I'll ask you to tell me what you think and then to tell me what the really smart person in the room who disagrees with you would say. I might try to get an argument started between two or more of you."

The consultants' functions and frequency of contact with Sorkin varied, with some making multiple trips to the writers room and others simply corresponding by e-mail. (Former CNN president Rick Kaplan easily among the most active, having made several trips to the Newsroom offices as well as a multiday set visit for the final episode of the season.)

Although it was critical to Sorkin to have both ends of the political spectrum represented, he claims the consultants' affiliations seldom mattered. Though every once in awhile, he says, he would go to Republicans S.E. Cupp and Mark McKinnon and ask how they would respond to a specific argument.

More often, Sorkin was pressing the consultants on their experiences. Take Shushannah Walshe, an embed on the Romney campaign, on whom Sorkin leaned as he began to write about the campaign trail. (John Gallagher Jr.'s character, Jim Harper, will leave the News Night newsroom temporarily to travel with the Romney campaign early in season two.)

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MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, who worked with Sorkin on The West Wing, was involved initially but asked to be taken off the payroll because he feared he wouldn't be as available as the show would need him to be. Instead, he suggested he simply could be a friend of the show. "He ended up deserving to be paid because he contributed a lot," says Sorkin, "and liked to hang out in the writers room when he was in L.A."

Natalie Allen
CNN anchor

Ashleigh Banfield
CNN anchor

S.E. Cupp
Co-Host, The Cycle on MSNBC

Susan Del Percio
Republican strategist and MSNBC contributor

Jeff Greenfield
Former CNN political reporter

Rick Kaplan
Former president of CNN and MSNBC

Jim Kelly
Former editor of Time

Kaj Larsen
Former Navy SEAL and investigative reporter for CNN

Chris Matthews
Host of Hardball on MSNBC

Mark McKinnon
Republican strategist

Alex Wagner
Host of Now With Alex Wagner on MSNBC

Shushannah Walshe
Former Romney campaign embed, ABC News and Fox News

Leon Wieseltier
Editor/columnist, The New Republic

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