Credit: Shutterstock/John Spencer

I think art, at best, holds up a mirror to humanity.

Making his breakthrough in the 1990 film Declared Innocent, John Spencer was best known for his role in the hit political drama The West Wing, where he played the cunning and astute White House Chief of Staff.

He was born to working class parents who were keen for him to work his way upwards through academic studies - when he told them that he wanted to become an actor they disappointed as they didn’t see that as a way to gain a solid income. He left home at 16 to enrol in drama school and quickly found work in New York, off-broadway and on TV shows.

His big breakthrough came when he was cast opposite Harrison Ford in Declared Innocent which was quickly followed by a major role in the show L.A. Law. These parts made him a big name, and when The West Wing was originally being cast, the producers didn’t think that they’d be able to convince him to join on. Luckily he did, and was an instant hit with fans and critics alike, earning emmy nominations every year from 1999 to 2004, winning in 2002.

In a bizarre case of life mirroring art, Spencer’s West Wing character suffered a heart attack that forced him to give up his job as Chief of Staff. John had a heart attack on the 15th of December 2005, and died the following morning.