LOOK AT MY MUSCLES
An eight episode season?
This one, yeah. Season two will have ten episodes.
Louis Dreyfus is phenomenal.
Thanks for putting me on Dorian
LOOK AT MY MUSCLES
Louis Dreyfus is phenomenal.
She's so good.
You're very welcome b.
LOOK AT MY MUSCLES
Veep: ‘Tears’ - Deleted Scenes
LOOK AT MY MUSCLES
F That POTUS: Dissecting VEEP Season One, with Creator Armando Iannucci
In season one of HBO's VEEP, Selina Meyers (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is confronted with a bevy of problems that threaten her credibility as a legit Vice President. A pregnancy scare. A disastrous visit to a frozen yogurt shop. Unkind nicknames from the blogosphere. Social media blunders. And, of course, learning to deal with the president's utter lack of respect for both her and her pet policies, causing Meyer to blurt out at one point, "**** that POTUS." (Running joke: At least once per episode, Meyer asks a member of her staff if the president –who we never see—has called her. The answer, invariably, is no.)
VEEP was created by Armando Iannucci, the writer behind the award-winning British TV comedy The Thick of It, a satire of the inner workings of the British government, which led to the terrific feature film spin-off In the Loop. VEEP is Iannucci's first U.S. series, and HBO quickly picked it up for a second season, at a slightly longer 10 episodes. The show is on the more challenging end of the sitcom spectrum, in a very rewarding way: Watching it requires some knowledge of the political process, but also a willingness to pay close attention; the dialogue is fast-paced and the jokes are layered and subtle—just like the process in Washington, where every little comment and perception has political ramifications.
The show features a brilliant ensemble cast, led by Louis-Dreyfus, who proves, yet again, that she is among the deftest comedian working today. The comedy comes from the interactions with her staff, who are equally shrewd and petty, often juggling their own selfish aspirations with what's best for the office.
GQ asked Iannucci to dissect season one, episode by episode.
GQ: Your British comedy The Thick of It was shot as a pilot for ABC but never picked up.
Armando Iannucci: That's right. I had very marginal involvement with it. It was the BBC that sold it to ABC and then it went its own way, really. I was shocked at how little involved I was. So I'm rather glad it didn't get picked up.
GQ: How much is Veep like In the Thick of It?
Armando Iannucci: The Thick of It is about a very low level minister who is bullied by a senior official into doing things. I thought it would be very boring to do that again. And it didn't seem to right with the reality of the Vice President. No one would be allowed to shout at or demean the Vice President in their presence. They'd be immediately removed from the building. I liked the idea of a Vice President who, in a previous existence as a senator, had some ability and influence in Washington.
GQ: How steeped in U.S. politics are you?
Armando Iannucci: I'm slightly nerdy about politics—British and American—and have been from a young age. I'm one of the people who have read all four volumes of Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson biography. I have a recollection of how elections have gone in the past – politics from the early '60s on—and I have a fair idea of how the constitution works [Laughs]. But, I like the idea that I'm coming at it from the outside. I don't have that experience of growing up in a democrat household or a republican district. I can stand back and maybe take an objective view of what works and what doesn't work and why it's funny.
GQ: Does that make U.S. politics easier to satirize?
Armando Iannucci: I don't mind the label of satire but I don't think I set out consciously to do that. Satire sounds like a two-dimensional thing. When we wrote the pilot of VEEP, we had in mind this woman Selina Meyer, and just wanted to ground her as much as possible in reality and then fill it out from there and hope the story that she has is one that takes in where the vice presidency sits in between the White House and the Capitol and those other areas like the media, the blogosphere, the Washington lobby community.
EPISODE 1: "Fundraiser"
In the pilot, we meet Selina Meyer, her personal aide Gary Walsh (Tony Hale), chief of staff Amy Brookheime (Anna Chlumsky), communications team—the vet, Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh), and the young upstart, Dan Egan (Reid Scott) —and the always deflating White House aid Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons). The episode starts roughly three months into Meyer's first term in office, and she wants to establish a Clean Jobs Commission as one of her first important acts. An errant tweet, an incorrectly signed condolence card and an offensive joke set the season in motion.
GQ: What were the goals in introducing Meyer and her staff?
Armando Iannucci: The trouble with any pilot is you have to get your first episode up and running, introducing everyone and we always try and write pilots as if they are episodes three or four of the season. They need to have an air of self-contained story within it, and also, by chance, introduce you to the rest of the team.
GQ: Initially, it feels as if the show is more about characters than plot.
Armando Iannucci: That's why the casting took a lot of time—not just getting the right people for the role, but the right ensemble, really. You look forward to taking any two or three of that group and seeing what happens. They were all chosen for their abilities not just as actors, but the fact that they are happy to improvise. Walsh, for example, has a grounding in the Upright Citizens Brigade, and Hale had his experience with Arrested Development—they all have their valuable experiences. But what really connects them is feeling comfortable departing from the script and playing with each other. I think that's important to us as writers because we cast really early on, and we carried on writing knowing how these people carried on, how they looked, how they behaved, and that they were would flesh these characters out. When we started shooting in Washington, the team would, without me realizing it, hang out in political bars and hook up with real life counterparts, absorbing all the details of how these people work.
GQ: Did you do some of that yourself?
Armando Iannucci: Spread over a couple of months, I spent four or five weeks in D.C., speaking to people at every level. Not just Chief of Staff, but the junior staffers and those just starting out. They were all pretty respectful, amenable, and happy to show me around. I kept saying "I'm not making a documentary, I'm not out to reveal any scandal. I just want to get the reality of it. I want to ask you boring questions like what time do you get in in the morning, what time do you get home? What kind of people do you work with? If the Washington Post is ringing the office, who takes the call?" And through the actual writing, we had some D.C. insiders who would look at the script and correct tiny points. In episode one, Selina's speech is "pencil-****ed," and that was because we were told that "the pencil-****" is the term used in Washington for when your speech is absolutely butchered by someone higher up.
GQ: There are so many running jokes that appear not only in one episode but throughout the season. A great one in the first episode is the idea of utensils becoming politicized.
Armando Iannucci: I like the idea of very, very minor things at the start of the season—like plastic cutlery and a tweet—having profound effects, so that by the end [of the season], you have Selina unpopular, crying and facing possible congressional hearings. If you pay attention through the season, you can see how the cutlery tweet led to this final scene. If it hadn't been for the cutlery tweet, she wouldn't have been persuaded by Dan to get an oil guy on clean jobs; if clean jobs hadn't been a bit of a mess, she wouldn't have put a second oil guy on; if that hadn't gotten out ... So what is a gentle start, becomes a horrendous end.
GQ: It's the idea of something little snowballing into something big, and that happens on Capitol Hill all the time.
Armando Iannucci: It's almost become impossible with 24 hour media, everything being recorded—you can't step outside without someone taking your picture or writing down what you say. So really, you can't get anything right. If you or I were to be followed around for a day and everything we say was posted up online it would be horrible.
EPISODE 2: "Frozen Yoghurt"
A schedule cancellation allows the Vice President a rare chance to connect with the people. Her staff chooses a local frozen yogurt shop that hypothetically would provide a positive media moment. But they're diverted when Meyer gets word that the president might have suffered a heart attack and she's requested in the situation room.
GQ: What's the time difference between episodes 1 and 2? Immediately, we're hit with the idea that D.C. is sweltering.
Armando Iannucci: The first episode is set in May, so three of four months into the start of her administration. And then it's late June for the second one, because she says she's giving herself three months before she announces an oil guy on clean jobs. The heat and humidity was something I noticed on my trips to Washington. Inside, the air conditioning keeps it very cold, so people are dressed in their jackets and ties. The moment they're outside, they're pouring with sweat—it can be unbearable. And the nation's government must go on in these conditions.
GQ: There's a great moment in the episode, when the VP learns that the president has a had a stroke. Her reaction is immediately selfish, yet very human, captured in Julia Louis-Dreyfus's classic smile.
Armando Iannucci: That's a credit to her acting. The direction was to look serious and smile at the same time, and with Julia you know she's going to do something but you don't know what. She tried three or four different looks in different takes. We wanted to get to the issue of so close, but so far away fairly early on in the season. One minute you're in the situation room, the next you're at a frozen yogurt store. If the first episode was very internal and showing office politics, the second was trying to demonstrate the range of public roles the Vice President performs. We wanted to evoke the high and low together.
GQ: This episode also reflects a storyline that is told through the opening credits: That Meyer was a candidate for president but she didn't make it.
Armando Iannucci: I'm glad you picked up on the credits. We spent a lot of time trying to show her situation—of being so near but so far—in ten seconds. I do like this idea of hitting the ground running—not spending the first few weeks doing a gentle "lets meet everyone." I like the idea of joining as if we were already in the middle of the season. I know the audience will keep pace with it. It's interesting on how much information actors can manage with just a look or a gesture. In editing, I'll sometimes take out plot points or lines of dialogue because it's all being said in just the way two people are looking at each other. I'm a big fan of The West Wing. But watching from the U.K, and not being familiar with the day-to-day politics in America at the time, I'd often watch whole scenes without really knowing what they were talking about. But as long as I knew that Josh didn't want something to happen and C.J. did and Bartlett was very angry—that's all I needed to know.
GQ: Even though you're using authentic jargon like "pencil-****ing," you don't need to be in that world to know that pencil-****ing isn't a good thing.
Armando Iannucci: [Laughs] How could it ever be a good thing?
EPISODE 3: "Catherine"
As her staff prepares for a party celebrating her twenty years in politics, Meyer's choice of appointee for the Clean Jobs Commission proves unacceptable, she deals with rumors that she's a diva, and she tries to makes news out of finding the perfect canine companion for she and her daughter Catherine (visiting from college)—only to be upstaged by White House aid Jonah revealing that POTUS is also in the process of choosing a dog, which would be known as the FDOTUS.
GQ: This episode presents something that female politicians face a lot: Accusations of being a diva.
Armando Iannucci: On top of what a female politician believes and her political strategies are the continual questions about how much she paid for a dress and how long she spent having their hair done. It drives women politicians mad to have to deal with that. Also. if they have a children, more than male politicians, they're expected to show their family life. I see these as unnecessary pressures. Although the show itself isn't about a woman in politics, I thought we ought to see what happens to you when you are. Also, the episode gave us a chance to learn a little bit more about Selina's personal life, to introduce her daughter. At the same time, something intensely political is happening that day in terms of negotiations and wheeling and dealing, trying to appease the party, the lobbyists—trying to resolve a problem politically rather than looking like you're having quiet time with your daughter.
GQ: At one point, Meyer blurts out, "I have a **** and balls." It's a great way to show how she feels about her power.
Armando Iannucci: [Laughs] In front of her daughter.
GQ: So how much power does she have?
Armando Iannucci: She has more than she thinks. As the series progresses, you'll see her manage to retrieve what got her so far in the Senate. She was there for 20 years. Why was it that she was picked for Vice President? There is that period where newly elected Presidents and Vice Presidents take office and make pretty basic mistakes and do silly things because they don't quite understanding how the situation works. It usually takes them about eight to twelve months to find their feet. In the third episode you begin to see her starting to drive her pet issue along, even if it means slightly compromising her beliefs or affecting her relationship with her daughter.
GQ: And, of course, there's the choosing of the dog.
Armando Iannucci: And how could that possibly go wrong? [Laughs]. I mean, it's just a dog.
GQ: It shows how stressful something very simple can be when you're trying to appease so many different parties and people.
Armando Iannucci: Even the dog becomes politicized.
GQ: And then, of course, Jonah comes waltzing in to announcing the president's dog. Did you do research on FDOTUS's of the past?
Armando Iannucci: [Laughs]
GQ: They're a big thing!
Armando Iannucci: They are a big thing! Things like that become significant when you're president. What gift you give someone, what gift you receive from someone, what message you put on the card. If you get it wrong—nobody notices if you get it right, but if you get it wrong, everybody notices. And that's where the pressure comes in.
GQ: Every little gesture counts.
Armando Iannucci: Absolutely. I also think it's a product of being in a one-industry town. Everyone you walk past or deal with is roughly in the same world as you. You need to be careful.
EPISODE 4: "Chung"
On an episode of Meet the Press, a remark made by Meyer about her political rival Danny Chune is misconstrued as a racist dig. Her team geso into damage control mode.
GQ: Is Chung based on anyone?
Armando Iannucci: There were elements of Obama when he was a young senator, but not really. We this episode, we wanted to see how big a stage she's on and how wide her influence is. If she goes on a national TV show and says the wrong thing, it has a major impact nationally. How does she deal with that? Coincidentally, the week she went on Meet the Press, Biden went on the real show and made his remarks about gay marriage. It was a strange coincidence.
GQ: I'm always amused by the expressions of shock and disgust on Anna Chlumsky's and Tony Hale's faces.
Armando Iannucci: Tony has this unique ability to say not very much in those big moments that everyone is in crisis mode. He'll just let a little thing slip through and it's always the funniest—usually at the point when the scene ends. Like in the opening episode, in the script it says "What if Tom Hanks dies." Everyone is saying "What did you say, what did you say?" And Gary goes "What a dark thought..." He always cracks us up. And Anna has an ability to look very poised but say the most insulting things.
As I mentioned before, this is an ensemble that very good at improve—very generous and collaborative. That means knowing when not to speak and not coming up with five or six lines on your way to the set and then making sure you get those lines in at some point. It's really all about listening. For me, improvisation is about making the situations feel real. For it to feel real, the characters have to react in a genuine manner. The funniest thing can be just one person looking shocked at what someone said or looking surprised, wondering how could they say that?
EPISODE 5: "Nicknames"
Meyer becomes obsessed with the blogosphere's nicknames for her. Clean Jobs fails and she ends up being tasked with an obesity campaign. And her secret relationship with her boyfriend Ted is thrown into peril by her potential pregnancy.
GQ: We're starting to see how important Meyer is in this episode. But this is also where we her sexuality is explored, after the first mention of a boyfriend in the last episode.
Armando Iannucci: This is where she finds out that she's a Viagra Prohibitor [one of her internet nicknames].
GQ: Things come up that we don't usually associate with politicians.
Armando Iannucci: I suppose that it's about showing that they are people. They're not beasts, they're people. I'm very keen on being non-judgmental about how they are portrayed. I don't what to say, "These are the good guys, these are the bad guys." These are who you have in Washington. Some are fallible and highly principled and not very good at their job. Others are ambitious and back-stabbing and rather good at their job. There's just no way of knowing. It's the ambiguity that interests me. This episode was key because the screws were turned a little tighter. Meyer has a big job and if you don't do it properly, you can go under. This is quite a nerve-testing, highly stressed job, but it's also highly fulfilling if you get it right. In this episode, the politics or satire comes from Meyers being encouraged by some who agree with her policies to vote against [Clean Jobs], and encouraged by others who disagree with her policy to vote for it.
GQ: In the last few minutes, something happens that guides the plot of the next episode: Meyers is put on the obesity campaign, her consolation prize for not getting Clean Jobs through.
Armando Iannucci: It was something that HBO encouraged. I'm used to doing short seasons with each episode very self-contained. I forget that in the U.S., sitcoms on the major networks have 22 episodes. It is important that the board is reset at the end of each episode. Characters don't die in comedies here. You get through the 22 episodes with roughly the same dynamic. HBO were looking for something different than that—the idea of driving something through the whole season along. That was an interesting challenge. Can we make it funny each week, but can it get funnier because of a developing storyline?
EPISODE 6: "Baseball"
Meyer goes on the offense for her "Get Moving" obesity campaign with a field trip to the Baltimore Orioles stadium, Camden Yards. Meanwhile, Mike deals with a press conference and Amy and Dan entertain bored elementary school students before the VP shows up.
GQ: This episode takes place in Baltimore. You shot most of the show there, right?
Armando Iannucci: Yes, the bulk of it. We built the main set in a warehouse in Columbia (Maryland) and then quite a lot of the location interior were in Baltimore. We shot some exteriors in D.C. The starting point of this episode was that all of them are split up and everyone is stuck with the person they least want to be with. Amy is with Dan. Selina is stuck with Jonah at the baseball game. Gary, through circumstances, is separated from Selina for the whole episode, which is a nightmare. And Mike is nowhere near any of them and therefore out of the loop. That meant we had four or five different storylines, which made it like a farce, gaining momentum, dodging back and forth between locations.
GQ: At the start of the episode, Meyer tells Amy that she might be pregnant, which Amy suggests is the equivalent of political suicide. Things get complicated when Mike and Amy are talking to each other on the phone: Mike says the word "repugnant," Amy hears "pregnant," and assumes that the reporters he's talking to have somehow learned about the VP's secret.
Armando Iannucci: I like the idea of something as big as a potential pregnancy, which everyone knew they had to keep secret, becoming more and more widely known as the program progresses.
GQ: We also find out that Meyer—a veteran American politician—knows nothing about baseball, which makes for an awkward photo op with the team.
Armando Iannucci: Yeah, yeah [Laughs]. Julia knows more about it than Selina does. But it kinda helped that it was written by people that have no knowledge of either [Laughs].
GQ: You got Jim Palmer to guest star.
Armando Iannucci: Yeah, and with all these things, we didn't' rehearse. I wanted the conversation to feel polite, and yet awkward as possible, so that when she asked her questions they would try to explain to her and look amazed that she didn't quite understand, but be polite enough to not mention it to her. I thought it was important to get the real players and not extras pretending to be baseball stars.
GQ: Did you try for Cal Ripken?
Armando Iannucci: Lots of people were tried but I wasn't involved in the specific negotiations.
EPISODE 7: "Full Disclosure"
A rumor that Meyer fired a secret service member because he smiled (introduced in episode 6) is threatening to boil over, causing the VP to threaten to fire one of her top aides. To counter the media's perception of her, she decides to make all of her office's correspondence public, to prove she has nothing to hide. Meanwhile, she continues to try and distance herself from the botched Clean Jobs initiative.
GQ: It's been a continuing element in the series, but by this episode it's really clear that Meyer is surrounded by incompetency, and she begins to lose it with her staff.
Armando Iannucci: I think these people are also losing it with the situation that they're in. They're fundamentally trying to do their best and they're fundamentally talented but they're just ... there's something about the pressure on that office. It's interesting, in talking to various groups of people who worked for Vice Presidents, they do say that the turnover for that office is very rapid. People do only one or two years and they move on. If they're any good, they get hoovered up by the President. Or else they get out pretty quickly.
GQ: Have you ever heard of a firing done the way Meyer does it?
Armando Iannucci: I've heard that to keep the press at bay, to put a lid on a story, someone has to be fired. And it needs to be someone of a certain status. There are certain stories that will only go away if a certain senior level is fired.
GQ: And have you heard of multiple staff members threatening to go down together—like Mike, Amy, and Dan—in a suicide pact?
Armando Iannucci: I have heard of people that bound themselves together even though they hate each other, on the basis that two heads are better than one. And also there's an element at the end, of Amy being made to talk about the baby being hers. There was an element of that in the John Edwards case. He was married and had a family and sort of genuinely talked into that it would be a good thing for America if he said the baby was his.
GQ: Can you talk about why Meyer's pregnancy became a miscarriage?
Armando Iannucci: We thought we had to play it for real. Meyer is of a certain age where it would be unusual if she was pregnant. The risk of her losing the baby early on is very, very high. That is the reality of the situation. I very quickly thought that that was most likely what would happen. And in fact I also didn't want it to turn into a soap opera, where she was pregnant for the next three episodes and it was all about the baby. The politics of Meyer's pregnancy being found out was more important than the possible drama of having a baby in office.
GQ: It goes back to the politics surrounding every little aspect of these people's lives. The one question I have about this episode is that Gary is tasked with dumping Ted. Gary doesn't usually do such important things.
Armando Iannucci: This is beyond, isn't it? Meyer is aware of it as well and is grateful. He's done more embarrassing things, more intimate things, but this is testing his people skills [Laughs].
GQ: Will this change Gary's job profile down then line?
Armando Iannucci: That's an interesting point. I don't know. I'm only just beginning to turn my thoughts to season two.
EPISODE 8: "Tears"
The season finale explores the timed-honored tradition of one political candidate endorsing another. In this case, Meyer and crew fly to Cleveland to endorse a man who ends up retracting his request for endorsement. She's also made to cry by her own staff in an effort to gain her a little sympathy from the public.
GQ: What was your intention for the last episode?
Armando Iannucci: Gear shifting. The subplot of Dan Egan coming into the office and Amy warning Meyer about him and it kind of beginning to come true. I also wanted to introduce ... we've already seen Chung as one nemesis, but I wanted to introduce Furlow, the congressman running for governor. And I was touching on that Hillary moment when she won the New Hampshire primary; she looked like she's crying, but she's really not crying. That was the starting point of the episode—the weird question of was she crying deliberately? Was it a moment of fragility, or a moment that was unguarded and capitalized on? I liked the political strategy that was happening as soon as the moment happened. That was the inspiration for the episode.
GQ: At this point, have the characters matured?
Armando Iannucci: I think they have. You see Meyer as both more fragile and stronger. You've seen that the only real relationship she cherishes is the one with Gary. I think you can see Amy being a bit steelier, a bit stronger. You can see Mike and Dan going beyond tolerating each other and beginning to see the advantages of having each other. Jonah is the one that's left outside. [Laughs]
GQ: Does emotional maturity interest you?
Armando Iannucci: I certainly want to take it a little bit further in season two and test some of the characters, especially now that we'll have a longer run.
Season finale was great.
On another note, Julia rocks the **** out of her wardrobe.
LOOK AT MY MUSCLES
On another note, Julia rocks the **** out of her wardrobe.
Julia rocks the **** out of everything tbh.
LOOK AT MY MUSCLES
EMMYS: Julia Louis-Dreyfus On ‘Veep’
With Emmys under her belt as Elaine on Seinfeld and for The New Adventures of Old Christine, Julia Louis-Dreyfus could well make it triplets for her scathingly funny performance as Vice President of the United States Selina Meyer in HBO’s new comedy series Veep. Very few stars in the medium’s history have been able to pull off that hat trick but if anyone can, it’s Louis-Dreyfus who somehow manages to create completely original, but wildly different roles for herself each time she tackles a new series. As a producer of Veep she also knows exactly how to get what she wants and exerts control because, as she says herself, she’s been doing this a long time and knows a few things about comedy. Breaking into the television zeitgeist in 1982 on Saturday Night Live, Dreyfus remains one of the most talented and least predictable comic stars on television. And with Veep she is flying without a net for the first time as she is relieved of network constraints and restrictions.
WARDSLINE: Republicans are obviously vetting for vice presidents for Mitt Romney and potential candidates keep saying ‘Oh not me! Not me! I don’t want it.’ But why did you want to play a vice president on TV?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus: For the same reason everybody is saying ‘No, no, no, I don’t want it.’ That’s exactly why I wanted to do it, because it’s a comedy! I mean it’s a really divine area for comedy. And it’s been untapped. It’s kind of just lovely to tee up all sorts of things coming together. Let me just start by saying this: Anybody who is an ambitious politician would never ever aspire to a Vice Presidency. And yet, people find themselves in that position, and so, therein lies the rub.
AWARDSLINE: That’s the comedy. She’s such a great character. Just her temperament, I imagine so much fun to play.
Louis-Dreyfus: Well it is fun to play. I mean the stress and the fury and the indignity — all of it is just a horrible ball of anxiety as the season progresses. We see aspects of her ability to manipulate the dynamics of political life and you can see why she is such a political animal. I love to play the sort of paralysis that she finds herself in and the fury that accompanies that. And I love being able to play somebody who just is so narcissistic. She cannot and will not accept blame for anything. She lays it on her staff, except if she isn’t laying it on her staff. Then she is filled with this self-loathing. There is no middle ground, it is one or the other and it’s a really fun gig for sure.
AWARDSLINE: Are you going to bring in real politics? We don’t know who the President is and we don’t even know what party Selina is affiliated with.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: We are never going to bring in real politics. I think it’s important that you never know this. At any moment she could be Republican or Democrat and it’s better to keep guessing or even not bother to guess and just watch the behavior of politics. Because that’s really what the show is all about. It’s not a show about ideology in any way.
Julia Louis-DreyfusAWARDSLINE: I am sure you get asked all the time, who is it based on? But I think if you brought in the ideology people would be guessing Sarah Palin, or Hillary Clinton or somebody like that?
LOUIS-DREYFUS: Right, exactly. Also, think how limiting that would be? It is so much more freeing, to obviously create our own character, but also to not be bothered with sort of a political point of view, except to say, that she is an ambitious person who is desperate to stay alive politically. So that means straddling the aisle, which she thinks she does very effectively.
AWARDSLINE: You’re also one of the show’s producers which gives you a certain amount of control obviously. How are you using that and why is it important for you to be a producer on the show that you star in?
LOUIS-DREYFUS: I am happy to point out that this is Armando [Iannucci’s] show. He really is the creator and the genius behind it. It’s important for me to be a part of the producing team because I bring a lot of experience to bear at this point on how to make a TV show. And I’m a perfectionist, to be honest, and so I like to add my two cents to casting, editing, script, sets, whatever it happens to be. I have spent a lot of time thinking hard about that. And you know, frankly, even if I wasn’t producing, I would still be producing. I think of this as a whole project and not just as me playing a part.
AWARDSLINE: How long do you want to do this? I know it’s HBO. How many episodes do you do in each? I know you’ve already been picked up for season 2.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: I know, which is just glorious! We are going to do 10 episodes in season 2. And I don’t know. I want to keep doing this as long as it’s fun and I imagine it will stay fun for quite some time. I mean it’s a really, really good gig. I have to tell you, it’s a dream role for me. It’s incredibly creative and kind to the people I get to work with and how can you beat it? And, it’s not 22 or 24 episodes a year. That schedule can be a real drag, particularly if it’s single camera, so, I don’t know, it just feels nice and I really like working over at HBO. It’s from an artistic point of view. It sure is a respectful spot. I really like the culture over there.
AWARDSLINE: The New Adventures of Old Christine and Seinfeld were traditional network shows. Is there a certain amount of freedom you get in doing an HBO show that you didn’t have?
LOUIS-DREYFUS: There certainly is. Not to disparage network television, there’s plenty of good material out there on network television, a lot of which I was happy to be a part of for many years. But, there is a culture at HBO that is different. I mean, it’s the truth, they let you be artists, making whatever it is that you are making. There is an inherent respect for the people creating the material. And that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an opinion or anything. They allow the process to unfold in a natural way. A fine example of this is that Armando has a specific – you know, he comes from the UK – way of working. He likes weeks and weeks of rehearsal in Great Britain. So, we rehearsed the first season for six weeks before we shot a frame of film.
LOUIS-DREYFUS: It’s just amazing. First of all, it is such a gift to an actor, but beyond that, HBO understood that this was Armando’s process. And they understood that this is how he needed to work. And you know, as a result, I think, the show reaps the benefits of that experience. They just gave the space for it. The business model works in such a way that HBO can do this.
AWARDSLINE: Does the show have consultants from the political world?
LOUIS-DREYFUS: Well, we have two different [types of] people that worked on the first season. One from one side of the aisle and one from the other who would edit every script. [They] made sure it sounded authentic, that this could actually happen; that under these circumstances you might negotiate filibuster reform or whatever it happens to be. So, we were constantly vetting the material they we were putting out there. We did, as a cast, and as a whole team, we did a lot of field trips to Capitol Hill … Behind the scenes meetings with lobbyists and Chiefs of Staff, and Senators. I did meet with a couple Vice Presidents before we began. It’s sort of an ongoing process. We had people come by from different walks of life on Capital Hill all the time.
AWARDSLINE: What kind of reactions have you received from the political world on Selina?
LOUIS-DREYFUS: George Stephanopoulos who, when I was back East and I was doing press, said to me ‘Wow, this is uncannily familiar.’ ‘And the tension,’ he said, ‘Is very much, the tension you feel when you are on the job.’ That was a tremendous compliment that I was really pleased to hear.
Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus Keeps Her Misspelled Hollywood Star in Her Office
Krista Smith: There are so many fantastic things about Veep. The swearing and the wardrobe, for instance. Is it liberating doing a show on HBO?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus: I like to wear nice clothes and I like to say “****” and “****.” It is very liberating. There’s the face value. It also really does highlight the world we’re depicting. You’re presenting a certain way of being, her political person in front of the curtain. And then it helps highlight what’s behind the curtain. Because it’s so surprising and maybe alarming that people in government speak that way. It just helps to emphasize the on and off switch that is manipulated so well by many politicians.
How did you get involved with the show?
It was pitched to me as [a show about] an unhappy vice president. It struck me as inherently funny. I was also told that it was being developed by Armando Iannucci, whose work I was familiar with because I knew In the Loop, the movie that he made with James Gandolfini. Long story short, Arm and I met for a 40-minute coffee/tea that turned into a three-and-a-half-hour work session, in which he was telling me the story of the pilot that hadn’t at that point been written yet. I understood the tone and we just clicked immediately. We were coming up with ideas for Season One sitting right there.
Did you base your Veep character, Selina Meyer, on people in your life or in the real political arena?
All of the above. There are plenty of parallels between being in Washington and being a political animal, and being in Los Angeles and being a showbiz animal. I’d like to think the people in Washington are ultimately nobler and more intelligent. I’m not sure that’s always the case. This is an amalgamation of a lot of different things from both sides of the aisle.
How many takes does each scene require? Do you ever crack up?
All the time, particularly with Tony Hale. There’s something about his face, his big eyes. In Episode Seven, there is a scene that we could barely get through. We didn’t get through [in] a lot of the edits because we started laughing so hard. There is a lot of laughing on the set, which is always a good sign because that means you’re having fun. If you’re having fun, that is translated into performance.
What do you think about our current political arena?
Behind the sort of Georgian façade of Washington is crumbled up trash and people in corners trying to find a plug to plug in their charger. It doesn’t have the glamour that one might like to think it has. We’re doing Season Two in the fall. I’m really excited, with all of this stuff coming up with the election. Even if there weren’t an election, there’s always something going on that’s worth noting in the political world.
Does a day go by when someone doesn’t recognize you from Seinfeld? Or you see it on television?
I don’t watch it because it’s hard for me to watch stuff past a certain point. I watch Veep because I’ve worked on every episode in the post-production. It’s very hard for me to go back and revisit the shows and stuff because they’re so dated.
Is it true that when you got your Hollywood star, your name was spelled wrong?
Can you believe it? It was a Selina moment in a weird way. I was getting my hair and makeup done. You come out and you stand there with your star, the big hoopty-do, and my publicist walks in and she says, “Listen, I’ve got some bad news.” And before she said anything, I said, “Oh my god, they misspelled my name.” I don’t know how I knew it, but I knew it. They spelled it “Julia Luis-Dreyfus.” L-U-I-S. And my last name is L-O-U-I-S. They jerry-rigged it so it was sort of right on the day. They had like 45 minutes to try and fix it. But I asked them if they would please save the piece that they cut out, so I could have it. I have it prominently displayed in my office as a reminder that you’re nowhere near as great as you think you are. You can’t hang on to the smoke and mirrors.
News from Madame VP
Julia Louis-Dreyfus tells Bibi Nurshuhada Ramli that playing a fictional female Vice President of the United States in the HBO miniseries Veep has its moments of ‘powerlessness’
EMMY winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus is certainly enjoying her role as a female vice president in HBO miniseries Veep, premiering tomorrow at 10pm.
“Everyone on set would call me ‘Madame Vice President’, even when I’m in the hair and make-up trailer. I’ve gotten used to it,” she laughingly admitted during an interview in Los Angeles recently.
She dryly added, “My kids, however, still say ‘Mom, ...What’s for dinner?’”
In the comedy, Louis-Dreyfus plays former senator Selina Meyer, who is at the height of her career when she takes on the position of vice president of the United States. She discovers that the job is nothing like she expected but everything she was warned about. She now finds herself in one of the most pointless understudy roles in the world. Watch as she puts out political fires, juggles a busy public schedule and demanding private life, and defends the president’s interests.
“I don’t think anyone aspires to be a vice president,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “It’s certainly a powerful position but it also certainly isn’t. So, hopefully, therein lies the comedy for this show.”
Louis-Dreyfus also stressed that Meyer wasn’t based on any female politician. “This is never meant to be a parody or comment on any one politician. Selina Meyer is a character that we’ve created.”
The series’ creator and political satirist Armando Iannucci added during a forum with the American press, “We were very firm about that. We weren’t looking to do a take on Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton. She’s very much her own woman.”
“If you think about it,” Louis-Dreyfus continued, “if we were to do such a thing, it would limit us creatively in such a dramatic way.”
Iannucci said that you don’t need to have a degree in political science to watch the show. “We very much wanted to make something that appealed to the general viewer.
“We don’t really know which party Meyer is in. We never name the president because it’s not about the minutia of policy. It’s all about how human beings operate in that kind of world.”
In playing Meyer, Louis-Dreyfus said that she tried not to emulate anybody in the political world. “I’m bringing my own ideas to this character as opposed to doing exactly what Hillary (Clinton) did.”
However, there are elements in the show that are inspired by real-life political events. There are also scenes shot for the show that actually happened later in politics, which Louis-Dreyfus found rather extraordinary.
Below, Louis-Dreyfus talks more about Veep and her role.
How did you get involved in Veep?
When I heard there was a show in development about an unhappy vice president, that immediately appealed to me. I was familiar with Armando’s (Iannucci) work before we met. When we first got together, he was incredibly funny and what was supposed to be a 30-minute chat turned into a three-hour-long meeting. We got along really well.
How did you prepare for this role?
I watched a lot of C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network). Growing up, I met a lot of people who, in a way, offered me a little understanding of the political world. Specifically for the show, I met with chiefs of staff, schedulers for various senators, speech writers of politicians
I was fortunate enough to meet with a couple vice presidents, so it was pretty nifty. Not only was it interesting to hear what they had to say, but also, how they said it and what they didn’t say.
What were you surprised to learn from those vice presidents?
Honestly I was most interested to hear about how it feels like to live at the vice presidential residence. It’s not like living at the White House. It’s a smaller building and surprisingly small. What happens if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Where do the Secret Service go? What was the most humiliating thing you were ever asked to do? Things like that.
I was not interested in the grandeur of it, because you can figure out what that is. Instead, I was interested in the real nitty gritty of that. And also, like I said, what was not said. Certain questions were not answered very directly. I also found that interesting.
The vice presidency has traditionally gotten little respect.
The vice president has only two Constitutional duties: to break a tie in the Senate and to stand in for the president should he or she be unable to govern. Beyond that, everything depends on the relationship the vice president has with the president.
There have been examples of relationships that have been highly functioning and others that were highly dysfunctional. We’re playing it that their relationship is fairly dysfunctional.
You and Meyer are both working moms.
Yes, that’s the other thing that was interesting. I was very interested to hear what is it like raising children under those circumstances. What kind of privacy do you have with your children? How does that work?
What are some of the difficulties you faced being on the show?
One thought that I had was that I don’t know how everything works in Washington. What do Filibuster Reform and cloture mean? Did I have to learn all of these terms? I realised then that Veep isn’t a masterclass in politics. This hopefully will be a behind-the-scenes look at what happens between the on-stage moments in political life.
What were the reactions of the vice presidents that you met with? Did they think the show humiliates them in a certain way?
I hope nobody is offended. That is certainly not our goal. I hope they get a kick out of it. I hope there are aspects that they can relate to. It’s not just about the vice president, but also about the political system and the culture of politics in Washington specifically.
What are some of the highlights of this season of Veep?
She’ll be going to a frozen yogurt store where her choice of flavour becomes a pivotal moment in the show. You’ll meet her daughter and boyfriend. She breaks down and says something to her mic that she thinks isn’t on. You’ll see a lot of missteps.
'Veep' earns raves from insiders
Although Washington is the setting for so many television shows, few programs have earned the praise of the picky Beltway insiders who dominate the city’s power corridors.
“Veep” seems to be one of those exceptions. The half-hour HBO comedy, which features Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the ambitious and insecure Vice President Selina Meyer, has earned both a second season (its season finale aired last Sunday) and accolades from many politicos.
The show proves that for most insiders, it’s less important to nail the specifics (say, the location of Metro stations or proper professional titles) than to capture the often ridiculous nature of Beltway culture.
“‘Veep’ doesn’t take itself seriously,” said Doug Thornell, a former House staffer who is a senior vice president at political consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker. (Thornell also tutored actor Reid Scott, who portrays a smooth, manipulative deputy director of communications named Dan Egan.)
“In the past, a lot of D.C.-themed shows just focused entirely on the drama and the intrigue and ignored just how ridiculous this place can be at times. I think ‘Veep’ nails that and does it in a smart, self-deprecating way with flawed characters people can picture actually existing.”
“I do think ‘Veep’ does a hilarious job in portraying how media mini-scandals might trip up a politician’s agenda,” said Nikki Schwab, a columnist at the Washington Examiner. “I think it shows us, in an overblown way, how important optics and storylines are to politics. And it also seems to do a pretty good job of depicting the politicking done to get anything passed on Capitol Hill. And I’m pretty certain that everyone in Washington knows a Jonah” — Jonah Ryan, that is, who serves as the White House’s liaison to Meyer’s office and regularly informs everybody how important his job title is.
“Veep” has perhaps become Washington’s version of a now-retired HBO comedy: “Sex and the City.” Just as fans of the latter could recognize the Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda in their own social circles, fans of “Veep” know people like Selina, Dan, Jonah and three other characters: Amy, the focused and easily annoyed chief of staff played by Anna Chlumsky; Gary, the awkward but loyal aide to Meyer played by Tony Hale; and Mike, the aging and unmotivated press secretary played by Matt Walsh.
“Mostly, it’s just a wonderfully recognizable collection of D.C. douchebags,” said CNN’s Lizzie O’Leary. “I know approximately seven Dans, three Amys and at least one Jonah. Gary, not so much, but if someone would like to be my Gary, they are welcome.”
“I really think Dan is the pinnacle,” said O’Leary. “The kind of person who quotes Machiavelli proudly — in the office. I may have mistakenly dated a Dan or two in my 20s. … And whoever put together Amy’s wardrobe: genius, genius, genius. The wide collars, ill-fitting jackets, the large utilitarian handbag. D.C. at our worst.”
Benjamin Freed, who’s been writing “Veep” recaps for the website DCist, agrees.
“We’ve probably all encountered a few Amys, a couple of Dans, a handful of Mikes and too many Jonahs.”
In his opinion, “Veep” even bests the other show that last captured Washington’s attention: NBC’s “West Wing.”
“I’m not naming names, but a certain NBC drama still held in wide regard by many young White House and congressional staffers I know doesn’t hold up. Chances are, on any given day, these kids are more likely to engage in ****y one-upmanship than elegant policy debates with Rob Lowe. … There have been too many shows and movies depicting political service as some kind of saintly work. It’s about time someone gave this town a nice kick in the teeth.”
The Washingtonian’s Sophie Gilbert, who also recaps “Veep” online, calls it “that rarest of things: a TV show that abandoned glossy pretense and didn’t rely on manufactured drama and absurdly unrealistic situations.”
Instead, says Gilbert, “it was brilliantly, awkwardly truthful, basically revealing that the reason nothing gets done on Capitol Hill is because the whole system is utterly messed up. One minute, the veep’s being encouraged by the president to pursue a green jobs bill as her signature piece of legislation; the next, he’s changed his mind and decided green jobs are too risky, so she’s tackling obesity instead, despite the fact that she has a minor phobia of fat people.”
What will the next season hold? Although a fan of the show, Gilbert thinks the show will need to do some tinkering with its generic premise of a dysfunctional office operating in a powerful city.
“It’s hard to see how the show’s going to succeed in season two without developing new material to work with,” she said. “The ‘incompetent staff not doing anything’ shtick got old around episode five.”
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'Veep' Made Complex's The 25 Best TV Shows Of 2012 (So Far) List
13. Veep (HBO)
Stars: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Matt Walsh, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Sufe Bradshaw
Even if you couldn't give a **** less about politics, HBO's joke-per-second success Veep had the kind of breathless humor and snappy writing that could make those who know Santigold better than Rick Santorum laugh. Which came as no surprise, since the show's creator, Armando Iannucci, is the same guy who wrote and directed the razor-sharp 2009 political satire In the Loop.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus gave Girls star Lena Dunham serious comp for "the year's best female comedic performance" as Vice President Selina Meyer, an easily annoyed chief amongst a group of problematic underlings. The gist of Veep is, frankly, that most people working in her field are morons, or at least sympathetically incompetent. More importantly, though, in Veep's case, they also come equipped with rapid-fire senses of humor.
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I'm really happy that 'Veep', as well Julia got Emmy noms this year. The only thing that bothers me is that the show didn't get any nominations for the writing which is ****ing impeccable. Ugh. Are you kidding me?
LOOK AT MY MUSCLES
Julia Louis-Dreyfus Talks Emmy Nominations, 'Veep' Season 2, Casting The President And More
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is no stranger to Emmy love. Her most recent nomination is her sixth in the Outstanding Lead Actress In a Comedy Series category, with the previous five for "The New Adventures of Old Christine," and she racked up seven more for her Supporting Comedy Actress role on "Seinfeld," with a win for each show in their respective categories. But that didn't make this year's Emmy nomination for "Veep" any less exciting.
I caught up with Louis-Dreyfus to talk about her latest lead actress nod ("I'm tickled pink") and the Outstanding Comedy Series nomination for the show ("the most delightful surprise"), and she also confirmed that she and her fellow comedy actress nominees are cooking up something fun for the ceremony. (Remember last year when the nominees each took the stage when her name was announced? There was genuine excitement from all the women -- and a tiara and roses for the winner.)
Louis-Dreyfus also shared some scoop on Season 2 of "Veep," confirming that there will be 10 episodes instead of Season 1's eight-episode order and teasing some very interesting storylines and new characters. But will we finally meet the president? And who would she cast as the No. 1 to Selina Meyer's No. 2 in the White House? Keep reading for more ...
Congratulations on all of the Emmy love, for you and the show. Was it expected, or were you surprised?
You know, of course I was hoping that our show would get nominated, but I knew that it was a longshot because we're a freshman series and we only did eight episodes, so the fact that we did get nominated was really the most delightful surprise and a real thrill for everybody who works on the show. It's just a tremendous honor, and to be in the company of these other great shows ... I mean, gimme a break. It's dreamy.
The Best Actress in a Comedy category is always a lot of fun. The nominees really enjoy it and often like to do a little something for the audience. Have you guys already caught up with each other to start planning something?
We have, yes. I've been in touch with a couple of people ... we're talking. It's such a particularly nice time to be in this category because this group of women is such an outstanding group ... I mean, I really have enormous respect and really admire the women in this category tremendously. It's a great snapshot of what's happening in television right now for women. These women know how to get to the funny and do it powerfully and capably. I'm tickled pink to be in this group.
I know you've said that for Season 1 on "Veep," you sat down with creator Armando Iannucci and fleshed out what would happen. Do you have any idea what's coming up in Season 2?
Oh yeah ... we're just starting that process now. We are on a slightly different schedule -- we will begin shooting "Veep" again in October, so we are just now sort of hashing out what Season 2 is about and sort of where we seem to be headed. We're going to bring in some new characters. Selina's going to get closer to the West Wing and then perhaps wish she wasn't so close to the West Wing. And we may even travel globally ... that remains to be seen, but it may be the case if we can figure it out, budget-wise.
I'm laughing just picturing her traveling, dealing with foreign dignitaries on their own soil ...
That's exactly right. That's all you have to picture, right there. That's Season 2. She's also going to go to a hog roast and try to get down with the good people of the middle class. You can imagine what that scene is going to be like. [Laughs.]
The best thing about Selina is that she's not Elaine Benes and she's not Christine Campbell. She curses, and she's so unapologetically un-PC, you have to appreciate the absolute bull**** that comes out of her mouth.
Well I guess you do -- you don't have to vote for her, but you can definitely appreciate it ... There's that show now, "Political Animals," right? But she is, in fact, a political animal, and she is in the business of trying to stay alive politically. That's what she's done for 20 years and plans on doing for certainly another 20.
And she's found herself in this bottom-of-the-barrel kind of place. Before you started doing press for this show, I don't think many people really sat back and thought about how ineffective and how sad of a second-rung kind of job the vice presidency is.
Well, that is to say it can be. It really does vary from administration to administration, you know? I mean, all you have to do is think of the various real vice presidents, and you can see how it has so much to do with the relationship between the vice president and the president. But it is a strange position, for sure, and I'm so delighted to have seen what was sort of almost hiding in plain sight, in terms of a comedy goldmine, and it's this office of the vice presidency. [Laughs.] When it was first described to me, I thought, "Oh my god ... I can't believe that's never been done before from a comedy point of view! This is a goldmine for comedy!"
With only eight episodes last season, and 10 episodes this season, do you feel like this premise is something you all can mine for a while? Or could it ever be "Veep" and she's, like, a local congresswoman again?
Oh she's going to be veep -- well certainly for four years, we know that much. Although there may be moments in which she's ... well, I don't want to give anything away. But she's certainly a veep for the time being. But I'm fond of saying, and I think this is very true, that anybody who's politically ambitious does not aspire to the vice presidency. There just simply isn't anyone who aspires to that position, that I've ever come across. And yet plenty of very powerful and ambitious people end up in that position, so ... needless to say, there's an inherent tension in that office.
People have had their own ideas of who it is you're probably basing Selina Meyer on. Have fans shared those theories with you?
Well, originally people were asking me who I was doing, but I don't get that question so much anymore. I understand why they would say that in this age -- particularly because Sarah Palin has been characterized so well by Tina Fey and Julianne Moore, of course, in "Game Change" -- but this is sort of an amalgamation of politicians, both male and female, in my mind. I didn't, in any way, want to be likened to a particular person in politics because then my hands would be tied by that. It's great fun to have created this character because there are so many things that are ripe for the plucking from the world as we know it today, politically.
You know, there's just so much going out there, and there are gaffes and misspeakings happening all the time. I don't know if you saw the mayor of London hanging from a zipline ... it was an extraordinary sight. Wasn't that remarkable? But I have to say it was so remarkable, that I think if we put that in the show it would be too broad. People would say, "Oh, come on!" [Laughs.] So there's a lot of material out there.
And especially with the election coming up.
Oh yeah. Absolutely. I'm looking forward to the debate.
The cast is so phenomenal, and I'm loving the possibilities for adding new characters, but I want to make sure: Is everyone from Season 1 returning for Season 2?
Oh absolutely, yeah, yeah, yeah. We're just going to have a few new characters from the West Wing -- not the show "The West Wing," but the real West Wing.
But still no president, right?
I loved that element of the unknown in Season 1 -- not being told their party affiliation, not ever actually seeing the President.
Well, I think it's a great symbol in a lot of ways, but also it's part and parcel to not sort of identifying her. It sort of falls under the heading of not identifying the party. You don't know what party she's in. You may have your guess, but then she's sort of straddling the aisle every way she goes, so she really could be in either party.
If they do cast the president -- or any other major White House roles -- have you thought of any friends you'd love to come do the part?
Yeah, but I'll keep all of that to myself. [Laughs.] Sorry about that!
"Veep" Season 2 will premiere in spring 2013 on HBO.
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Question: Veep is already one of my favorite shows — got any scoop on Season 2? —Eduardo
Ausiello: Production doesn’t begin until October, which means the show’s Emmy-nominated leading lady, Julie Louis-Dreyfus, didn’t know much when we recently pressed her for a spoiler. But she did tease that the new season will have an international flavor. “Selina will meet some political people from Denmark,” she shared, before adding with a laugh, “which is on the cutting edge of the political universe, where all global decisions are made. No offense to Denmark!”
"Veep": In Season 2, Selina finds herself in one of the cringe-worthiest moments yet -- at a hog roast. Star Julia Louis-Dreyfus also teases for Zap2it that there will be several new faces added to the already-stellar ensemble cast that makes up the Vice President's staff.
Made in America
I just got HBO so I checked out the pilot episode of this show... love it.
LOOK AT MY MUSCLES
I just got HBO so I checked out the pilot episode of this show... love it.
Welcome to our VEEP thread. I'm glad more people are waking up and checking out this awesome show.
|Finn The Human
What time is it?
just watched all 8 episodes; omg this show is so ****ing hiiiilllaaaarious