11 Highlights from Veep at SXSW

Mar 16, 2017

The Veep ensemble dropped by the 2017 South by Southwest festival for a panel moderated by Chuck Todd of Meet the Press. Executive producer and showrunner Dave Mandel was joined by producer and star Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Selina Meyer), Gary Cole (Kent Davidson), Tony Hale (Gary Walsh), Anna Chlumsky (Amy Brookheimer), Timothy C. Simons (Jonah Ryan), Reid Scott (Dan Egan), Matt Walsh (Mike McLintock), and Sam Richardson (Richard Splett) to discuss the award-winning comedy and what’s to come in Season 6. Read on for 11 highlights from the panel.

1. Season 6 won’t showcase much “real-life” politics.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus commented, “We’ve set up this alternative political universe for our show. We don’t have any real-life celebrities or journalists on, and in terms of actual political history, we don’t really reference anybody beyond Regan.”

Mandel agreed, “All of the season was basically written and put-together last June. There are the occasional jokes but, we’re not Saturday Night Live. If we tried to make a joke about what Trump did yesterday, by the time it aired in May it would seem like the oldest, stalest joke in the world.”

2. Not identifying a party has its perks.

“Once in a while a line will pop up and we’ll kind of go, ‘Maybe that seems like we’re picking a side too much?’” Mandel said. “But for the most part we’re equal opportunity cynical.”

“It’s a lot of fun because when we’ve gone to Washington and talk to people from both sides of the aisle, whoever we’re talking to thinks we’re making fun of the other party,” added Louis-Dreyfus. “Which is great; everybody can come and laugh and make fun of the other guy.”

3. Everybody thinks they’re a “Dan.”

The cast described attending a Correspondents’ Dinner where they came, as Gary Cole put it, “face-to-face with versions of the characters. They were quick to tell us who they were on the show.”

Simons shared, “I’ve never met somebody who ever claimed to be the Jonah of their office, but they all think they’re Dans.”

4. The Writers’ Room gets inspired by real-life headlines -- but they’re usually older ones.

“Last year [Season 5] with the Nevada recount, that was our take on the Florida recount. I don’t think it would have been as interesting if we were doing it right in the middle of it, but with some distance we can have a little bit of fun with it,” said Mandel. “That being said, stuff comes across our desk all the time. Like for example, Daylight Savings Time and the idea of removing it is something that comes up in our season this year, and I couldn’t believe the number of articles about ‘we should get rid of this thing.’ It’s just another one of those things where we pick something back in June and later it bubbles to the forefront.”

5. Politicians do submit ideas -- but what is used isn’t usually what they intended.

Dave Mandel shared, and the rest of the cast agreed, that when a real-life politician offers a story they think “would be really funny” it oftentimes isn’t at all. “But while they’re telling it, they use a phrase or use some other story as lead-in that’s absolutely hilarious. And we write that in.”

6. Working on the show has made Anna Chulmsky more empathetic.

Said the actor, “When we started, there was a sense of removing the ‘mythos’ from politics. And if there was a gaffe [in real-world politics], instead of being mad at the person who said the mean thing on some show or in some press conference, I’d think about all of the people who have to deal with it and how they will.”

7. The electoral tie storyline was a major factor in Dave Mandel becoming showrunner.

Mandel joined the series right after they wrapped Season 4 -- which ended with a tie in the electoral vote. After hearing the storyline, “I was kind of hooked, and my brain started working,” said Mandel.

8. Keep an eye on former President Obama for clues to Season 6.

“Don’t be surprised if Selina signs a book deal -- only not for quite so much money,” offered Mandel. “As you watch Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, there’s an incredible world there -- foundations, libraries, humanitarian work -- so if you think about it, you’ll start to figure out a lot of what the season is.”

9. Just because it’s called Veep, don’t expect it to adhere to the obvious plotlines.

“After last season, the show still occupied the West Wing since Selina was the president. And that environment came to a halt [this season],” said Cole, “So I was really dumbfounded about where they would go with that. What happens to an administration is they scatter, usually they remain in Washington and try to reap rewards. The way that was orchestrated was terrific, and that’s what I’ll remember about this season.”

10. The hardest things about working on the comedy, are also the best things.

All of the actors noted how hard it was not to “break” during takes. “My character can cheat a little bit, because he’s always grinning,” laughed Richardson. “Julia once said to me, ‘You know you’re not watching the show, you’re in the show,’” recalled Hale.

Simons and Cole revealed the script changes constantly. “Sometimes I’ll learn something walking to set and then they’ll change it again,” offered Simons. “It brings an immediacy to the stuff I’m doing.”

Cole agreed, “I’ve come to find that’s the best environment to be in -- because you’re just behaving more and thinking less.”

11. This ensemble knows it’s got something special.

“The chemistry we’ve cultivated as a cast doesn’t happen a whole lot. Everyone here is at the top of their game and also very generous,” said Scott. “When you’re doing a comedy you have so many mouths to feed and so many storylines to tell, there’s a tendency for people to try to get their little moments here and there, but that’s never been what this team is about. It’s always been about how do we make this scene work better?


Catch up on the first 5 seasons of Veep on HBO GO and HBO NOW before the Season 6 premiere on April 16.

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