You can see Julia Louis-Dreyfus almost every day. Just start flipping around the channels and there’s bound to be a rerun of Seinfeld playing. And there you’ll find Julia showing off her comedy skills as Jerry Seinfeld’s gal-pal Elaine. The much acclaimed NBC sitcom ran for nine seasons and earned Louis-Dreyfus an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress. Later she would star in her own CBS comedy, The New Adventures of Old Christine. It had a nice five season run and gave Louis-Dreyfus a chance to crow about “breaking the so-called ‘Seinfeld curse,’” when she was honored with an Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a comedy.
So how can you top that? How about starring as the first woman who tackles the job of Vice President of the United States in the satirical new comedy series VEEP? HBO will launch the eight-episode season on April 22. “It’s an incredibly funny situation,” Louis-Dreyfus, 51, said about her new V.P. role. “She discovers the job is nothing like she expected, but everything she was warned about.”
Talking about how she got involved with VEEP, Louis-Dreyfus said, “When I heard there was a show in development about an unhappy vice president, that immediately appealed to me. I was familiar with the work of the creator of the show, Armando Iannucci. I loved the style of his In the Loop movie, for which he got an Oscar nomination. When we first got together, he was incredibly funny, and what was supposed to be a 30-minute chat turned into a three-hour meeting. We got along really well.”
Louis-Dreyfus reported she felt strangely comfortable in the part from the very beginning. “The best part was that Armando and I share a comedic sensibility. Also, we had the massive benefit of extensive rehearsals for every episode, which is unheard of in doing a comedy series. It’s such a luxury to have the time to work on the material.” The show also stars Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Reid Scott, and Timothy C. Simons.
In VEEP, Julia plays Selina Meyer, a former Senator who becomes Vice President. The various personal aspects of her life as the V.P. are revealed in the comedy. Louis-Dreyfus said, “You’ll see her residence and you’ll meet her daughter. And she’s going to have a boyfriend. You’ll see her attending a lot of fundraisers and travel across the country,” just like the real politicians do.
Although VEEP will try to keep things very factual, Louis-Dreyfus reminds that it is a comedy and there will be a lot of laughs at everyone’s expense. “It’s not a partisan show in any way, and we are not parodying a particular person, male or female. It’s really a show about political behavior, as opposed to politics. You will see people making wrong decisions for the right reasons, and right decisions for the wrong reasons. Nothing is black and white.” That conflict of decision-making is fertile ground for comedy to grow.
There was much research done for the show, from all the executives involved. Along with Iannucci, Frank Rich and Christopher Godsick are executive producers, and Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche are co-executive producers. Even Louis-Dreyfus, who is also acting as a hands-on producer, did research on her own. She spent some time on Capitol Hill, meeting people behind the scenes, “and I had the good fortune to talk with some vice presidents about their experiences.” Julia is discreet about her meetings and would not mention which V.P.’s gave her the low-down on the gig. But she did let it slip that she knows former Vice President Al Gore, and that was helpful in preparing for her role.
Along with comical storylines about how the White House deals with Congress, VEEP will also find humor in the situations that get into the vice presidential duties that change depending on the whim of the president.
Louis-Dreyfus not only loves her new role, she said she’ll be taking the role of vice president “very seriously. And although this is a comedy, I don’t think there is anything funny about being a heartbeat away from the presidency.”