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July 24, 2002
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Actor Rob Lowe has quit his role on the Emmy-award winning political drama The West Wing in a dispute over pay, according to reports. Rob is to leave the role as White House deputy communications director Sam Seaborn in the yet-to-be filmed fourth series.

The 38-year-old actor will appear in 16 new episodes of the show, which begins its new season in September, then “amicably depart” in March, the producers said on Wednesday. No reason was given for his exit, but it has been widely reported that Rob, who reportedly earns $75,000 an episode, decided to leave after producers refused even to discuss his bid for a salary increase, leaving him the only cast member to remain at his first-season salary.

Martin Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlett, has recently seen his fees rise from $45,000 per episode to $210,000, according to the US magazine Variety. And co-stars Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford all secured pay rises after threatening to strike.

“This isn’t about Rob leaving to do films,” one source close to the actor said. “The producers gave him no sense of value with continuing with the show.”

An official statement issued by Rob gave nothing away regarding his departure, but did contain a note of bitterness. “As much as it hurts me to admit it, it has been increasingly clear, for quite a while, that there was no longer a place for Sam Seaborn on The West Wing,” he said. “However, Warner Bros has allowed me an opportunity to leave the show as I arrived – grateful for it, happy to have been on it and proud of it. We were part of television history and I will never forget it.”

The West Wing, which revolves around the political infighting and squabbles of a White House staff in the fictional Bartlett administration, has become one of the most watched and most acclaimed shows on television. The show won the Emmy for Best Drama series for the past two years, and earned 21 more nominations this year, including another nod for Best Drama.

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No reason has been given for his exit from the series but sources close to the actor say Rob decided to leave after producers refused to even discuss his bid for a salary increase