'Veep' Director Raises Awareness for Kids with Learning Disabilities

Stephanie Laing partnered with nonprofit Understood to create a Mother's Day video.
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Stephanie Laing

Veep executive producer and director Stephanie Laing is celebrating Mother's Day with a PSA.

The former Eastbound & Down producer — an advocate for kids with learning disabilities, spurred on by her own 11year-old son’s struggles in the classroom — partnered with organization Understood to create a video that would raise awareness of those with learning and attention difficulties.

Laing credits the HBO series with inspiring her to get more involved with the issue. “Veep opened my eyes to politics and trying to make a difference,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “We meet some really interesting people as part of that show.”

In this Sunday’s episode, which Laing directed, Hugh Laurie makes his series debut. Laing was mum when it came to details about his character, acknowledging only that he's "an absolutely amazing addition to the cast."

THR caught up with Laing to discuss why directing Veep is like parenting 150 children, her involvement with the nonprofit and what's going on with her own production company, Good Content.

In addition to executive producing and directing Veep, you’re currently working on Danny McBride’s upcoming HBO series Vice Principals. When did you find time to make this video on the side?

Well, we shot that Veep episode back in November. And the first episode I did was episode two, which we shot in September, so we’ve been in post for very long time, which is great because we have time to edit the shows and deliver them the best they can be. It’s just a matter of finding the time for the things that you’re passionate about. With Understood, even if I had been shooting Veep at the time, I would still take four hours to go do it. I also have a great team, my producing partner Jay Feather and my directing partner Matt Peccini. They worked harder then I did. The three of us put it together and we were really, really pleased with the way it came out.

And you have your own production company designed to make these sorts of videos, right?

Yeah, my business partner Jay and I formed a company called Good Content. In addition to developing, well, good content (laughs), we really wanted to work with organizations to create PSAs to help give a voice to something. Whether it’s through humor or tears, I thought we could make a difference by bringing content creators into that world.

How then did you get involved with Understood?

It’s disheartening when someone tells you that your son doesn’t look good on paper. You’re going, “Well, wait. He’s only nine years old, so that’s not a very nice thing to say.” It makes your blood boil and makes you want to get out there and advocate for other kids. So when Understood called me — I had written an article for Huffington Post about my son and the people at Understood read it and contacted me — I knew who they were because I had seen another video they had done, where they had kids talking about what it was like to have a learning disability. It’s a very personal subject for me, and I was really moved by it. Then I joined the Parental Advisory Council because I hoped to continue the relationship with them in any way.

What was your goal with the kids in the video?

We decided to have them write a Mother’s Day card, per se. We wanted to see them thank their mothers. These are amazing kids and they were so brave to come and talk about their learning deficiencies. I was super impressed with them. Hopefully this will bring attention to Understood, which is a tremendous resource for parents and children.

I would imagine directing a few kids was very different from your experience on Veep.

I’m a mother of three kids, but sometimes when I’m working I feel like I’m a mother of 150. When I was doing this week’s episode, it felt like being a mother — a juggling, crazy-person mother. We have an amazing cast, but we have a lot of scenes where 12 people are talking at the same time, and you’ve got five days to get this material in. If you're a mother or a father, you’ll feel that pace when you watch it of being under the wire trying to get something to happen. It’s funny, I’ve got two completely diverse things that I just directed coming out on the same weekend!

Check out the video:

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