You and Armando have talked about how your "get-to-know-you" half-hour coffee turned into a three-hour meeting. What did you discuss that made you decide you wanted to do 'Veep'?
We just started working together. Ten minutes in, we were talking about Selina, the story of the pilot, ideas for where the story could go, ideas we both had for Selina physically, the cast. I guess you could say it was a work session. In fact, the script wasn't written yet. So when the script was sent to me a few weeks later, I was waiting with bated breath because I didn't know how collaborative this relationship was going to be. And I was incredibly blown away. For somebody as smart and comedically gifted as he is, he is a very collaborative fellow.
You've played two iconic characters on TV who are "real" people. Was there anything about playing a Vice President that was particularly intriguing or challenging?
The idea of playing Selina and showing the woman behind the political mask was what spoke to me. I feel it's a comedy gold mine... because it is a minefield. There are all these missteps to be taken. I love the idea of playing someone in a seemingly powerful position who is also powerless.
How do you relate to Selina, and how are you different?
Well I'm an ambitious person. I hope I'm not as narcissistic as she is. But everybody's capable of intense narcissism. So it's just a question of opening up the valve of that part of your brain and letting the narcissism flow. You know, there are great parallels to be made between trying to stay alive in show business and trying to stay alive in politics.
'Veep' really shows the impact of the 24-hour news cycle.
Remember that moment when they had Hillary looking at her BlackBerry when they got Qaddafi? I think it got a zillion hits on YouTube. People are intrigued by that authenticity and made furious by it at the same time. It's an impossible role, for politicians, on so many levels.
Celebrity has that as well: US Magazine's "Just Like Us" feature.
Yeah, that's right -- they are just like you. Get a grip. It's all so awful. But the obvious difference between show biz and politics is that I'm just trying to make people laugh. I'm just trying to get a job entertaining. Politicians have the daunting task of saving us from ourselves. So put that agenda on top of the pressure you feel as an entertainer - I don't know how they do it.
You mentioned ideas you had for Selina, physically. Was there anything in particular that unlocked the character for you?
The clothes that she wears are constricting. She's in suits that are tight, and wearing stockings that are uncomfortable and heels. In fact we've shot a few scenes where she takes her shoes off in her office -- that's the way she lets down. But whenever she takes her shoes off she finds herself in a position of inferiority. Whether it's Jonah who's 6' 5" towering above her (without shoes, I'm 5' 3") and having to listen to this giant man, or being chastised by another politician without her shoes on... there's something about that that I really like because it's vulnerable. She's trying to stay big and she's having trouble doing that.
Also, I don't know if we used it a lot this season, but there is a gesture that politicians have been using for years and it's never really been identified but I have identified it as the "thist." [She closes her fist with her thumb on top.] I think it came about because it's not finger pointing which may seem too aggressive or strident. It's not fist pumping, which has a million connotations. It's betwixt and between. It doesn't feel natural and it doesn't feel human. Doesn't it seem ineffectual? It makes you feel thwarted.
Armando spoke about the lengthy casting process to staff your office and how you improvised with various actors. What were you looking for?
We were looking for authenticity. Flexibility. People who of course have a good sense of humor, but were able to listen in an improvised scene. That's a dead give away to a good improviser: If they are able to be quiet. And listen. And then react. And then of course there's just a feeling that's hard to put into words. A feeling of natural camaraderie.
Is there any aspect of Selina's character you've championed?
The wig was my idea. My length of hair wouldn't work in Washington. It would have to be cut. And if it was cut, it would have to be blown out. I have curly hair and if it's cut short, I'm going to look like an ass. If I have hair and makeup there to fix it, great. But I don't live with hair and makeup in my regular life. So I put that wig on, and I feel like her. That and the pearls.
Your sister Lauren Bowles plays Holly on ‘True Blood.' Might there be a ‘Veep' - ‘True Blood' cross over?
I don't see Selina sucking blood literally. But she might metaphorically.