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First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore
Will McAvoy

William Duncan "Will" McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, is the beguiling, alluring, suave but ornery top news anchor for Atlantis Cable News (ACN) and the host of News Night

Before he was an anchor, McAvoy was a prosecutor for the Brooklyn, New York District Attorney's Office where he managed a 94% conviction rate. He also worked as a speechwriter for President George H. W. Bush, and was later hired as the legal correspondent for News Night. On September 11, 2001, a series of coincidences saw to it that Will was called upon to anchor. Near the end of this marathon day behind the desk, Will was visited by Charlie Skinner, with whom he'd had little interaction to date. The exchange between them was short, but was the beginning of Will's road to eat

In 2010, during a political panel at Northwestern University, he received a great deal of attention after declaring that America was no longer the greatest country in the world, embarking on a profane rant with data to back it up in response to a question from a college sophomore.

He took a two-week break to avoid publicity for his words and returned to work, only to eventually notice that his staff was missing. He discovered that Don Keefer and Elliot Hirsch had convinced the staff to join them in their new show at 10 o'clock.

Will had it out with Don and Elliot, and then was told by Charlie that he'd hired a new executive producer without Will's approval. Will protested the choice of MacKenzie McHale and went to his agent to find out why he didn't have contractual approval for his EP.


Early life[]

The handsome, charming, sexy, and logically minded William Duncan McAvoy was born in Nebraska in the United States of America. He grew up in "a town outside a town outside of Lincoln", with a population such that a crowd of 20,000 is "six and a half times larger". Only David City, Nebraska meets both of these descriptions. He grew up with a brother and two younger sisters. His father was an abusive alcoholic who used to hit him, his mother, and his three siblings, from which originated Will's terrible temper. When he was in the 5th grade, he cracked a bottle across his father's face to protect his family members from him. ("Amen")  ("Bullies") However, at his core, he is a kind young gentleman who cares about his family and friends.

He graduated from college at the age of 19. ("The 112th Congress")  ("Amen") At age 22, he is said to have graduated 7th in his class from the 4th best law school in the nation.

Personal life[]

In late 2005 or early 2006, Will began dating his News Night Executive Producer, MacKenzie McHale.

On September 21st 2006, MacKenzie introduced Will to her parents for the first time. Will decided to take her father to the Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers game, where the Baltimore Orioles beat the Tigers 4-3. Only in 2010 after the two broke up did Will admit that the two were drunk when they met MacKenzie and her mother for dinner later the day - only intending to have one pint of beer, they each ended up drinking three. ("We Just Decided To")

In 2007, Will's relationship with MacKenzie broke down after she revealed she had been cheating on him with her ex-boyfriend, Brian Brenner, for four months, and the two broke up. This broke Will's heart, as he loved MacKenzie very dearly, and it had been noted by Charlie Skinner that Will believed, and still believes, MacKenzie to be 'the one'. He was apparently open about his affections towards her, though it was only during the four months she cheated on him, that she realized she loved him too. ("We Just Decided To")

On May 1st 2011 Will left a voicemail message to Mackenzie saying 'I never stopped loving you'. Yet the message was hacked by gossip writer Nina Howard. Mackenzie found out later and pestered Will about the message only to get the answer " I couldn't remember".

In light of the Genoa fallout Will realized he couldn't let Mackenzie take the blame for everything. So he went to propose on November 7, 2012. Mackenzie came up with a logical response ' what in the f*ck is happening right now?' Then Will convinced her that no matter what she said he would never hurt her again and would always love her. Eventually Mackenzie said yes and they announced their engagement to the whole newsroom.

Will married Mackenzie on May 3rd, 2013, shortly before he was incarcerated.

Law career[]

When he was 21, Will graduated from law school and signed up for the Brooklyn District Attorney's office as a prosecutor, where he managed a 94% conviction record. ("The 112th Congress")

Speechwriting career[]

At some point, between the late 1980's and the early 1990's, Will served as a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush. Having worked for the centrist Republican could explain Will's hope to bring the GOP away from the far right.

News Night[]

We don't know who attacked us. We don't know what's coming tomorrow. And I don't know what I'm doing.
Will McAvoy on September 11, 2001

In 2001, on September 11th, Will anchored News Night for the first time.

In 2005, Will and MacKenzie McHale began dating. During their time together, Will took her father to an Orioles game. Her father later offered Will a pint, but they ended up having three. Will and MacKenzie's father met up with her and her mother, both of them drunk. ("We Just Decided To")

In 2006, Fox offered Will a great deal of money to go to Los Angeles and host a late night talk show, but he figured that he was being used as leverage and thus the deal eventually went away. ("Bullies")

In 2007, after two years of dating, Will broke up with MacKenzie after she cheated on him with her ex-boyfriend, who had earlier dumped her. The affair had been going on for four months.

This broke Will's heart, as he loved MacKenzie very dearly. It was only after she cheated on him that she realized she, too, loved him. ("News Night 2.0")


McAvoy was called the Jay Leno of news anchors and was said to be popular because he doesn't bother anyone in a Vanity Fair piece written by Marshall Westbrook. ("We Just Decided To")

Panel Discussion[]

Will at the panel discussion.

In 2010, McAvoy attended a panel discussion at Northwestern University that included a liberal television presenter and a conservative panelist.

During the panel, he was asked what his political affiliations were. He replied ambiguously, but stated that he had voted for political candidates in both parties.

Eventually, he was asked why he thought America was the greatest country in the world. He replied with brief joking answers, but the panel's moderator held him to an answer.

First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
Will McAvoy

The audience reacting to Will's answer.

McAvoy reacted with an honest, blunt, and beautifully delivered indictment of the state of American culture. He took the position that America is not the greatest country in the world, after believing he saw MacKenzie McHale in the audience holding signs reading "It's Not" and "But It Can Be". Although he ended his tirade on a positive note, the speech would change his career and public perception irreversibly.

Listen! What did I say out there?
Will McAvoy

Will unaware and asking what his answer was.

After leaving the stage, his debate partners demanded an explanation from Will for the spectacle they had just witnessed. Exasperated, McAvoy claimed to be taking vertigo medicine and that he didn't realize what he'd just said. ("We Just Decided To")

Break from Work[]

After the panel, to avoid the publicity, Will took a two week break from the show, traveling to Saint Lucia for his vacation. He brought Erin Andrews along with him. ("We Just Decided To")

Loss of Staff[]

Will returns to work.

On April 20, 2010, three weeks after his breakdown at the panel, Will returned and walked into his office without noticing that most of his staff were missing. He eventually looked out from his office and asked where everyone was.

He was then told to go see Charlie Skinner and remained lost as to the situation. None of the remaining staff would inform him of what happened. Perplexed, he left for Charlie's office. ("We Just Decided To")

Where's my staff?
Will McAvoy to Charlie Skinner

Will meeting with Charlie.

After entering Charlie's office, he was told that his co-anchor, Elliot Hirsch, was taking over the network's 10 p.m. show, that Will's EP Don Keefer was going with him and that Don was taking most of Will's staff with him. Will and Charlie then left the office and went to approach Don.

You're taking my executive producer?
Will McAvoy confronting Elliot Hirsch

Will and Charlie meeting with Don and Elliot.

After confronting and arguing with Don and Elliot, Will eventually admitted to the fact that, in his opinion, Don was always the smartest staff member at News Night and informed him that he was leaving a sinking ship. Don agreed to help the new executive producer before he leaves. ("We Just Decided To")

Replacement Executive Producer[]

Will and Charlie at lunch.

After meeting with Don and Elliot, Will and Charlie had lunch, where Charlie informed Will that the replacement executive producer was MacKenzie McHale. Will was angry that he hadn't been consulted, disagreed with the decision and left to discuss with his agent why he didn't have approval.

Will and MacKenzie's meeting.

After returning to the studio, Will revealed in a meeting in his office with MacKenzie that he ended up negotiating to change her contract from three definite years to 156 possible weeks in which he could fire her. In exchange, Will took a pay cut of a milion dollars per year ($3 million total) and a 3-year non-compete clause. ("We Just Decided To")

Deepwater Horizon oil spill[]

During his meeting with MacKenzie, a report came in that an oil rig had exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Don and Jim Harper, MacKenzie's senior producer, argued in the studio about informing Will about the incident. Don told Jim not to tell Will and refused to take the report seriously because it was only flagged as a yellow alert by the Associated Press (real newsrooms don't rely on coloured alerts to determine whether an item is newsworthy).

Will being informed about the oil rig exploding and the spill that followed.

Eventually, Don ordered Jim out of the newsroom, but he decided to burst into Will's office, interrupting Will and MacKenzie's argument. Don continued to object, but Will decided that if Don didn't want him to hear it, that he wanted to hear it.

Will conducting his staff.

Jim told him about the report and his highly placed sources within BP and Halliburton, and staffer Neal Sampat gave him information about how bad the spill could get. Will told anyone moving to 10:00 with Elliot and Don to leave for a two-week paid vacation. He then enlisted the help of his staff, including Neal and Margaret Jordan, to work on the story.

The staff jumped into action, hurriedly gathering sources and information about the spill. Finally Will got ready and put his suit on. He made his way to the anchor table and read over his notes as information came in from the staff through his earpiece. During the final minute before air, MacKenzie forced Will into saying he understood the working relationship between the two by putting the words "Vertigo Medicine" on the on-screen graphic for News Night.

Will during his broadcast about the oil spill.

Will interviewed three people from the companies involved with the situation, skillfully questioning them and successfully painting a picture of how serious the spill was. During the broadcast, Maggie uncovered some damning information about the Minerals Management Service and got a junior inspector on the line who had last inspected the Deepwater Horizon well. This interview exposed the fact that the MMS was underfunded and did not have the manpower to adequately inspect all wells. After the show ended, Will was applauded by the staff. ("We Just Decided To")

Celebrated broadcast[]

Will and Charlie discuss how news used to be presented.

After the broadcast, Charlie approached Will, congratulated him on a good job and discussed the events of the day, as well as the way that the news was once presented in the past. He said the team "did the news well" because "we just decided to." Charlie then left, leaving Will a bottle of Oban single-malt scotch.

Will informing the wrong behind-the-scenes team that he has the best team in television.

On his way out of the building, Will stopped by a control room and informed them that he had the best team in television, but soon discovered that it wasn't his show's control room. At the elevator, he and MacKenzie had a conversation regarding their relationship past.

Will just after revealing that he thought he saw MacKenzie in the audience.

He revealed that he remembered the day he spent with her father and that he gave his speech regarding America's status as the greatest country in the world because he thought he saw her in the audience. The elevator doors closed too quickly for MacKenzie to say something more, that it was, indeed, her. ("We Just Decided To")

Learning his Staff[]

Will learning the names of his staff.

After his first report on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Will spent time in his apartment learning the names of all of his staff. On April 23rd, he went to work with their names memorized.

During his memorization, pieces of his ceiling fell onto his desk. He was confused as to how it could have happened until he was told that it was his neighbors upstairs that caused the damage. ("News Night 2.0")

News Night 2.0[]

When Will arrived at work, MacKenzie informed him that she was holding a meeting with the staff regarding the new plan for News Night, which she called News Night 2.0.

Will and MacKenzie entered a briefing room where they began the meeting with the staff. MacKenzie began presenting her plan on a whiteboard. ("News Night 2.0")

Helping others[]

Will speaking with Neal about the guy from Spokane.

The guy you found in Spokane, I want you to get in touch with him and tell him that you're gonna pay for a cab to take him to and from work. He should send you the receipts, then give them to me.
Will McAvoy

That night, at his apartment, Will made a call to Neal and decided to show his kinder side. He made sure to have a taxi sent every day to a man that Neal found in Spokane, whose drivers license had been revoked, and to bill him for it.

Will gazing upon the Statue of Liberty.

Leave my name out of it.
Will McAvoy on posting his cab assistance on Neal's blog.

Will refused Neal's offer to post the story on his blog. He then asked Neal to give the phone to MacKenzie. She begins to apologize before he interrupts to say, "I'm in," which is Will's response to Mackenzie's earlier charge that he must either commit fully to her new plan for News Night to report the news with integrity and not to pander to corporate interests or ratings, or else bow out and revert to being a ratings whore.

But Mac doesn't let him off the hook, she asks whether he'd still be worried about the ratings being popular, and being loved by strangers. Will replies unabashedly yes to every question. Mac wouldn't end this line of questioning until Will pauses, and repeated what he said earlier, with "I'm in." After hanging up, Will gazed upon the Statue of Liberty from his balcony. ("News Night 2.0")

On air apology[]

Following the disastrous broadcast Will prepared and issued an on air apology for his failings as Managing Editor of News Night. He pledged to do better in reporting the news to inform the electorate. Mac welcomed the move and helped Will to craft the speech, including a rehearsal in front of their staff. He also worked closely with Jim Harper, Neal Sampat, and Maggie Jordan on writing copy for the apology. The apology aired at the opening of the show on Monday, April 26, 2010. ("The 112th Congress")

Times Square bombing attempt[]

On Saturday, May 1, 2010 a bombing attempt in Times Square, New York City is diffused without casualties after street vendors report a smoking vehicle to the police. On Monday, May 3, 2010 the perpetrator Faisal Shahzad is arrested at John F. Kennedy airport. At a News Night staff meeting on Tuesday, May 4, 2010, they decide not to criticize the system which successfully caught the would be terrorist bomber when he was boarding the plane. Despite the failure of the airline to update their files in time to recognize that he had been added to a no fly list a second line of checks by Customs and Border Protection led to his successful arrest and Jim characterizes this as the system working. They agree to cover the story in just 3 minutes at the opening of their program and not to sensationalize the arrest or the religious beliefs of Shahzad.

Maggie brings up international coverage of the story during the meeting and explains that while t-shirt vendor Lance Orton contacted the police it was a Senegalese Muslim immigrant who first noticed the smoking vehicle. He asked Orton to contact the authorities because he was concerned but did not want his poor English to garble the message. Maggie successfully argues that if the religion of the bomber is relevant then so is the religion of the man that saved hundreds of lives. News Night is one of the few American networks to report that the danger was first recognized by the Muslim street vendor. ("The 112th Congress")

The 112th Congress elections[]

In May 2010 Will receives an anonymous fax of polling data from Utah that shows increasing support for the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party and is perturbed by the fringe group co-opting the party. He focuses a portion of his coverage on the Tea Party and their views, funding and effect on the Republican Party with the blessing of Atlantic Cable News (ACN) Division Director Charlie Skinner. The incisive coverage culminates with a live broadcast in November 2010 on the day of the 112th Congressional elections where the Tea Party win many seats. ("The 112th Congress")

New Year's 2011[]

It's New Year's Eve and there is a party at the offices of News Night. Will is sitting alone in his office when Mac asks him to speak to her boyfriend Wade about facts for a story from his work as a prosecutor. Jim is in the middle of the party working on overlooked stories of the past year for Will, and Neal is trying to convince him (and everyone else) to run a story on the true existence of Bigfoot.

Will finally joins the party and is convinced by Sloan to flirt with a stranger. That stranger turns out to be gossip writer Nina Howard. Their flirtation quickly turns bad when Will takes ethical issue with the story that Nina is writing and begins to criticize her in an attempt to "civilize" her. Instead of the encounter ending with a kiss at midnight, Nina throws her drink in Will's face and storming off.

The next morning the entire exchange is chronicled on Page 6 of The New York Post. The staff meet and decide to pursue stories about misrepresentation; particularly of both The President's gun control record and his diplomatic trip to India. ("I'll Try to Fix You")

Mission to Civilize[]

Will is set up for a date with Sloan's friend Carrie. He brings her back to his place, where she offers him a joint. while looking for it in her purse Will finds her loaded gun. Will tries to "civilize" Carrie for carrying the weapon. He unloads it and and demonstrates the dangers of carrying a gun.

On set the next day, Will informs Sloan that the date did not go well. Sloan warns him to keep a low profile because Carrie is crazy and jealous. After the show Will goes on a date with Monica, a Senate staffer. He finds out that she's also a fan of gossip news. He cannot resist attempting to "civilize" her as well; ending the date prematurely with another drink thrown in his face. The entire incident again appears on Page 6 of The New York Post.

On Saturday morning Charlie Skinner calls Will into the office because Nina has published an expose of Will's date with Carrie on the cover of TMI. While trying to do damage control from Will's week of debacles, Charlie figures out that it is Leona Lansing setting Will up in preparation for firing him over attacking the Tea Party. He does not reveal this information initially, fearing that it will affect Will's work. ("I'll Try to Fix You") News Night continues to delve into the motivations of Tea Party backers the Koch brothers including linking their involvement with Citizens United to a plan to eventually abolish workers unions. Which they cover during the February 2011 teachers protests. ("Amen")

TMI continue to attack News Night, running a piece about the political ambitions of Mac's boyfriend Wade Campbell and questioning her integrity. Gary Cooper tells Will that he has heard rumors of Nina accepting protection money and Will arranges to meet her at Hang Chews. He changes his mind about paying her off when she calls herself a journalist and instead warns her against attacking his staff again. ("Amen")

Gabrielle Giffords shooting[]

Maggie breaks up the meeting to announce the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords. During the show's coverage, a false report spreads on Fox, CNN and MSNBC that the Congresswoman is dead. Reese Lansing charges into the studio to convince Will to report her death but Will refuses. Moments later reports that she is alive and in surgery are confirmed. ("I'll Try to Fix You")

Cairo riots[]

News Night covers civil unrest in Cairo after the Egyption president refuses to leave his post despite losing the election. Elliot Hirsch travels to Cairo to report from the scene but is forced to remain inside when riots break out. Neal raises the idea of using a stringer in Cairo to get better coverage, having already established contact with someone using the alias "Amen".

Don gets word that Elliot went out into the riots and was attacked. Elliot is battered but alive, and on his way back to the USA. Amen's first appearance on the show goes well but he disappears soon afterwards. Charlie hosts a crisis meeting and the senior staff go to demand help from Reese Lansing, who proves to be out of the building.

The staff struggle to locate Amen while also prepping their next show. Will speaks to Don about his anger over the events. Neal discovers that Amen is in Egyptian military custody and that they are demanding an extortionate ransom.

Will pays for Amen's release. Mac arranges for the staff to each give Will a check to contribute, mimicking a scene from one of Will's favorite films, Rudy. ("Amen")

Return to therapy[]

Will struggles with a bout of insomnia and starts to make errors during broadcasts. MacKenzie gently mocks him suggesting that he needs an eye test. He tells her that he is going to go back to therapy with Dr. Habib and she says that she is pleased for him.

Will is accompanied to his first session in several years by his new bodyguard, Lonny Church. Will is annoyed at having to be protected and banters with Lonny. When they arrive Will is surprised to learn that his therapist died two years earlier and that his son Jack Habib has taken over the practice. Will intends to quickly extract a prescription for sleeping medication and is frustrated when the younger Dr. Habib insists on taking a thorough history.

Will reveals that he conducted a disastrous interview with Sutton Wall, the homosexual former Deputy Chief of Staff to Senator Rick Santorum. He ended the show by reading out website comments lauding Will's attack on Wall. Will was chagrined and decided to introduce a registration policy for website comments to remove the safety of anonymity from commentators.

This was quickly followed by Will receiving a death threat from someone who had hacked into the site. Will says that the threat caused his insurance company to insist on Lonny guarding him and that it came just after he interviewed Phylis Greer about the building of a Muslim community center at Ground Zero in New York. She, and the hacker, were vehemently against the idea.

Sloan Sabbith is given the opportunity to stand in for Elliot Hirsch on the 22:00 show and cover the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. In a foul mood, Will encourages her to press her guest speaker for honesty and not to back down. Her broadcast is a disaster and, while live on air, she announces information that she obtained off the record. Charlie Skinner is furious with Sloan for crossing reporting boundaries and suspends her with pay. Will feels responsible for provoking her reckless act.

Dr. Habib gets into Will's feelings about bullying, covering his childhood with an abusive, alcoholic father. Will realizes that he feels as though he bullied Sloan and says that he does not like people being afraid of him.

Mac has Jim Harper and Maggie Jordan conduct "opposition research" about Will in advance of a hearing about an unfounded sexual harassment complaint. Their research uncovers very little, except that Will had a job offer to host a talk show for Fox just before he discovered Mac was cheating on him. Mac confronts Will about the job, accusing him of already having one foot out the door before their relationship ended and he tells her that he was thinking of proposing to her at the time. He shows her an expensive engagement ring and she is mortified. Will admits to his therapist that he bought the ring when he found at the research was being undertaken.

Dr. Habib asks about the interview with Sutton Wall before Will changed the comments policy. Will relays going after Wall aggressively over Senator Santorum's public anti-homosexuality. Wall supports the Senator's pro-life stance and insists that he would make a good president. Will forces the issue about Wall's homosexuality. Wall angrily counters that Will is trying to reduce him to one dimension - his sexuality. Will unabashedly asks if Santorum considers Wall fit to teach children and Wall is forced to admit that he does not. Will's bullying of his subject is tied to his treatment of Sloan in his mind because both are also teachers.

Charlie comes up for a way to Sloan to save her job; she has to lie on air and say that she made an error in translating what her guest said. She is dubious but Will tells her it is the best thing to do and she acquiesces. Will tells Dr. Habib that he regrets them having to lie on air. The therapist urges him to come back to see him again and gives him the prescription he wanted. Will remembers, but does not admit, that he kept the engagement ring despite telling Dr. Habib that he was going to return it. ("Bullies")


Return to News Night[]

The Greater Fools[]

Will: Ask me, again.
Jenny: What makes America the great country in the world?
Will: You do.
Will and Jennifer Johnson reunited

Will encountered Jennifer Johnson, again over a year after the incident at her college. She had come to the studio to apply to become an intern. After a few words with Jenny, Will had her ask him the same question that caused him to lash out over a year earlier.

His answer this time was that people like her make America the greatest country in the world. ("The Greater Fool")

Behind the Scenes[]

Will is played by starring cast member Jeff Daniels.


Season 1
"We Just Decided To" "News Night 2.0" "The 112th Congress" "I'll Try to Fix You" "Amen"
"Bullies" "5/1" "The Blackout Part I: Tragedy Porn" "The Blackout Part II: Mock Debate" "The Greater Fool"
Season 2
"First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers" "The Genoa Tip" "Willie Pete" "Unintended Consequences" "News Night with Will McAvoy"
"One Step Too Many" "Red Team III" "Election Night, Part I" "Election Night, Part II"
Season 3
"Boston" "Run" "Main Justice" "Contempt" "Oh Shenandoah"
"What Kind of Day Has It Been"