The Emmy-winning comedy series “Veep” kicks off its seven-episode, seventh and final season, exclusively on HBO. The show stars Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, who is hitting the campaign trail as she runs for president.
The new season of Veep finds Selina Meyer trying to gain traction in early primary states, wooing uber-wealthy donors while navigating threats from primary challengers, including aide-turned-congressman Jonah Ryan. Selina’s band of misfits is also back, except for Mike, who’s been banished from her orbit and is now covering the presidential campaign, having been replaced by his ongoing nemesis in the press, reporter Leon West.
Meanwhile, Amy is figuring out how she feels about her pregnancy vis-a-vis Dan, who seems unwilling to give up his playboy ways for fatherhood. Rounding out the team are ever-faithful bagman Gary, cantankerous Ben, numbers-obsessed Kent, and staffer Richard.
We caught up with Veep creator Armando Iannucci, showrunner David Mandel, cast members Sarah Sutherland, Sam Richardson & Timothy Simons to talk all things Veep.
The Knockturnal: What was your inspiration behind creating the character and the show?
Armando Iannucci: Well I mean, I did a UK show called The Thick of It … so the methodology, the style of it, I already had. But when HBO said they wanted a show, it took a long time to work out exactly where it should be set. We didn’t want to do the President because that felt too big and you know, was that Governor’s Mansion, was that Congress, you know, where was it? And then I read this enormous biography of LBJ, where what was stunning about it was how powerful a figure he was in the Senate when he was Senate Majority Leader, and then suddenly became this vice president, literally sitting at a desk drumming his fingers, waiting for the phone call. And yet he could become president, which he did, you know. So it’s that so near and yet so far, and yet so near and yet so far that gave, I think, the comic dimension. And as soon as I read that I thought, that’s it.
The Knockturnal: The show started before the current president’s tenure. Do you think in any way the show has mimicked what’s going on in the real world and vice versa?
Armando Iannucci: Well, it used to be the show … showed you things that, the kind of thing that does happen in D.C., but behind closed doors. I think the problem now is, it’s all happening in front of us. No one attempts to hide it anymore. People are proud of it now. And I think they’ve been wise to take Selina out of D.C. and … see her try to lead a life outside of politics. But she can’t resist. She’s got to get back in.
The Knockturnal: Did you predict that you guys would be here seven seasons later?
David Mandel: You know it’s funny, there was no master plan, like in the sense of how long is this going to go, but there just kept being more and interesting stories. And in some ways, the crazier politics got in real life, it behooved us to stick around and keep going.
The Knockturnal: The plots were on point!
David Mandel: You know, we get a little lucky sometimes, you know. But we work hard at it. What makes our show great, or one of the things I think that it does well is we do our research, we bring in lots of real politicians, real campaign workers, so that it’s really feeling as real as possible. And then once it’s real, then it can be funny.
The Knockturnal: This is true. What are you going to miss most about this crazy crew?
David Mandel: I’m going to miss those moments of being on the stage, where I’m throwing out lines and they’re throwing outlines, and we’re kind of just making each other laugh. In fact, ruining takes, but laughing. I’m going to miss laughing with them.
The Knockturnal: What can we expect this season?
Sarah Sutherland: I really got to play someone that functions at a completely different tempo, has a completely different physicality. And this year I get to wear this really insane wig, in the idea I’m in a state of postpartum depression and it’s supposed to look like I cut my hair myself. It’s just really fun to have things that feel very different from you, and I think that’s ultimately what makes being an actor so exciting.
The Knockturnal: I can never predict where your character’s going. She’s always a surprise to me, like what is she going to do next. Is it the same for you?
Sarah Sutherland: Yeah, definitely. I think because part of comedy is just repetition and having characters do the same things that you always expect them to do, and I think by way of the age that Catherine is when she’s introduced in the show, and also just her nature as a character, I think she has the most capacity to change. And I think has had the strongest, probably, evolution over time. And I think that continues in this season in subtle ways. You see her navigating being a new mother, and also I think you start to see little bits of Selina’s parenting come through in moments when she’s stressed. I mean, I think that this season, the volatility and the meanness has definitely been ratcheted up, which is appropriate because of the current political landscape. I hope it stands the test of time not just as a comedy, but really as a satire or as something that’s holding a mirror up and making a statement about people in positions of power that are narcissistic, petulant, ill-informed, and the real danger and fallout of that.
The Knockturnal: I mean, this show’s been so much fun for you to do, playing with all these amazing actors. Talk about working with this crew. I mean, you have some legends on here.
Sam Richardson: Yeah. I’m talking about Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matt Walsh, Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, Tim Simons, Anna Chlumsky, Reid Scott, Sarah Sutherland.
The Knockturnal: Keep going.
Sam Richardson: I could. Sam Richardson, that’s my favorite. Just kidding, that’s me. Clea Duvall. I could say the whole cast, and I could mean it for everyone … You know when you say when you like look around and you’re like, oh who’s the weak link? I can’t find one. And you’re like, uh-oh, it’s me. That’s how it feels every day coming to work, but no, in the best way, you know. Because you can learn from everybody you’re working from.
The Knockturnal: So true. I was talking to everybody tonight, I can never predict what you guys are going to do next. It’s so hard, even when I think I know, I don’t know. Is it the same for you guys?
Sam Richardson: Yeah, it really is. Well, you know, because we do have a heads-up because we read the scripts. Just the slightest heads-up. But honestly, at the table reads, when we’re reading those things we’re like, whoa! We’re never bored of it, you know because they always find a way to make this the most interesting, funny thing, while sticking true to the show and the scripts and staying grounded and real. It’s an amazing feat.
The Knockturnal: I have my own theory about Jonah, I think he’s going to end up the president. I know you can’t tell me, but where do you think Jonah’s going to end up in the end of the series?
Timothy Simons: I will say this, Jonah is somebody who has only cared about power and proximity to power his entire life. And his entire career has been marked by that. And he is a person that has no integrity, and so will do anything to find himself in a position a power. And it turns out that if you’re a narcissistic person with no integrity, that seems to be working recently. So we’ll see.
The Knockturnal: And then lastly, what are you going to miss most about being with this crew?
Timothy Simons: I’m going to miss the work of the ensemble, both the on-set, with the relationships I had with the other actors on the show was incredible, and the writers on this show are out of this world. So I think I am going to miss the dialogue between those two groups. Like the work that the ensemble did as performers, and the work that we did with the writers.