14 Presidential Facts About Veep
The comedy Veep stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer, a woman surrounded by foul-mouthed staff members dictating all of her actions, all the way to the Presidency. It was created by Armando Iannucci, who created the British political comedy series The Thick Of It, and wrote and directed the Oscar-nominated spinoff film In the Loop (2009). Despite Veep finally taking home the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series for its fourth season, Iannucci left the show. Here are some facts about the series to read before you fall asleep on C-SPAN.
1. ARMANDO IANNUCCI PURPOSELY DIDN'T WATCH OTHER AMERICAN POLITICAL SHOWS WHEN HE DEVELOPED VEEP.
He didn't want to be affected by them, but he had seen and heard enough to notice what was missing to come up with a "starting point" for his new show. "We went into [Veep] thinking that the portrayal of Washington had either been really melodramatic in the dark arts and corruption or heroic and noble and the president is also a qualified jet pilot who can defend America from an alien invasion."
2. LYNDON JOHNSON'S CAREER WAS AN INFLUENCE.
Iannucci read The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro's four-volume series on the life of the former POTUS/VPOTUS. “He found himself sitting in his office just drumming his fingers thinking, I’m doing nothing. But three years later he is president," Iannucci explained. "That’s what I thought was the funny side: Somebody who has a certain amount of influence finding himself diminished but going, ‘No no no, I’m important here.’”
3. JONAH RYAN IS BASED ON A REAL GUY.
Iannucci based the character of Jonah Ryan on a man he met at the White House. When he asked the staffer if they could meet for research purposes, the man made a big deal about how busy he was, even though President Obama's personal assistant and other senior White House officials had made the time. According to Matt Walsh, who plays Mike McLintock, Jonah was originally written as a "fat, short, heavy smoker." After Timothy Simons auditioned, that changed.
4. THEY GOT SOME INTEL BY GETTING D.C. STAFFERS DRUNK.
Actors Matt Walsh, Timothy Simons, Tony Hale (Gary Walsh), and Reid Scott (Dan Egan) took some young White House staffers out for drinks to learn more about the inner workings of Washington, D.C. Scott said they were "only too willing to spill everything" about their work. "Two phones" and "pencil-fu*k" were some of the terms they picked up from the beer summits.
5. SUE WILSON COULD WORK AT THE DMV.
When actress Sufe Bradshaw was trying to figure out the best way to play her no-nonsense, executive assistant character Sue Wilson, she remembered the Department of Motor Vehicles. "DMV workers are strait-laced and go by the book and they don’t have much time because there’s so much to do in a day," Bradshaw noted.
6. IMPROVISATION IS A PART OF THE WRITING PROCESS.
The first step in the writing process is a draft of a formal script. When the actors rehearse the scenes, they work in their own lines. The staff writers take notes and use some of the actors' additions and put those into the shooting script. After filming a few takes off of the final script, they shoot a "fun run" for the actors to ad-lib further.
7. HBO WANTED SELINA MEYER TO HAVE MORE OF A POLITICAL PURPOSE.
After screening the first episode, the network expressed some concerns. "We need to feel she has a set of beliefs—an identity, even if she compromises it, or alters it," HBO told Iannucci in a conference call. This led to Meyer introducing a desire for filibuster reform in the second installment. She also was less inept at her job.
8. THE CHARACTERS PURPOSELY LOOK UNFASHIONABLE.
Iannucci instructed production design and the costume department to dress the offices and characters to be 10 years behind New York, as he feels that is the case with the actual offices and wardrobes in Washington, D.C. Dan Egan, however, gets to look three years ahead of everyone else (making him only seven years behind New Yorkers).
9. MEYER'S TITANIUM-ENFORCED BOX WAS INSPIRED BY BARBARA BOXER.
As part of her research on politicians, Louis-Dreyfus discovered that the California senator stands on a box when speaking.
10. SOMETIMES GARY WALSH IS LOOKING INTO HIS BAG SO THAT TONY HALE CAN HIDE A LAUGH.
When Tony Hale is looking at the ceiling or looking through his bag, he's being "awful and completely unprofessional" and trying not to ruin a take by cracking up. While Hale is usually the worst at keeping a straight face, Matt Walsh admitted he breaks character the most during the limo scenes.
11. BEN CAFFERTY COULD HAVE BEEN KENT DAVISON.
After reading for the role of Kent Davison (which eventually went to Gary Cole), Kevin Dunn asked if he could try out for Ben Cafferty, the President's Chief of Staff. He joined the cast in season two.
12. IT TOOK A WHILE FOR LOUIS-DREYFUS TO REALIZE SHE HAD WORKED WITH KEVIN DUNN BEFORE.
After wrapping up a day of shooting Veep, Louis-Dreyfus randomly found a Seinfeld rerun on TV. She spotted her co-star, Dunn, on the episode. Since Louis-Dreyfus' character Elaine Benes wasn't in the Seinfeld pilot, the first episode she worked on was "Male Unbonding," which featured Dunn as Joel, the friend Jerry tries to break up with.
13. THEY ALWAYS SAY NO TO POLITICAL GUEST STARS.
Iannucci said he frequently gets requests from politicians who want to make cameos, but that he has a policy of saying no because it might tip off Selina's or the POTUS' political ideology.
14. IT'S WATCHED BY SOME SUPREME COURT JUSTICES.
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Elena Kagan told Louis-Dreyfus that she would have lunch once a week with fellow justice Antonin Scalia, where they would talk about Veep.