You might be disturbed to know that Armando Iannucci’s absurdist political comedy Veep seems to resonate with D.C. political staffers in very real ways. But as Iannucci told the audience at PaleyFest, he’ll often invent a scenario for the show and then get phone calls from D.C. political offices asking how he knew that scenario had really happened. Perhaps that’s why the show seems so perfect for our time: Everyone in D.C., they say, knows whether they’re a Dan, a Jonah, an Amy, a Gary, or even a Selina.
Reid Scott, who plays the ambitious-to-a-fault Dan Egan, recalls being out at a Wizards game where a political staffer told him that “a lot of people my age, we got into politics because of The West Wing.” So, she was delighted that there were so many Washington-gazing television options to devour. Scandal is the “melodrama.” House of Cards is the “drama-drama.” And Veep? Well, according to Scott, she said, “we all think Veep is the most accurate.”
Iannucci, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Selina Meyer), Tony Hale (Gary Walsh), Sufe Bradshaw (Sue Wilson), Reid Scott (Dan Egan), Matt Walsh (Mike McLintock), Gary Cole (Kent Davidson), Timothy Simons (Jonah Ryan), and Kevin Dunn (Ben Cafferty) took the stage at PaleyFest Thursday night to talk about their characters and their upcoming season (which premieres on HBO on April 6). Here’s what we learned:
Season three puts the characters in unfamiliar territory
The Veep staffers may know D.C. inside and out, but Iannucci wanted to play with that dynamic for the new season. He says Selina will be “out and about” in Season 3: “This is about going out to meet the normals. She goes to Silicon Valley and Detroit and Ohio. She goes to London. It’s all about putting the characters out of their comfort zone.”
It isn’t natural being so mean, but you get used to it
The insults come a mile a minute on Veep and a lot of them are improvised. Scott said before the pilot shot, the cast rehearsed for a few days and would quickly apologize after every dig. “It felt so foreign to be so mean,” he said. “But now it’s very comfortable.” Louis-Dreyfus jumped in with a resounding, “Very, very comfortable.”
The best Jonah insult?
“I’m always impressed when people come up with a tall joke that I haven’t heard,” said the 6’5″ Simons. But as for his favorite? “Jolly Green Jizz Face,” he laughed. “My parents are very proud.”
Relaxation is key to good improvisation
In a room of gifted comedians, it’s not surprising that much of what ends up on-screen is improvised. As Louis-Dreyfus said, “The line stuff I don’t worry about, to tell you the truth. Not that I don’t know them.” She compared learning lines to learning scales on a piano. “It’s not about the scales. It’s about the piece you’re about to perform. That sounds highfalutin’, but it’s actually true.” Her advice? “Stay as relaxed as possible. In so doing, stuff happens that you wouldn’t anticipate but is usable…To keep up with the unexpectedness of the show you have to stay relaxed. And I’m very relaxed.”
Who should play POTUS?
The President is an unseen enigma on Veep, but that didn’t stop the moderator from asking the cast who they picture in the role. The cast stayed silent but Iannucci jumped in. “Definitely Schwarzenegger,” he said.
Why no cameos from real politicians?
They get a lot of requests, apparently, but Iannucci insists that Veep stay separate from reality. “If a living politician — a recognizable politician — turned up, you then say, ‘Well, he’s a Democrat. So, is Obama the president?’ The whole thing starts unraveling….there’s a ban on politics in the show, actually,” he said. Simons added that the politicians who want to be on the show clearly think that it’s about every other politician but them. On that, they might want to take note: According to Simons, “we’re definitely making fun of them.”
Why Bill Clinton likes Veep
Julia Louis-Dreyfus ran into Clinton recently, she said. He told her: “Ah, I love your show,” she said. “You know what’s so great about your part?…No term limits.”