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‘Veep’ can’t get crazy enough to satirize real-life politics, cast says

Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as President Selina Meyer on "Veep," along with Matt Walsh, left, and Tony Hale as part of her bumbling staff.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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The cast of HBO’s caustic political comedy series “Veep” used to have an Emmy night tradition of gathering after the show and taking a picture together, their hands flashing the L-shaped loser gesture. (Or, taken another way: Here’s to you, “Modern Family!”)

That changed in September when “Veep” won the comedy series Emmy for its fourth season. This year, the program has a new show runner, David Mandel, but its biting brilliance remains intact. Its main competition is the circus on the nightly news, screwball comedy so nuts, says “Veep” cast member Tony Hale, “it makes you wonder just how crazy it is behind the scenes.”

“I don’t think I want to see that show,” “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus says.

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The Envelope sat down recently with Louis-Dreyfus (who plays Selina Meyer, the one-time veep, now embattled president), Hale (Selina’s devoted assistant, Gary Walsh) and Matt Walsh (White House communications director Mike McLintock) to talk about “Veep’s” vision thing and how it might evolve in a Trump America.

“Veep” began in 2012, the year of our last presidential election. Do you remember the parallels being as surreal then as they are now?

Louis-Dreyfus: No. It’s crazy right now. There’s always these extraordinary things we shoot on our show that, two or three months later, happen in politics. But it’s never been like this.

The other day, I was watching CNN and the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, was talking about the Trump wall and he said, “I am not going to pay for that ... wall.” He said ... and it was on television, and I’m like, “What has happened?”

And all this ... right now in Trump crazy town, we’re just in the stratosphere.

Hale: It’s the kind of thing where if we wrote this kind of stuff, people would say, “It’s too extreme.”

Louis-Dreyfus: We used to feel the show was a satire, and now it feels like a somber documentary by comparison.

Where does “Veep” go if Trump is elected?

Louis-Dreyfus: For starters, we’ll be shooting it in Canada.

Walsh: Or Mexico, behind a wall.

Louis-Dreyfus: The truth is, we work very hard to keep our show separate. The most recent historical reality we allude to is Jimmy Carter. So whoever is president, we’ll continue in our own alternate universe.

Hale: Everybody in Washington thinks we’re making fun of the other side. That won’t ever change.

Walsh: Nobody in politics see themselves as being that ridiculous or inept.

The “Veep” Twitter account challenges its followers to decide whether a quote is from Selina or a 2016 presidential candidate. It’s hard to tell!

Walsh: There was the Australian prime minister (Malcolm Turnbull) who had your “continuity with change” motto about a month ago, right?

Louis-Dreyfus: It was unbelievable! It was actually his slogan for his new agenda. We try to come up with the most outlandish things and look what happens.

The relationship between Gary and Selina has been described as a “profound intimacy that is somehow no intimacy at all.” How would you describe her relationship with Mike?

Louis-Dreyfus: Like the relationship between a baseball and a bat. Mike keeps coming around the home plate to be hit. Mike also has a moral compass, which is really fun when it rears its beautiful head for us to bat it away. He’s a dear, incompetent soul.

Walsh: He’s like a kid piping up in the adults’ room.

He does seem to maintain an improbable optimism ... as long as you don’t make him climb any stairs.

Walsh: Stairs are Mike’s ruin. The writers like to give me a lot of sweaty moments.

"Veep" cast members Tony Hale, left, Julia Louis- Dreyfus and Matt Walsh.
“Veep” cast members Tony Hale, left, Julia Louis- Dreyfus and Matt Walsh.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times )

What would be the ruin of Selina?

Louis-Dreyfus: You’re looking at her. Selina is the ruin of Selina. But she will never see it that way. She blames everyone around her. But she brings it on herself.

That explains why she keeps this particular bumbling team around her.

Louis-Dreyfus: Yes. But also: It’s a comedy show. Incompetency is funny.

Hale: But I also think that we know stuff about her and if she lets us go, she knows we might let those secrets out.

Even Gary? Selina’s horrible treatment never seems to affect his loyalty. There was a great line early this season where she tells him: “I want you to do nothing. That’s your punishment.”

Hale: Not serving her, not being close to her, is a punishment! A close second would be seeing her with other men.

Walsh: Gary has a very high standard for her.

Hale: I want to be her man.

Walsh: She should date someone who looks exactly like Gary.

Louis-Dreyfus: That’s a good idea.

Walsh: And Gary doesn’t see it. That would be really weird.

Hale: Season 6!

Five years in and the writers are still inventing these great scenes of intimacy between Gary and Selina, from the prayer session in the hospital chapel to Gary blowing on Selina’s face after he applies pimple cream. Is there any physical boundary they won’t explore?

[Here, Louis-Dreyfus jokes that the two haven’t slept together, and Hale laughs for a solid minute.]

Hale: She feels the tension, believe me!

Louis-Dreyfus: I believe we have gobs of story to tell. But I’m not sure we’re going to get around to that one.

What do you remember most about last year’s Emmys?

Louis-Dreyfus: Oh, my God! It was unbelievable! And that it was Mel Brooks giving the award. That made it so sweet. You can’t beat that!

Hale: Of course, hearing your name was just elation. But the party after was great, just screaming and hugging each other.

Walsh: Except it was a fire-themed party and it was like ...

Louis-Dreyfus: ... 102 degrees outside. My hair did not hold.

Walsh: You want to stay present in those moments, but it’s hard. It’s like a big wave crashing over you.

Louis-Dreyfus: But that first moment, the one before the wave crashes, that’s the best.

MORE:

‘Veep’ star Tony Hale on hit HBO series and more ‘Arrested Development’

Anna Chlumsky on (perhaps) ‘Veep’s’ greatest moment

Gold Standard: The case for ‘black-ish’ taking the comedy Emmy

glenn.whipp@latimes.com


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