For its penultimate panel, PaleyFest screened the Season 3 premiere of “Veep” and followed it up with a very lively Q&A session with creator Armando Iannucci and stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Matt Walsh, Reid Scott, Sufe Bradshaw and Timothy Simons. Veteran actors Kevin Dunn and Gary Cole, who both had major recurring roles in Season 2 which will continue into Season 3, also joined the panel.
The panel felt like a self-contained, behind-the-scenes episode of the show, as the cast engaged in spontaneous, humorous bits with one another. The cast’s rapport didn’t come as a surprise, but at times it felt strange to watch such a polished, un-cut “performance” right before our eyes.
It was as if we got a glimpse of what it’s like on the set of “Veep” — or, at least what we would like to think it’s like.
That said, here are 10 things we learned:
Iannucci managed to sneak into the State Department.
Iannucci’s 2009 Academy Award nominated film “In the Loop” was set in the State Department so he wanted to visit the office “for authenticity reasons,” as he put it, and “to see what it was like.”
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At the time, Iannucci was working for the BBC so he had a press identification card that, he was told, could get him in:
I had a little BBC pass, which was just my photograph and my name next to it, so a 3-year-old with a primitive app could have come up with it. There was no watermark or anything. Just that. And this journalist said, go up to the front of the State Department and say, “BBC, I’m here for the 12:30,” and that’s what I did, I went with my friend, my assistant Sean Gray, who is now one of the writers on the show. He was about 22 at the time. So this little boy and me wandered up to the front of the State Department, and I say, “12:30, BBC. I’m here for the 12:30,” and they showed us in. And I thought we would be escorted in, but we weren’t. We just went through the door. We started wandering around the State Department. And I thought the art department will want to see what it looks like so we started filming, taking photographs, and thinking that this is fun, but also technically international espionage. And then a big guy approach us and said, “Excuse me?’ and I said, “We’re here for the 12:30,” and he said, “Yeah, it’s just down there.”
Iannucci went on to vaguely mention how “this story came up in some press thing,” which subsequently triggered Hilary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, to order an inquiry into the matter. When they discovered that the story was indeed true, the State Department increased their security. “[Clinton] is now alive because of me,” Iannucci said cheekily.
The vice president character was written for a woman from the start.
Iannucci said he wanted to make the show “forward-thinking, rather than retrospective as it were.”
Imagine Liza Minnelli playing Selina Meyer.
Matt Walsh decided to playfully “stir up some controversy,” — perhaps in response to the Iannucci-Louis-Dreyfus’ lovefest about how they ended up working together on the show — by suggesting that Louis-Dreyfus was not actually Iannucci’s first choice for the role. Always on his game, Iannucci quipped: “Miss Minnelli was not available.”
For a city with so many secrets and intrigue, D.C. isn’t very good at keeping them.
While Hale, Walsh, Scott and Simons were all in D.C. doing research on their roles, they took a group of young staffers to drinks in order to pick their brain about working on the ground in the nation’s capital. “They were only too willing to spill everything,” said Scott. “They were really excited that someone was going to take on a show that was going to show their side of politics. Like how gritty and messy it kind of is. And that was actually where we got a lot of the affectations.”
The “two phones” and the “pencil-fuck” are just two examples of said affectations.
You’ll never meet a Jonah in D.C. — or at least you won’t know you have when you do.
Simons said he has been asked many times whether he has met his real-life counterpart in D.C.. The answer he always gives is “no.” “I never have,” Simons said, “because I think if this happens — if somebody on The Hill is going to be like, ‘Y’know I’m going to go grab drinks with Tony Hale, Matt Walsh and Reid Scott and some other fucking guy that nobody knows, and they are going to do this show about D.C.’ Jonah is not getting invited to that.” Truth.
“I mean I might have met one,” Simons continued, “but he would have introduced himself as a Dan.”
Iannucci agreed and went on to explain how Jonah was actually inspired by a self-important man Iannucci met while conducting research for the show on site at The White House. When Iannucci asked to schedule a meeting with this “Jonah,” he made a fuss and would make excuses about being too busy, which was quite puzzling to Iannucci given the fact that he had no trouble meeting President Obama’s personal assistant Reggie Love and other senior White House officials.
“Veep” is a more accurate depiction of Washington D.C. than “The West Wing” or “House of Cards.”
While talking with a D.C. staffer who was around the same age, Scott decided to ask about how she got interested in politics. She responded that she and most of the people she works alongside, “grew up watching ‘The West Wing’ and how glossy and beautiful and Camelot they made the whole thing seem.” In recent years, however, the staffer noted that shows like “Scandal,” “House of Cards” and “Veep,” have shifted their focus to the bureaucratic shenanigans that characterize most of D.C. politics. “Veep,” however, she contended, is the most accurate of the bunch.
VEEP met POTUS — just not the one she works for.
At a charity event recently, former President Bill Clinton approached Louis-Dreyfus and told her how much he loves the show. She thanked him for the compliment, and he proceeded to quip: “Y’know what’s great about your part? No term limits.”
Armando on conceptualizing Season 3:
Prior to Season 1, Iannucci focused on factual research because he needed to learn about the D.C. political machine. With Season 3, however, he took a different approach. “I kind of took you three [Louis-Dreyfus, Hale and Walsh] out to lunch and just said, ‘You’ve all inhabited your characters, you know so much, you’ve done the research yourself…so actually I’m going to fire questions at you as your characters.'” Iannucci referred to them as “little therapy sessions” during which he would ask his leads, who were in character of course, about their greatest fear, their worst memory and their greatest hope — among other things.
By digging into the character backgrounds, Iannucci was able to launch into some of the season’s story arcs.
No, real-life politicians will not be making any appearance in the show.
Although politicians frequently make request to cameo on the show, Iannucci says that we won’t be seeing them onscreen any time soon. Not only is scheduling an issue, but also Iannucci points out that including real-life politicians would tip the balance of the “parallel universe” that has been created specifically for the show — a space where we do not have any information about her political ideology, nor do we know anything about POTUS.
“The funny thing [is] I feel like politicians that ask to be on the show,” added Simons, “that means that they are sitting in their home watching it and thinking, ‘This is about every other politician, but me. I’m not like that.’ We are definitely making fun of that person.”
Shooting in the limo:
Walsh admitted that he “breaks [character] the most” when they shoot scenes in the limo. “It’s really cramped and there’s a camera man on your shoulder and it’s always hot,” he said. “For some reason I always giggle, and I feel we giggle the most whenever we do those limo scenes.
The rest of the cast agreed. “There’s something in the air in those cars,” Dunn added.
The difference between the way the British and Americans approach politics:
“There is a long tradition in the U.K. of being unafraid of satirizing politicians,” Iannucci pointed out. Whereas in the United States, where the President functions as both the head of state and head of government, in the U.K., these two designations are divided between the Prime Minister and the reigning monarch, respectively. “There is a sort of reverence about the office, if not about the person, but at least the office,” continued Iannucci. “I’ve detected more of a reluctance to be so comedic about the goings on in the White House.”