The ‘Veep’ Cast Talks Presidential Haircuts, Vice Presidential Futility, and Favorite Insults

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Last night, key members of the Veep cast — Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Timothy Simons, Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole and new series regular Sam Richardson — gave a panel discussion about the upcoming season at NYC’s Paley Center, which was also live-streamed on Yahoo. With the Season 4 premiere just days away, they approached spoilers with unsurprising trepidation, but still revealed a couple of new tidbits — including that the first episode features a scandalous, mutual ball-cupping performed by Simons and Patton Oswalt, and that Hugh Laurie’s new character will be charming, but perhaps duplicitous. Outside of genitalia-and-guest-star-centric hints, the cast mostly discussed the show’s singular writing process, dissected their characters’ vast incompetencies, and reminisced about their favorite moments from the show thus far. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus acknowledges the weird hilarity of the a show called Veep that’s now just about the president:

I found out [about Selina’s presidency] about a third of the way through Season 3. Armando took me aside and he said ‘what would you think if we were going to do this?’ And I said, ‘Let’s do it, change it up, throw out the concept altogether, why not?!’

Louis-Dreyfus, on the particular challenge that faces Selina this season (not to mention the fact that this could be an indication of just how ephemeral her presidency will be):

The timing for her is completely unfortunate. She’s coming into the very last bit of the term to take over for President Hughes. Which leaves her with eight months of being president, which means she has to campaign vigorously, and try to make her mark as president, and we all know how simple that is to do in eight months. So she’s got an impossible task ahead.

Louis-Dreyfus, in response to interviewer Alan Sepinwall’s question about whether Selina’s aware most of her staff is professionally inept, and why she keeps them around:

You’ll notice that Selina isn’t that great at her job, so it’d stand to reason. She’s not a great judge of character or a great judge, I would say. I think it stands to reason she might surround herself by nincompoops.

Sepinwall gives the cast members a moment to defend their professionalism by asking them to list their rarer good qualities; the question clearly leads the actors to stretch:

Walsh: Eating, denial and taking a bullet for Selina. Cole: Maps, graphs, and little else. Richardson: Politeness… Professional politeness. Chlumsky: Amy’s the opposite. Bossiness. Strategizing. Whether or not they’re actually good strategies remains to be seen. But she can do them. She can make the strategies!

Louis-Dreyfus explaining reports that say the show isn’t improvised, but discuss an improvisational component in the process:

I have been on a show that preps like this. What happens is, for those of you who don’t know, we will have a script, and we will take that script and rehearse it for days. Rehearsing it often means putting the script aside and opening it up. But we’re doing it with writers present. We’re not just doing it for jokes, we’re doing it for behavior and story points perhaps, so then they get folded into the writing, and then a new script comes, and then we rehearse that script… The show is written, but our improvisational skills are definitely tested.

When asked about the favorite insults they got to deliver:

Louis-Dreyfus: “Jolly Green Jizzface.” Chlumsky: “That’s about as useless as using a croissant for a dildo.” Dunn: I don’t know if it made the show, but “Herman Cuntster.” [Referring to Jonah] Walsh: A lot of them go to Jonah — I think I said that Sasquatch raped his mother and he was born. Dunn: There was a scaffolding one. Simons: “Unstable piece of human scaffolding.” Other people have been insulted on this show. Certainly we can think of one. In the first season, my [real-life] wife was pregnant, and one of the jokes they put in was — when [Amy] had to take that pregnancy for Selina — Dan says, “oh shit, is that Jonah’s kid? They’re going to be pulling that kid out of you in shifts.” And I remember thinking, “That’s a really funny joke. Oh, fuck, my wife is actually going to be having my child. That’s going to be uncomfortable.”

Patton Oswalt wanted Sepinwall to ask if he and Timothy Simons were “still cool” after a particularly personal scene they shared in Oswalt’s guest appearance in the first episode of Season 4:

Simons: We’re absolutely still cool. Dunn: I just remember Patton in that makeup trailer going, “I have to fondle Tim’s balls.” He was like, “Wow, I wonder what it’s going to be like today? Cup his balls? Grab his balls?” Tim: There was a silent negotiation between Patton and I in the lead-up, because I don’t know if he’s ever been in a sex scene before, but I haven’t because nobody wants to see that. Cole: A sex scene?! That’s not a sex scene. Louis-Dreyfus: Have you had sex? Because that is not how it works. Tim: I think I know what it is, I got my wife pregnant. I think I have a solid idea… you come up next to them and grab their genitals… What I’m trying to say if I could get these fucking jokers off my back for a second is that I’ve never had to navigate any coworker’s genitalia at work before. I’ve never had to do that. There was a silent negotiation: wardrobe comes up and goes, “Do you want to wear a cup?” And Patton and I are just standing next to each other about to do this, like, “I mean, do you? I mean, should I…? I mean, maybe you wear it?” Ultimately, you both get so uncomfortable. But when it happens, you know — when you have sex — there’s a lot of negative space in the hand.

Then, as an awkward segue, Sepinwall says, “Julia, you’ve spent a lot of time with Joe Biden”:

Louis-Dreyfus: [Joking] What are you implying? Sepinwall: I should have put a buffer between those questions. Louis-Dreyfus: I have had many opportunities to hang out with Joe Biden. At first he didn’t want to meet when we first started the show — he had no idea what we were doing and probably thought, “Oh God, what if this is a parody of me?” But after the show was on the air for a year, we began to communicate. He couldn’t have been more charming, and was very forthcoming about the position and reiterated something Al Gore had told me, which is that it completely hinges on the relationship you have with the president, and how you set that up… When I went to the White House to meet him, we were going to hang out and have lunch. Someone in his office met me, and she goes, “Oh my God, you have to know I’m the Dan Egan of this office.” And I thought, “Oh wow, we’re onto something.”

A member of the audience asks whether there will be any new love interests for Selina this season:

Louis-Dreyfus: We allude to something, but beyond that not particularly this season. But next season, I’m going to have so much sex.

Another audience member lauds their timing and asks whether it comes from actual experience working on political campaigns:

Simons: One time in college — I don’t know if this counts. But I went to go see Jello Biafra, the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, and he was giving a speech, and he convinced everyone in the room to vote for Ralph Nader. I don’t know if that counts, but that’s about as close as I’ve come.

On reactions to the show’s partisan ambiguity from actual Democrats and Republicans:

Dunn: They all think it’s about the other party. Simons: And even more so to that point, we were able to go to the correspondents dinner last year, and not only every party, but every individual politician thinks it’s about everybody else but them.

Louis-Dreyfus, on Selina’s controversial new haircut:

I’m very aware of the fact that female politicians are scrutinized for their look, and if there’s a change to the look, or even if there isn’t a change to the look, that seems to be what people are most interested in talking about, often, instead of the legislation they’re trying to put forth. So I thought, “That’d be fun, let’s change her hair” and see what comes of it. And if it looks good, great, and if it looks bad, great.

Louis-Dreyfus on Hugh Laurie’s role in the upcoming season:

He is awesome. We’re honored to have him on the show. He’s playing a politician. He’s playing someone who’s quite affable, but maybe isn’t exactly what you think he is, and that’s all we can say at this point.