in conversation

Why Politicians Are Not Allowed on Veep and Other Interesting Facts From Frank Rich’s Conversation With Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Frank Rich. Photo: Steve Zak Photography/Getty Images

New Yorkers gathered Thursday night to get a sneak peek at the season premiere of Veep, followed by a Q&A with star Julia Louis-Dreyfus and executive producer and New York’s own Frank Rich. The conversation veered from why politicians are not allowed on the show to how Selina’s outfits inform her “rage.” Below, we’ve culled 13 of the best moments from their conversation. Selina Meyer begins her expletive-filled tenure as president in the fourth season of the show, which premieres Sunday, April 12 on HBO.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus started doing comedy at three.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus inadvertently started her comedy career at the 92Y in a dance class when was she 3. The wee JLD botched the choreography for the class routine, but she was more than happy to realize it made people laugh. “Of course my mother was mortified, but I thought it was real good! And I stuck with that choreography for the rest of the class,” she said.

Everything on Veep is supposed to look behind the times.
creator Armando Iannucci had strict instructions for the production design and costume departments. Specifically, he wanted everything in Veep to look as “grungy” as D.C. does in real life, with junky offices and mismatching chairs. Rich added, “Armando’s memo said [that] the people of Veep have to dress ten years behind New York, except for Dan, Reid Scott’s character; he’s very sharp … He’s three years ahead of everyone else. He’s seven years behind New York.”

Veep’s fans are bipartisan.
’s writers are careful to avoid indicating which party the characters belong to, but its fans are bipartisan. Not only that, but “they think we’re poking fun [at] the other side,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “It’s true! Depending on who you talk to.” (Joe Biden excitedly texted her when he saw her on the cover of the Amtrak magazine Arrive.)

Justice Scalia is a fan.
Louis-Dreyfus met Justice Kagan at a White House state dinner and began chatting when the judge revealed that the show has an interesting fan on the other side of the aisle — specifically, Justice Scalia. (“Where did we go wrong?” quipped Rich.) Not only that, but as Kagan related to JLD, “She was saying that she gets together once a week with Justice Scalia, and they make a deliberate effort not to talk politics or [work]. They talk about Veep … So they have found common ground.”

Politicians ask to be on the show but are not allowed.
As Rich revealed, politicians are as eager to appear on Veep as they are on other sitcoms like Parks and Rec. “We don’t allow it. We want to have our own world, our own reality,” he explained.

Veep is psychic.
And yet somehow, Veep is prescient. The first episode of the fourth season, which was filmed last fall, shows Selina Meyer experiencing a cringeworthy TelePrompTer fail that’s evokes the slo-mo train wreck of a speech that Sarah Palin freestyled when her own TelePrompTer pooped out. The second episode of the fourth season has a small plot point about a White House florist who gets canned, and wouldn’t you know it? The real-life White House florist Laura Dowling was suddenly let go in February. Plus, the whole “Full Disclosure” episode recalls the Hillary Clinton email mishegoss. As for the use of robust and its sudden popularity in politics, “It’s sort of like yadda yadda yadda,” JLD said with a smile.

It sucks to be a woman in Hollywood over 50.
When it comes to being a woman in Hollywood over 50, Louis-Dreyfus quipped, “It’s a drag, man!” She added, “Although that’s less so in television right now, I would say … But in film, it’s a different deal. You know, you have 55-year-old men with 28-year-old wives, and that happens a lot. I remember Tina [Fey] and Amy [Poehler] made such a funny joke about it. Remember? At the Globes? Not this year, but the year before … The Clooney joke? He’d rather be shot into space than spend any more time onscreen with a woman who’s like within ten years of [his age]. Oh, God.”

JLD had to work hard to get out of her Selina character for Enough Said.
Louis-Dreyfus took the opportunity between seasons to make Enough Said. “I had to really let Selina go to play this, and go to a very different, vulnerable spot that didn’t even resemble Veep,” she said.

About her co-star, the late James Gandolfini, Louis-Dreyfus sighed, “Oh my God, what a genius that guy was. And he was surprisingly insecure as an actor, and of course had no reason to be so, but he was. And that was an amazing thing to witness. I think he had a sort of, I don’t know, almost a little bit of a sense of shame that he was an actor, somehow. He was sort of embarrassed about it. But boy, there was not one thing he didn’t do that wasn’t — I mean, it was true. Everything he did was true and believable, which made my part so much easier because I felt like I was really talking to him.”

Veep takes ideas and details from other politicians all the time.
Louis-Dreyfus “studied a lot of politicians,” stealing details from a wide variety of figures across the board. The infamous titanium-enforced box Selina stands on is inspired by Barbara Boxer, who has her own box to stand on because she’s about JLD’s height. One unique point of inspiration is C-SPAN “because you can see behavior there that you’re not meant to see,” she explained, to the amusement of the audience.

Selina’s outfits “inform [her] rage.”
Selina’s too-chic-for-D.C. threads help the actress get into character. “Wearing this wig and these tight clothes and these shoes that are nuts, it’s all very physically constraining, it actually is. It’s just very sucked in to the whole look, and it feels right. It’s a nice place to start getting really mad … It starts to inform the rage.”

Louis-Dreyfus loves to swear as much as her character does.
Armando Iannucci’s known for his creative use of profanity, and Selina gets a ton of juicy zings in every episode. She also enjoys the occasional swear word in real life, too. Or maybe not so occasional. “I remember once when I had my son … I had him on my hip, he was an early talker, so he was about 15 months old. I was trying to get into the house, and I was rifling through my purse … and he just looks at me and says, ‘Say ‘shit,’ Mommy!’ At least that’s all he said.”

Tony Hale and JLD worked together before but had no memory of it.
Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale both worked on Arrested Development, but they didn’t realize they had any scenes together until someone sent them a photo of them together on set. “Years into Veep, season three, somebody sends a picture of a scene we did together. Neither of us had any memory of it!”

She’d also crossed paths with Kevin Dunn, who plays Ben Caffrey, without realizing it. Dunn appeared on the episode of Seinfeld that marked Elaine’s debut. Late one night after wrapping Veep for the night, she flipped on the TV and saw a Seinfeld rerun. “I saw Kevin! And I had sort of forgotten that Kevin was in the very first episode that I did, because I wasn’t in the Seinfeld pilot … And there was Kevin! And it was 25 or 26 years ago. And I’m looking at it, and I got so nostalgic. I thought, God, I’ve been doing this so fucking long!

Louis-Dreyfus was very intimidated by Frank Rich.
“This is very strange, because we’ve become very good friends doing the show, and now we’re sitting here pretending we’re on a talk show!” said JLD about midway through her chat with Rich. It took the long hours of working Veep together for her to feel comfortable around the writer, though. As their chat wound down, Louis-Dreyfus confessed she was intimidated when she first heard whom she’d be working with: “Frank Rich? Theater critic Frank Rich?” She admitted, “I was frightened of you. And it’s been a miracle and a joy to become friends with you, because there’s nothing to be frightened of.”

The Best Moments From the JLD/Frank Rich Convo