8:00pm PT by Paige Phelan
‘Veep’s' Lennon Parham Teases the Arrival of Selina’s "Annoying" BFF, the Return of ‘Playing House’
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the May 3 episode of Veep, "Tehran."]
One is lost and another is gained.
After losing the ruthlessly ambitious Dan (Reid Scott), who unceremoniously
was fired resigned in disgrace after the data breach scandal, the Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) administration was a man down in Iran in the latest episode of the HBO hit satire Veep.
As the team struggled to stay awake, or in Selina’s case, stay sane, on the last leg of a groundbreaking diplomatic trip to the Middle East, things only went from bad to worse as they waited for the Iranians to release a captured American journalist.
With Mike (Matt Walsh) and Gary (Tony Hale) stuck in the Iranian airport, the world’s most annoying journalist probing about the reason for his delayed release, and Amy trying to calm a rankled VP, Selina finally decided to bring in reinforcements — her “friend” and old lawyer colleague Karen (Lennon Parham).
However, the “friends” may not be as close as they let on. For instance, “Catherine has no memory of me,” says Parham, who also created and stars in USA’s Playing House, in explaining the younger woman’s cluelessness about her character, “I remember things about Catherine, details about her life, and weigh in on her life like I’m an old family friend, but Catherine doesn’t know [me at all].”
Of course, Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) isn’t the only one with questions. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Parham to grill her about her Veep character and what fans can also expect from season two of Playing House.
First of all, welcome to the show! Were you a big fan of Veep before joining the cast?
Yes, I have been obsessed with the show. I really loved In The Loop which was the first thing I saw of Armando’s [Iannucci, the series' creator], and my friend [Playing House and Silicon Valley star] Zack Woods was in it, and I was just like, ‘What is this wonderland of comedy genius?’ It’s fast pace, no-holds-barred comedy. ... A lot of my friends are on it, and it’s the Olympics of comedy.
So, how did this role come about? Did you audition? Was it through a connection with Upright Citizens Brigade (which was co-founded by Veep star Matt Walsh and in which Parham is heavily involved)?
I just went in for an audition. Initially, I went in for a different part and read with the director and with Julia, and they brought me back the next day. I got a call in the morning [saying], ‘They want you to come back in two hours, and here’s the other role.’ This role was much larger and most of my scenes were with Julia, so I was terrified, but [the show’s] so improvisational in nature, that when I got there and got into it, because my background is improv at the UCB theatres, I felt like I had come home.
What can you reveal about your character, Karen? Who is she in this world?
Karen is an old work colleague, a lawyer who worked for Selina, and we say that I’m her best girlfriend, but I don’t think Selina really has best friends, so that’s pretty loose. She is the new thorn in the side. I love it when the core group gets a new person that they can all gang up on, so as I’m introduced as the president’s new senior advisor — and you’ll see me advising her — everyone is just communally hating. Because she’s a lawyer, she’s a real Devil’s Advocate. So she will give both sides of it and, in particular, she’s very, very annoying to Amy.
In the episode, Selina says that Karen excels at common sense. Who on her team lacks the most common sense? Who is in the most need of a little help in that area?
It’s pretty much across the board. I would say Gary, first, and Mike — although he’s been killing it lately with common sense. Mike just likes to stick his foot in his mouth quite a bit. Everybody else has their head on their shoulders, but Gary — Gary is so fun because he means so well and he cares so much but he just speaks out of turn because he wants to be a part of the conversation. And Tony Hale is so phenomenal at riding that line. He wears all his emotions on his sleeve.
Will she help the administration move forward or will she be more of a disruptive force for the team?
The whole game of Karen is that she absolutely doesn’t give any advice one way or another and that’s why everyone is so annoyed with her. She’ll give one side and then flip-flop. She’s a real “Yes man,” and is just blowing smoke up the president’s ass over and over again. You’ll see that she probably just delays decisions being made and doesn’t actually say anything real.
Switching gears a bit, congratulations on Playing House getting picked up for season two! The show was in limbo for about six months before it was picked up. What was that process like? What was your reaction when you finally heard you’d been picked up?
We were pretty sure that all hope was lost, but, unbeknownst to us, there were a bunch of fans of the show working on the studio side and [behind the scenes] that would just not take no for an answer. They figured it out and made it possible for us to come back for eight episodes. When we got the call from [president and chief content officer of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment] Jeff Wachtel to tell us, we were like, ‘Shut up! What are you talking about? Please don’t joke with us, we’re fragile right now.’ (Laughs) We didn’t even really believe it until we went in and sat down with the team. Comcast is really excited about this project and they love the show. It grew an amazing amount in the first season on Comcast Xfinity On Demand without any marketing, all word of mouth. They compared it to Downton Abbey in the way it had grown on its own.
Did the long wait change the way you approached season two at all?
It didn’t change anything for the planning except that we hadn’t been planning. It was such a long time that it was a real long shot. ... The only real change in the way we attacked this second season is that we’re a little bit more — we’ve got to go for it. We don’t know if we’re going to have another season — we hope to God that we can do this for 12 more seasons — but we’re really going for it and we have a ton of amazing guest stars from our comedy community. Each episode is like a mini-movie, and there’s some amazing stuff coming. We start shooting on Monday, so I’m pretty excited.
How will Maggie deal with motherhood?
Maggie handles motherhood similar to how [co-star and co-creator Jessica St. Clair] and I have been handling it, which means that there's a new importance to the choices we’ve been making in our lives, and if we’re doing something, it’s got to be worth it. Motherhood's effect on Maggie is an arc for the season in what she places importance in and what she brings into her life. She puts the baby first and takes care of the baby rather than diving right back into the dating scene. You will see the baby in every episode, but we will not not be going on our crazy hijinks adventures just because we have a baby. There are still a lot of antics to be had. The other thing is I’m not pregnant this season, so I’ll be wearing normal clothes, which is exciting for me on multiple levels.
It must be exciting not to have to wear the bump all the time.
When we shot the pilot I was eight months pregnant, so they modeled the bump on my real belly so it was huge. That whole first season took place in five weeks. This season takes place over five months.
Of course the real question is, will we see the return of Bosephus?
Yes. The fans demand it. My alter-ego demands to return. I’m not going to tell you when, though you’ll probably know sooner than later. He gets everybody in a real situation and it’s pretty amazing. He’ll be back and better than ever.
Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO. The second season of Playing House premieres Aug. 4 at 10 p.m. on USA.
Excited to see Lennon’s character on Veep? Chomping at the bit for the return on Playing House and Bosephus? Sound off in the comments below!