Compared to his coworkers, Matt Walsh's Mike McLintock, the VP's Director of Communications, looks practically well-adjusted in that his life isn't completely consumed by work -- he did, after all, manage to buy the boat that's now decimating his finances. Indiewire checked in with actor, comedian and Upright Citizens Brigade founding member Walsh and had him walk us through last night's episode "The Vic Allen Dinner," which found his character assisting Selina to a rare PR success -- though of course it backfired immediately.
Mike and Dan Egan (Reid Scott) run into Kent Davidson (Gary Cole), and while Dan continues to strike out with the implacable senior strategist, Mike finds unexpected common ground with the guy when the conversation turns toward sailing -- the first time his pricey purchase has worked out in his favor.
I think buying a boat is an indicator of a slight bipolar mood disorder for Mike. It's one of those purchases where you think you’re going to be happy and everything is going to get better -- an idealized life that you think you’re going to have. Mike thinks he’s going to use it to go out and commune with nature, maybe start fishing and become a better sailor. In reality he probably just keeps it in the dock and drinks on it during the weekend. Everyone in the office, their lives have just become Selina, and their personal lives suffer. I don’t know if it's a band-aid for his personal life but I think he hoped it would resurrect his social life. He's a novice seaman, but he enjoys the ideal of it, the clothes and the lore around it.
It's up to the writers as far as what they want to create for the outside world. When I came back for the second season, they were laughing that Mike's big thing this season is getting rid of this boat he purchased. That is perhaps the entirety of what we see of Mike's outside life this season. In this case with Kent it's an unlikely pairing because Kent, as a robot, shows a passion for something that's human and Mike, fortunately for him who just wants to be liked and fly under the radar, is a benefactor of that.
The VP's office learns that a photo of Selina checking her phone during the rescue of hostages in Uzbekistan has gone viral -- "Can you delete it off the internet? No, I don't know what I'm talking about!" Mike yells into the phone, while Selina refers to the more Reddit/Tumblr-savvy Jonah (Timothy Simons) as "jolly green jizz face."
Mike is definitely old media. He is not very savvy about the way the internet works or the way it travels, and he is better with human interactions and currying favors from past relationships. He's a bit of a grandpa when it comes to social media.
Some of [the show's elaborate insults] are hilarious, you just have to rehearse them over and over and make sure the funny image you're conjuring is attached to the words. One of the things I struggle with is that we are all quite friendly and in the show we are incredibly mean and brutal to each other, so it's important to reestablish those friendships after a show or a season, because you spend so much time burying each other with insults that you do want to go out and grab a drink afterwards to keep it healthy. We're professionals, but there is value in just hanging out and being nice like we all are. If we didn't, it would maybe bleed into our personal lives.
Mike and Dan take a break from writing a parody song for Selina to sing at the Vic Allen dinner to follow Jonah through the halls to see what he's up to.
This is actually one scene that we blocked two or three times because it was tricky. We have a new West Wing set and it's very much like a hive like the real West Wing, so we had to choreograph exactly where we were going to say the lines and time in all the turns. It was like a real "West Wing" scene from the old Aaron Sorkin show. That was fun, with the classic walk and talk. The challenge with that, because we are totally not doing our jobs, was to not make it too broad because there are people working who may be wondering what the hell these people were up to. So we had to tone it down as we did it.
We did a couple of West Wing and DC tours where we did research for the first season, and one of the things we found out was that there is a very high school element to it. There's an article that comes out in Politico or one of the other periodicals, "50 Sexiest Hill People," and people care about it in the way you would in high school with a popularity contest or prom queen.
The song the two are working on has been shifted from one about the new Speaker of the House to one more bipartisan -- so Mike decides to have them write new lyrics about Kent based on Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."
Mike's a little dated on his music, so the writers thought it'd be funny for him to pick a hit from the 1970s -- that's true to form for him.
As far as it having value, obviously politics is an image game where there's a high profile victory to be had with something human. They invest in it because it does pay dividends. If you're the funniest person at the correspondent's dinner, that could effect polling. The thing about Mike is that he thinks he has a genius sense of humor -- he's completely blind to his tackiness.
At the dinner, Selina's political rival, Minnesota Governor Danny Chung (Randall Park), impresses the crowd with some beat-boxing, but Selina follows it up with a rare moment of triumph when the "50 Ways" song goes over well.
I think it is important for Selena to have victories for the show to be realistic. She is adept at the game of politics and she has many talents -- when they all come back to the office, I thought "Gosh, we haven't had many of those moments.” It was nice to see her succeed, and even if we don't see Mike, I'm sure he was boasting to Dan about how great his song was and how he put so much effort into it.
I don't know if it made the final cut, but there's a scene where Dan once more is shut down by Kent, and you just see Mike and Dan raiding the bar as it's closing. That sequence was something that we shot in pieces -- it was one of the long days they approached by shooting all of the crowd stuff right away and then letting everyone go and we'd try to get the stuff at the table. I love the scene where Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) is trying to say Amy has an eating disorder in a very blunt way.
Kent ends up picking Mike rather than Dan for his two week metrics program, where Mike looks woefully out of his element.
I was just playing this as "I don't want to be exposed as an idiot." Mike was put in a room of brilliant nerds and he's afraid to ask for help because it'll show how stupid he is. It's a bit of a hell for Mike -- he's constantly getting buried, and he's also scared that Kent is going to find out that he made the wrong choice. He doesn't want to ruin his relationship with Kent, because it is useful and it's good to have a tie to the President's office, so he's doing all he can to put up a front.
[The show's characters] are a skewed group of human beings, but if Mike is being graded on a curve, then in a way he's built for the pace of politics. It can be very slow -- it's like a marathon -- and he's been hammered down a bit, like Selina. He's secure in his relationship with Selina and he's seen enough things where he doesn't sweat about the little things. He has a bit of wisdom, and he's not going to worry about these youngsters who try to run him out. He's seen a lot of them come and go and at the end of the day he wants to enjoy his job.