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by Alison Willmore
April 18, 2012 12:25 PM
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Armando Iannucci on 'Veep,' Politics and the Inherent Funniness of Being Vice President

It seems like a theme that while there are large issues of national importance in the background, like green energy, everyone's always getting tangled in issues of minutiae, like signing condolence cards or changing the names of hurricanes that haven't yet happened.

As the show progresses, you'll see that larger issues do come to the foreground. In episode four, Selina deals with a potential rival. In episode five, some major legislation is halted. There's a journey taken in the whole season -- we start with her, her office, her staff and the things that preoccupy her on daily basis. As the series progresses, we get a view of the wider world out there and what kind of impact she can have on it or how it affects her. We also get more insight to how it personally affects her in terms of private life, but also emotionally and what kind principles she has.

Do you see Selina as being good at her job, as being a good politician?

I think she's steely. She tends not to panic. She feels her staff aren't necessarily helping her as well as they could. We wanted to make sure that she had had an established career in Washington and that you could see why she was asked to be vice president. It's not a close relationship she has with the president. It could be that he thought she could get him lots of female voters, or some East Coast states that he might not have appealed to. It's a pragmatic relationship. Even though it's a comedy, we didn't want her to be a buffoon, somebody who bangs into walls and falls over. She knows her way around D.C.

In the past, you've shot using multiple cameras and leaving some room for improv -- has that changed at all when working on "Veep"?

Nope, that's how we shot it. We built a set that allowed us to have it lit all over so we didn't need to start and stop all the time. We didn't put marks down. We block it, we shoot the script as it's written and then I ask the actors to loosen the lines up so they feels more conversational. People are allowed to speak over each other and not wait for clean cues.

In doing that, you actually start to capture a lot of the freneticism that does occur in these situations. When people are panicking or worried, they say strange things and react in peculiar ways. The process that I just described is all about trying to get that reaction on camera, trying to capture that sense of people genuinely making things up as they go along.

Have watched this and "In the Loop" and "The Thick of It," I have to wonder if you feel that there's something fundamentally self-defeating about political systems.

I think so, and it's not that I'm cynical about politics. I hope that when you watch this stuff, that you can sympathize with the characters, that you can see that they're human and that you can also see the absurdity of the situation we put them into -- the fact the we expect them to have the right answer at any time of day or night. Also, I do feel that because of this constant scrutiny, they've become slightly petrified.

Politics have ground to a halt. People don't talk to each other, people don't explain anymore. They're too scared mention anything, so now they define themselves by what they're not. You get congressmen going back to their districts and saying "Vote for me because I voted against that, I stopped that from happening, I'm not that person." I think that's why, although people are politically hungry for information, they feel frustrated they they're not getting that information from politics. That's really the feeling I've arrived at having done this show.

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