'Veep' Boss Talks Casting John Slattery and Selena's "Risky" New Romance

"When you put the two of them together, it’s sort of spectacular. There was a real crackle," showrunner David Mandel tells THR of the 'Mad Men' star joining forces with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
HBO/Lacey Terrell
'Veep'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 40, "Nev-AD-a," of HBO's Veep.]

When the Veep writers came up with the role of President Selina Meyer's new love interest, only one actor was top of mind.

"It was one of those funny things where almost the moment you come up with it, it was like, “Oh what about John Slattery?” showrunner and executive producer David Mandel tells The Hollywood Reporter.

On Sunday's episode (read this week's chat here), viewers met the suave and powerful Wall Street banker, Charlie Baird, played by Slattery, who catches the eye of Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). They launch into flirty banter about their political differences and personal similarities as divorcees, and when Charlie laughs at Meyer's quips (she refers to her divorce as the "best thing me and my husband ever did, including our daughter"), it's game on.

Flash forward to a clandestine White House romp and Meyer swiftly sending him on a Southeast Gate walk of shame, and viewers assume they've seen the last of Charlie. But press secretary Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh), light-headed from his new Master Cleanse diet, accidentally outs the President's new romance. 

"Early on, we thought: wouldn’t it be interesting with everything going wrong, for her to find herself in a relationship of some sort?" says Mandel about the election recount drama still facing the President. "How a relationship might force itself into her world when she would be the first to go, 'This is certainly not the time.' It seemed like an interesting backdrop."

As Meyer heads into unchartered relationship-status territory, Mandel talks to THR about Slattery's role and Meyer's capability to love, and the big romantic-miss of the episode between Dan Egan (Reid Scott) and Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky).

How did you settle on the character of Charlie Baird?

Clearly, Selina Meyer has some issues going back to her early upbringing — which we will get to in episode four — but of the guys she's been with: Her ex-husband is just sleazy; the lawyer in the early seasons was fine, but kind of boring and she dominated him; there was Ray the trainer, which clearly was what it was. And so the notion of someone who could be her equal started to be a very interesting thing.

But Charlie isn't a politician.

We danced around a leader of another country but worried that story-wise, it just seemed a little fake and movie-ish. So we started thinking, what’s like a President? And we landed on the world of Wall Street, a Tom Wolfe “Masters of the Universe” kind of thing. This idea of a guy who is very powerful in his own way that maybe some could argue, with his dominance in Wall Street, might be as powerful as her — certainly way better paid.

It's nice to see Slattery orbiting TV politics again — after his memorable politician with a golden-shower fetish on Sex and the City (in 2000).

There’s issues of where [he and Selina] land politically, but he actually exists as a person, as opposed to a person defined by some bizarre, fatal sexual flaw — not to take anything away from Sex and the City. This is a very different character than [Mad Men's] Roger Sterling and a very different character from the drama guy in Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer. Those are three very distinct characters, but he just brings such an effortless charm to everything he does. He has some wonderful comedy chops. It's the reason we thought of him instantly.

Slattery as Mad Men's Roger Sterling, Broadway director Claude Dumet in Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer and politician Bill Kelley in Sex and the City. (Photo credit: AMC/Photofest, Netflix, HBO)

His chemistry with Selina is obvious when they first meet, especially with their banter. What was it like filming that scene?

From the moment [he and Julia] were together, there was wonderful chemistry — even though I think either of them could have wonderful chemistry with anyone — but when you put the two of them together, it’s sort of spectacular. There was a real crackle.

The choreography of bouncing around all those extras and trying to create a world where she’s supposed to be talking to these other people and she sort of talks to him and likes him and then bumps into him again. You can see that he likes her from the get-go. It was fun playing with that chatter, not just with the divorce stuff and what they have in common, but also the Smith roommate that he knows. 

She says she had a fling with that female roommate, does Selina have a wild sexual past?

Not necessarily. The Smith joke where she says “we dated too” — is she serious, is she joking, is it a Smith joke, did she really? I don’t know. But it felt like a very real comment.

After she and Charlie hookup, Selina kicks him out. Is she closed off to a relationship — does she even have the capacity for one?

She’s a flawed human being, but her eye is on the prize. Even though she perhaps was being slightly risky, bringing him in ultimately to have some sex, her eye is on the presidency. Forgetting about any of her ability to have or not have a relationship — she’s such a political animal. So at this point, it’s all about winning Nevada and the rest be damned. She had an itch that needed to be scratched, but it’s: presidency, presidency, presidency. 

Can she love anyone else as much as she loves herself?

I think it would be very hard for her to do it. I think she’d like to — this is all very philosophical — I think it would be a challenge, but not impossible.

Where do she and Charlie go from here, once Mike outs them to the press?

The episode ends with people sort of finding out they’re together and you’ll see as episode three begins, they’re kind of making a go of it, this public relationship. And she is enjoying him, he is a really good guy, but then she’s also enjoying the fact that people like them together. So, what is the truth? What is it she really likes: him or the fact that people like them together? 

When she finds out that Charlie screwed her over, she growls at Gary.

She and and Tony [Hale] could do a scene together with no words and just make noises at each other and it would be the greatest scene in the world. She sort of dismisses him with her chin — her chin is giving him orders to get the f— out.

There's also a thisclose moment with Dan and Amy, but Dan blows it by sleeping with her sister. Is there any hope for Dan, or is he only out for himself?

Fans of the show love Dan and Amy's love-hate. Dan makes a choice but in a way, Amy could have been more direct and then maybe it never would have gotten to that. They are basically creatures of their own flaws. There are a lot of people that all they really want is for Dan and Amy to get together and so we’ve made it very infuriating for those people!

One thing some fans are happy with you about: Teaching the world how to correctly pronounce Nevada.

It is Nevada, with an “a,” not an “uh.” It is a real issue, I know from a lot of our political friends that that’s a real thing. It’s like, “Make sure you call it Nev-AD-da.”

Do you think Selina will have a future with Charlie? Sound off in the comments section, below. Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.

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