But while the acclaimed HBO sitcom was introduced in 2012 as the latest Julia Louis-Dreyfus vehicle to hit the small-screen, it’s since emerged as the very best ensemble piece on television. From primary players including Reid Scott and Tony Hale, to cast additions Gary Cole and Kevin Dunn, to recurring players like Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Randall Park, too many actors to count have had ample opportunity to shine on “Veep.”
Last night, Louis-Dreyfus was joined by some of her co-stars at the Paley Center in New York for “An Evening with the Cast of Veep,” moderated by TV critic Alan Sepinwall. Joining them in attendance were cast members Anna Chulmsky, Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, Matt Walsh and new cast addition Sam Richardson.
Louis-Dreyfus was her usual funny self, but the supporting cast came into (hilarious) focus at the event, as well. Below, check out our eight favorite revelations about the “Veep” supporting players.
Timothy Simons thinks about what Jonah’s good at — a lot.
Sepinwall asked the cast members to go down the line and say what they think their respective characters are best at be it political or not. While most of the answers were rather brief — Dunn described his character Ben as one who “delegates, deflects and drinks” — Simons surprised his co-stars with a lengthy answer about Jonah.
“I think he thinks he’s a charmer,” Simons said. “And he does actually have a good understanding of the Internet. This is a first season thing; I think he’s good while out on the campaign trial, choosing which menu items will be them most popular to the locals. I feel like he is actually good at that.” Louis-Dreyfus, quite amused by her castmate’s lengthy response, shot back “”You have given this enormous thought!”
Kevin Dunn and Gary Cole weren’t welcomed with open arms (or maybe they were kidding).
If there’s one big idea to take away from the discussion, it’s that the cast of “Veep” is so comfortable together that they are able to effortlessly, mercilessly poke fun at one another. When Sepinwall asked Dunn and Cole what it was like to join the cast in Season 2, Dunn drew roars for his response, “We found that there was just a lot of resentment when we came on, didn’t we?” Cole kept the bit rolling, dryly commenting, “It wasn’t very welcoming,” before Louis-Dreyfus jokingly chimed in by describing the welcome ritual: “Their check cleared. Welcome!”
Tony Hale is notorious for breaking.
Though Tony Hale couldn’t be in attendance, the rest of the “Veep” team had good fun explaining what he’s best known for: failing to keep a straight face.
In describing a scene in “The Special Relationship” (better known as the ‘London’ episode), Louis-Dreyfus explained how Walsh, while shooting, accidentally knocked over “this beautiful, giant English tea set.” According to her, if you watch the episode closely, you can see Hale turned away from the camera, laughing hysterically: “Tony is notorious — he cannot keep his act together. He turned his back to the camera to laugh through his performance.”
Guest stars get thrown into a strange, intimidating dynamic.
It’s no secret that “Veep” insults tend to reflect the actors’ appearance. While the regular cast (chiefly Simons) may be used to such mockery, guest stars end up walking into insults they may not be prepared for. Kevin Dunn remembered one awkward situation, in which a joke for the show doubled as an insult towards the actor. “To the wonderful actor who played the Congressman, I said he had no lips. I made that up, and then it kind of stuck. He came to work, and I was like ‘Oh, you’re the guy who sells lips!'”
As Chlumsky put, you need to have thick skin on the set of “Veep,” whether you’re on all the time or just for an episode. “All of us has had at least one that has just kind of needled at us. Like, I’m not fat!” But for Patton Oswalt, who is set to recur this season, the task was much different (if equally daunting). Dunn, trying not to burst out laughing, sufficiently explained the challenge: “I just remember Patton in the makeup trailer going ‘I have to fondle [Timothy Simon’s] balls. He was like, ‘Wow, I wonder what it’s going to be like today.'” And speaking of that…
Timothy Simons likened his dynamic with Patton Oswalt to a “sex scene.”
Here’s one moment that a simple recap can’t do justice. Around the 27-minute mark, Simons gives a lengthy description of sex scenes and his dynamic with Oswalt and, well… it’s glorious. If there’s one excerpt that’s worth watching, it’s this one. (A link to the full video can be found at the bottom of this post.)
One of Mike’s best character moments was completely accidental.
In one rapid-fire “Veep” scene, Mike is making a pitch to Selina, who’s sitting in a chair. As the scene was originally written, Selina darts out of the room when she spots Dan. But when Louis-Dreyfus followed the script and shifted location, Walsh didn’t even notice the scene had ended.
As Louis-Dreyfus recounts the shoot, “[Matt] still thinks [I’m] sitting in the chair. So he’s pitching to this empty chair while the scene is happening down the hallway, and then [Selina] comes back into the other end of the office, and she — she’s just gotten information that [Mike] should have given her, of course — and she screams “Mike!” And that came out of rehearsal, and the fact that we pulled that off — that was like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”
Gary Cole was given very clear instructions (and didn’t get any help from his time on “The West Wing”)
As Kent Davison, Gary Cole has been tasked with playing a character who could be reasonably mistaken for a robot. When asked how the character was described to him, Cole responded, “I got very clear instructions the first time I met and actually read with Julia: [Kent] is somebody that’s highly intelligent, but had absolutely zero charisma or skills with people. [He] is emotionless to a degree, especially when he’s saying something that another person would perceive as brutal.”
Sepinwall followed up by asking how previously playing the Vice President on “The West Wing” might inform his “Veep” performance. Cole simply shook his head and cracked, “It’s another planet with the same furniture.”
Sam Richardson made quite the impression, including on his fellow cast members.
Originally signed up for a single episode, Sam Richardson (who plays Richard) kept getting the call for additional episodes before finally being signed as a series regular for Season 4. “I came in as a guest in Season 3, Episode 1 on the book tour […] where I was the most unhelpful helper. We just got to play around a lot on that scene and it was just so much fun. And then I got word, ‘You’re coming back for Episode 2,’ — and it was, like, exciting! And then I came back for Episode 10 of Season 3 and I was hoping […] then they said, ‘Hey, welcome to the show for Season 4.”
Kevin Dunn followed up Richardson’s explanation by providing the definitive moment when the “Veep” team knew they had something special. As he recalled to him, “Your first scene in that church […] we just realized we could leave the sound on. Remember, in the church? We just left and Sam just kept going and going […] with this monologue.”