Rob Lowe to leave 'West Wing'

Salary dispute reason for early exit

— Actor Rob Lowe will leave NBC's "The West Wing" during the upcoming season, the network said on Wednesday.

The actor decided to leave after finding out that Martin Sheen received a raise that nearly tripled his pay to $300,000 an episode, Variety and the New York Post reported, citing anonymous sources.

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker wouldn't discuss the reasons for Lowe's departure, but confirmed he will be written out of the show in March.

"Rob has been a huge and great part of the program," Zucker said. "We're fortunate that he's going to be with us for virtually the entire year and after that, Sam Seaborn will move on to other things."

Seaborn is the White House deputy communications director that Lowe portrays on the Emmy-winning drama.

Lowe, 38, has made about $75,000 an episode since the series began in 1999. The other supporting players � Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford � banded together last year and negotiated a raise to about $70,000 per show in a deal that keeps them on through the seventh season.

Lowe has been nominated in the past for an Emmy and two Golden Globes for his portrayal of Seaborn. But last week, he was the only major cast member who didn't get a nomination for this year's Emmys.

Sheen, who portrays President Jed Bartlet, was nominated for best actor in a drama; Janney is up for best actress; and Schiff, Spencer, Whitford, Dule Hill, Stockard Channing, Janel Moloney and Mary-Louise Parker were nominated in supporting categories.

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