To anyone who criticized Veep for not taking a realistic enough approach to D.C. politics: you may want to read this.
During Thursday night’s PaleyFest panel at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Veep‘s creator, producer and head writer Armando Iannucci sat down with a panel moderated by senior editor Stacey Wilson of the Hollywood Reporter. Cast members Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Selina Meyer), Tony Hale (Gary Walsh), Reid Scott (Dan Egan), Timothy Simons (Jonah Ryan), Matt Walsh (Mike McLintock), Sufe Bradshaw (Sue Wilson), Kevin Dunn (Ben Caffrey) and Gary Cole (Kent Davison) also attended.
While comedy — especially the role that improvising plays on the show — was one of the recurring topics of the night, the intersection that Veep has with real-life politics was most interesting. And terrifying.
“You’ll do a storyline, and you’ll think it’s the most ridiculous story you’ve ever come up with, and it comes out, and [a D.C. insider] will say, ‘How did you find that out?'” Iannucci told the audience. “It’s been gratifying to hear people who are watching it say it’s accurate — frightening — but gratifying.” Iannucci didn’t say which moments in the show accidentally echo real life, but anyone who watches Veep knows it can’t augur too well for American politics.
Keeping specific names out of the discussion, Iannucci also explained how real-life politicians have requested to appear on Veep. The answer is no — although Iannucci made a comment that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a fine casting choice for POTUS (Kevin Dunn said he’d like to see Gary Busey in the role). Any instance in which a politician appeared on the show would raise too many questions.
“If a living politician — a recognizable politician — turned up, you then say, ‘Well, he’s a Democrat. So, is Obama the president?’ The whole thing starts unraveling.” So, don’t expect any Joe Biden cameos, Parks and Rec-style. “There’s a ban on politics in the show, actually,” Iannucci said.
Still, Beltway insiders quickly identify the characters on the Hill. “I’ve been told by Obama’s press office that they’ve just come out of a meeting and there were two Jonahs and three Dans there,” Iannucci said. Timothy Simons who plays West Wing wanna-be Jonah said that real-life politicians who think Veep satirizes every politician but themselves are exactly the right target for the show. “We’re definitely making fun of them,” Simons said.
Even President Bill Clinton loves the show, according to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Clinton told Dreyfus at an event, “You know what’s great about your part [as VP] is that there are no term limits.”
The cast has met a few D.C. players seduced into the world of politics by the world of television. Timothy Simons, Reid Scott and Matt Walsh recalled going to a Washington Wizards basketball game with D.C. staffers and asking them what drew them to politics. Their answer? The West Wing. Folks on the Hill are also watching Scandal, which according to Scott, they enjoy for the melodrama, House of Cards for the “drama-drama” and Veep because “it’s the most accurate.” Scott concluded with a laugh, “We’re all screwed.”
Kevin Dunn, who plays the President’s chief of staff, later said: “People really want to deny even if they’re aware that D.C. is a lot like that because if they do draw connections, they’d be so depressed they would no longer engage in the political process.”
Veep is back on HBO, Sunday, Apr. 6, if you’d like to check out that political process for yourself. Prepare for season three with our Veep binge guide.
See photos from PaleyFest 2014 for Veep and other shows here.