‘Veep’: Reid Scott on Dan’s New Journey and Playing a “Triple-A Asshole”

“Dan’s not going to be happy until he successfully runs for Senate and is assassinated,” the actor told THR, while chatting about his ruthless character’s path this season.
Paul Schiraldi

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Sunday, April 26 episode of Veep, “Data”]

Well, that was fast.

Sunday’s latest episode of the HBO’s witty political satire Veep found Selina Meyer’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) burgeoning administration already embroiled in a serious, federal-crime-involving scandal that even Olivia Pope would have trouble fixing. As a result, a head needed to roll (thankfully, in this D.C., that’s metaphorical.)

While plugging her new Families First bill, Selina accidentally outed a young girl with HIV after a data breach revealed personal information and medical records from her constituents. Amongst the misuses of this stolen government data? A kid-oriented direct mail campaign targeted at recently bereaved parents.

After a low-level staff firing failed to gain appease the masses and potential scape goats were named, it was Dan Egan (Reid Scott) who ended up on the chopping block.

The actor’s first reaction? “[Luckily] it wasn’t a moment of, ‘Oh my god, am I leaving the show?’ because [series creator Armando Iannucci] told me, ‘Look, trust me, you’re not going anywhere,” Scott said of his character’s big change. “This gives us the opportunity to explore a different side of DC that we haven’t seen yet.”

What might that different side be? The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Scott to discuss that, egos, and his Jonah (Timothy C. Simons) curse.

Dan has always been this hyper-ambitious go-getter and this year he’s made it to the White House. What would season one Dan think of where he is now? Is working for a president everything he’s hoped?

Yes and no. Dan’s a guy that’s just perpetually unsatisfied with his status, with whatever power — however limited — he can wield at the time. He’s very pleased with himself and thinks this is where he should be right now, but somehow he always has his sights set higher. I used to joke with the writers and the producers that Dan’s not going to be happy until he successfully runs for Senate and is assassinated.

Barely into its first term and this administration is already embroiled in a huge scandal. Can this group of people actually succeed at this level?

Some of them can. Kent, because he lacks any sort of human emotion, is appropriately robotic for that position. Also, Kevin Dunn’s character [Ben] is pretty well equipped. This is third administration that he’s been through, so he’s an old pro. Those two guys strike me as ‘been there, done that, seen it all.' Everyone else is floundering. You have these people that think they’re cut out to be doing this, but if you really peel away all the bravado, they’re all horrible at their jobs.

Of course, the big twist this episode was that Dan was fired resigned in disgrace. What was your reaction when you first read that scene? Ben gives Dan quite a few choices words.

I was really excited by it. Kevin and I have gotten to be really good friends and one of the things we’ve always wanted to do is go toe-to-toe. [We’ve] always said that our characters — Ben and Dan — while there is some mutual respect there, which we see a little bit at the end of season three, they may be cut from the same cloth, but they certainly don’t like each other. So, we were just chomping at the bit to do that scene that day and we had a blast doing it.

Now Dan’s not only jobless, but he’s also become a D.C. pariah of sorts. How will he deal with his newfound unemployment? Is this worse than last year’s mental breakdown?

[With] the mental breakdown, he had to realize that he couldn’t do it all. He realized that he wasn’t the superman that he thought he was and it certainly was a huge blow to his ego. This is different. His talents got him in this position and he understands how the game is played. He’s not happy that it has to be him, but in Dan’s twisted little mind he sees it as ‘You’re firing me because you’re taking down the quarterback, you’re taking down the most talented guy on the team because that’s what you have to do.' Obviously that’s a big hurdle to get over in D.C. because, once you’re out, you’re pretty much out, but he wears it with a certain bit of pride.

Will Dan try to clear his name at all or is he just going to keep moving forward? Where does he go from here?

Dan’s a pro and he realizes that the one thing you don’t want to do is besmirch the administration that you just left. He leaves and, while he’s not happy about it, he does it the way it’s supposed to be done — bites his tongue, puts his tail between his legs, and quietly exits stage left. In D.C., if you bite the hand that has ever fed you, you’re just done. It’s all just living the price of another day. Some great blast from the past characters come back to come to Dan’s aid.

Is it possible that Dan will be working alongside future guest star Hugh Laurie?

No, not exactly. When everyone sees it, they’re going to be like, "Oh, God, of course, this is where Dan goes."

One of the great antagonistic relationships on this show is between Dan and Jonah. Now that Dan is basically where Jonah was last season, how will we see that relationship evolve?

Dan ends up in a position where he’s almost forced to deal with Jonah again and again and again. That relationship is just so funny and now with the addition of Sam Richardson’s character [Richard], the three of them have just some amazing moments together throughout the season. Dan can’t seem to shake Jonah. That’s just his curse. I don’t know what he did in a past life to deserve that, but Jonah and Ryan just won’t go away.

Dan has a line in this episode about how much of a jerk he can be, but he’s still likeable. How important was it for you to make him more than just a jerk? Is it important?

To a certain extent. You don’t want to pull his teeth out so much and not go as far as the character would, but it’s something we actually talked about from the beginning: How do you make a likeable asshole? I don’t know. One of the great things on the show is that just when someone is beaming with pride and ego, you cut them down a little bit and just when they’re at the lowest depths, they somehow get a little boost. It’s all about keeping them human and keeping them honest.

With everyone on this show being at least a little bit of an asshole, where do you think Dan stands on the Veep spectrum of assholes?

He’s a triple-AAA, top class asshole. He might be right under Selina. She plays the game better than anybody, and, at the end of the day, they’re all horrible people. Mike is so endearing, Mike might be the only non-asshole in the bunch and it’s just because he doesn’t know how to be [one]. But Dan aspires to be that player, that D.C. mover and shaker, that horrible asshole. He’s been working on it a very long time.

Theories on where Dan goes from here? Shocked he was the fall guy? Sound off in the comments below!

Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.

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