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Interview with Kevin Dunn

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HBO

How did you originally land your role on Veep?

Kevin Dunn

Well, I loved the show, and I watched the first season. They were auditioning both Kent and Ben in the same round, and they called me in for Kent, which I didnt feel I was right for. Before I could ask them, they said, Would you care to read for Ben as well? So I read for Ben. [Creator] Armando Iannucci was in the room, and the best thing is that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was there for the audition, which really was great because shes such a great force and a great person to have if youre going to do any improvising.

HBO

All the actors on Veep talk about the great atmosphere on the show. What do you have to say about that?

Kevin Dunn

Its a unique atmosphere. All of it is kind of a trickle-down experience. First of all, we have Armando and his writers, who are just really great people. Its much more of a cooperative efforts than Ive encountered in a lot of things. You rehearse a lot, and they hand that over to you in rehearsals -- you throw the script away and work through it. My favorite part of rehearsals is sticking around and watching these people work without a script. Julia and Matt Walsh and Timothy Simons and Reid Scott, theyre just so great. You see great stuff that you may never see during the course of a rehearsal. For me, I was never a big improviser -- that wasnt the route I took -- so its a huge learning curve. I was never made to feel like I was behind or that I needed to catch up. It is a very inclusive atmosphere.

HBO

Has working on Veep improved your improvising?

Kevin Dunn

Ive learned a lot about it, surely because most of the things you do are written and you do whats written, theres not a lot of straying outside of the page. They want you to stay on page and get the work done and move along, whereas the whole design of this is to rehearse things intensively and they keep writing and writing. Usually, you get your scripts and you take notes and memorize it and hope by the time that you shoot it you know it inside out, but it doesnt really work that way on Veep. You have to trust everything around you that you may get things at the last minute, but youll be able to learn it and know it well enough and be accustomed to the terminology and do it on the fly. Its not the most important thing to memorize your lines -- it can be counter-productive. Its a whole new way of performing for me in a lot of ways.

HBO

Whats the backstory you have in mind for Ben?

Kevin Dunn

When I get a script, I try to think about where he may have come from the night before, or that morning, and if thats going to have a play on how hes behaving or reacting to stuff during the day. Ben is very aware that hes dangerously close to being in the hospital because he has horrible habits. Hes on this wheel, and thats the only way he can be on that wheel -- to live the kind of life he lives. He could decide to go to the gym and work out, but it just doesnt compute to him. Some guys go to the gym to get the scoop. He goes to the bar. His sources are at the tap. Thats just the way things are for him.

HBO

Ben gets some pretty good lines this season, for instance when he says that theres a Saturday Night Live sketch out there thats a nine on the sphincter scale. Are you ever startled at the lines you have to deliver?

Kevin Dunn

I always think, whos going to be listening to this? You know? But you just kind of do it. Theres a scene where we see Jonah show up in Selinas office, and me and Reid and Matt, we just unleash this barrage of insults. Tony Hales mother-in-law and his wife and her sister were there, watching on the monitors. His mother-in-law exuded this very aristocratic, Southern thing -- really nice woman -- but we were going through this name-calling with Jonah, and I remember thinking, Tonys mother-in-law must just be ready to disown him. At times, youre like, whos going to be watching this? Old Sister Mary Teresa, your eighth grade nun. Oh, I saw your show! [Laughs.]

HBO

Theres a scene in the finale where Julia Louis Dreyfus rips everyone on her team and says everyone is a f*ck up. How do you keep it together during scenes like that?

Kevin Dunn

She just dresses us down. Thats a good example of an intense scene. When Julia gets to that place with Selina, where shes blindly furious and angry, its not funny when youre there. Its like, youre like holy shit because she just keeps upping the ante. Well do take after take, and she just turns up the dial. When youre shooting it, its really, really terrifying. She gets right in your face. Its great acting because its not this comic thing -- it's the real thing. Its hard to do, so when she gets to that place, you have to be right in the scene. We bust up a lot, but during those things we really dont because theyre these moments that have a huge impact on your chapter. She might punch you right in the nose! Shes shaking with anger.

HBO

Selina is now the President. Whats gonna go wrong?

Kevin Dunn

Strictly by the nature of Veep, in any given moment, a lot can go wrong.

HBO

Are you looking forward to a big role in season 4?

Kevin Dunn

Yeah, I got hired for season 4, so Im looking forward to what they come up with. Its an amazing show to be a part of. There are so few things that you do that you can actually disconnect yourself from. But I watch that show and dont even think that Im on it. I dont cringe. I want to know what happens.

28: New Hampshire

Season 3