9:15am PT by Jackie Strause
'Veep': How the Cast Said Goodbye to Their "Jaw-Dropping" D.C. Insiders (and What's Next)
The time has come for Veep to say goodbye.
After seven seasons, the Julia Louis-Dreyfus-led HBO political comedy will offer one last commentary on Washington, D.C. politics with Sunday night's supersized series finale. The final episode, The Hollywood Reporter can reveal, will run for 45 minutes. And the cast has promised that the final joke will be one that no one could have seen coming.
Since premiering in 2012, Veep has satirically captured the evolving (or devolving) state of real-world politics with a laser-sharp eye and acidic wit. Within the show's walls, the once-bumbling D.C. staffers who worked for Veep Selina Meyer (Louis-Dreyfus) back in season one have since spread their wings to fantastically fail upwards amid the show's ever-changing political landscape.
Heading into the series finale, former President Meyer is once again campaigning for POTUS and, despite her best efforts to rig the U.S. election in her favor, is (also, once again) coming up short after the disastrous developments of the penultimate episode.
Will Selina manage to pull off a last-minute victory? More importantly, does Selina deserve to win? Or is a Meyer presidency what the world deserves? And how will all of Veep's political insiders go out and what will their fates say about America in 2019?
Those questions and more were put to the cast by THR when Veep began airing its seventh and final season. Below, the actors behind the horrible characters that viewers love to root for reveal their thoughts about how it all ends, what they will miss most as they send their characters off into TV heaven, and why America shouldn't be surprised by the ultimate outcome: "I think it will always be pretty jaw-dropping — I hope, otherwise we’re in trouble."
Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Selina Meyer
What scares Louis-Dreyfus the most about leaving Selina behind is never being able to play her again. "That is kind of terrifying because it was a really fucking good time," she says. After beating cancer, the star and executive producer says they "poured their heart and soul" into the final season and her biggest hope is that it holds up years from now: "I hope Veep’s legacy is that it remains a very funny show forever. I hope it doesn’t end up dating itself or somehow lose its comedic shine. That's my desire."
Fun fact: Selina's very real memoir — Selina Meyer, A Woman First: First Woman — is one of Veep's biggest Easter eggs for the final season. Ghostwritten by Mike McLintock in the show's fifth season (but actually written by Veep writer Billy Kimball and showrunner David Mandel), the inside look into Veep's first female president is littered with jokes, anecdotes and stories about Selina in painstaking detail. "You learn a lot about her past in ways that we would never have time to do on the show. Everyone who runs for president writes one of these terrible books. You now get to see her version of a book that she has written and released hoping it will make people vote for her," says Mandel. The Veep team also created a presidential website for Selina, as well as her competitors Jonah Ryan, Kemi Talbot, Tom James and Buddy Calhoun.
What she took from set: Three of Selina's wigs.
What's next: Downhill, the big-screen comedy she produced and will star in with Will Ferrell.
Tony Hale on Gary Walsh
If you ask Hale, Gary is "fully" in love with Selina Meyer. "Her legacy has been established to Gary every single day: She’s a queen," he says. Recalling the season six scene where the dedicated bagman found himself spooning Selina in bed while they were in recovery from twin heart attacks, Hale says that was the best moment of Gary's life. "I don't think he sees a world without Selina," he says about their codependency being highlighted in this final run. "There’s no growing out of it. It’s just getting deeper into it as the seasons go. I would never want to live this life, but it’s very fun to play." As for how the show ends, Hale adds, "I think viewers will feel satisfied."
Fun fact: Veep films a "one for fun" take once everyone is satisfied with a scene and Hale says "the train never stopped moving" when it came to stepping up those chances at improvising: "What they gave us on the script was just beautifully laid out, but then Julia and I would get on set and be like, 'How can we add physicality into this? If you drop your purse, I’m going to catch it. Or, your arm is going to get stuck in your jacket.'" And when it comes to the hint that was dropped about the big Labor Day mystery between Gary and Selina (that "The Labor Day" was the name of Meemaw's boat), Hale says "it blew the framework" for what he had in mind since season four.
What he took from set: Gary's trusty shoulder bag, "The Leviathan."
What's next: Voicing Forky, a toy made out of a disposable spork, in Toy Story 4.
Timothy Simons on Jonah Ryan
The Veep team always does their research, but Simons didn't care to speak to politicians about what goes into a real presidential campaign. "Jonah certainly isn’t going to abide by anything. Whatever information I would have gotten about political gaffes that could kneecap a campaign, that just doesn’t apply anymore," says Simons, who credits the toxicity of the real climate for making Jonah's run believable. "What I loved about Jonah's ending was that the scene is about somebody who cares only about power and proximity to power. That was the first thing Jonah ever cared about and it’s the last. As far as endings go, the very last joke of this thing, I fucking screamed and howled because it is one of the best and it’s something you should have seen coming the whole time."
Fun fact: While many viewers look at Jonah as the Trumpy candidate, Simons actually based the recent-season rise of Jonah on Sen. Ted Cruz. "I never met any one person that I based him on when it all started," explains Simons, who got his ideas for how to play "Jonad" by talking to low and high-level staffers. "The Ted Cruz thing really came in season five when Jonah was running for Congress. I didn’t change anything about the character, but Ted Cruz was a good corollary of how somebody like Jonah could actually succeed." On a broader scale, the actor's hope is that Jonah, someday, "will be the only remaining example of an untalented narcissist who thinks they can fucking run things."
What he took from set: Jonah's Congressional pin and a sweater from an earlier season.
What's next: He is writing and starring in Exit Plans, an assisted-suicide comedy for HBO.
Anna Chlumsky on Amy Brookheimer
After years of putting Selina first, Amy is finally going after what (she thinks) she wants with her campaign manager jump in the final season. Chlumsky says she has always been rooting for Amy to "figure her shit out" and that, finally, she feels she is closer to doing so after a rollercoaster season that included an abortion and a Kellyanne Conway-inspired makeover. "In Amy’s case, this whole series has been examining how she finally gets the life she wants. What does she have to compromise and sacrifice? What does she discover about herself in order to get this thing that she wanted this whole time?" says Chlumsky. "There are so many D.C. government staffers that let it run their lives and I feel like Amy has given them an identity. Her legacy can be that she’s a mirror to people who are in that phase and motivate them to change." Chlumsky describes the ending as a "love letter" to the show: "I bawled."
Fun fact: If you ask the cast, many of them assumed there would be eight seasons. But Mandel and Louis-Dreyfus said that when they broke season seven, the end of the series revealed itself. "It was 10 episodes of stuff crammed into seven episodes," says Chlumsky of the pace. "We usually have five days, but these we shot in seven or eight days each and it felt oddly luxurious compared to other seasons."
What she took from set: A Lincoln paper clip and a dress from the final season.
What's next: Acting in Minhal Baig's coming-of-age drama Hala, which was bought by Apple at the Sundance Film Festival.
Reid Scott on Dan Egan
Scott refers to Dan's early final season crisis on the dock as a "Huck Finn" moment. "That’s really when Dan starts letting it in a little bit, and then very quickly lets it out," he says of his character's cavalier reaction to Amy being pregnant with his child. Now, with his jump over to the office of Richard Splett and a new "girlfriend" on his arm, Scott credits the writers for keeping such a horrible guy likable. "Dan is such a shit," he says. "That's how Amy describes him in the first season, And yet you somehow like the guy. I’m proud of that. That Dan never got so arched that he just became a villain or a straight-up horrible douchebag." About the finale, Scott teases: "When we got the script I was like, 'No, we can’t. Really? You think we’re going to be able to? Wow, that’s going to be tough.' And then while we were shooting it, the voice inside your head is going, 'I’m doing it! I’m doing it!'"
Fun fact: Many real-life politicians — from Mitt Romney to former Obama aides — have lent their expertise to the writing room and Scott says the education into politics from such unprecedented access has influenced the actors' activism as well: "People actually want to hear what an idiot actor has to say about an issue every once in a while. I’ve gotten to lobby Congress on behalf of one of my charities [Oceana]. It’s been amazing."
What he took from set: Dan's suits, from Theory to Paul Smith and Hugo Boss.
What's next: Co-starring in Mindy Kaling's Amazon comedy Late Night and the upcoming CBS All Access dramedy Why Women Kill.
Matt Walsh on Mike McLintock
Former press secretary McLintock jumped to the other side where he's now a sought-after CBS News anchor. But first, he had to rise up the millennial ladder. "I enjoyed interacting with the young people and trying to style Mike. I had a lot of fun with his wardrobe: the high tops and hats, the BuzzFeed backpack and the thermal cup — the Adderall binge," he says. "What I’m proudest of is that chameleon-like ability for Mike to land on his feet in all these different jobs and to also be the one character who had joy outside of work. I like that distinction." And just like Mike's resumé, Walsh says surprising things happen in the end: "I don’t think you’ll ever see where the season is headed. But it’s all founded. When you really think about it, it’s like, 'Oh yeah, of course.'"
Fun fact: When filming the series finale, the cast and crew showed up in full force for every actor's final scene. Walsh came first: "Someone wrapped every day of the last nine and it was a domino effect. I was first to go and these guys were sweet enough to come out at 11 p.m. I played a song to misdirect the sadness and tears of it all, so I made everyone dance. But once the wrapping started, it got emotional. Julia hosted a nice dinner with her husband Brad [Hall] and it was like a wedding reception with all the unrehearsed speeches."
What he took from set: A giant piece of a set wall from the finale, campaign hats and T-shirts.
What's next: Leading the ABC comedy pilot Happy Accident.
Sam Richardson on Richard Splett
Richardson says his life changed after Richard came on the scene in season three as a guest role. "What sticks out in my head is after the rally with the balloon drops where we’re all backstage and Richard is in the shot," says Richardson of the moment he felt like a part of the core ensemble. "The camera goes around and everyone has their moment and the fact that Richard had a little moment as well really made me feel like he was in the fabric. That and the gear shift when he gets promoted and becomes Jonah's boss and how he immediately accepts that role." Now, Splett is poised to play a key part in how it all plays out when, after starting the season working for both Jonah and Selina, the new Iowa governor and super delegate is faced with having to pick one at the party's convention: "His heart is split." Still, he adds, "I was satisfied and happy with where my character ends."
Fun fact: Richard, who is still blogging on Let's Talk About Splett, received the dedication in Selina Meyer's memoir. "For Richard Splett: the only person who never let me down," reads the inscription. The note was mentioned in a season five scene when Amy called out a spelling error on the first page, which the printed version also makes good on. "I think Richard is certainly honored," says Richardson. "I don’t think it’s the only dedication he has had in a book, though, to be honest. There’s probably another one from a different president somewhere."
What he took from set: Richard's glasses.
What's next: Appearing in the Netflix sketch show I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson and upcoming Melissa McCarthy action comedy Superintelligence.
Sarah Sutherland and Clea DuVall on Catherine Meyer and Marjorie Palmiotti
Sutherland admits that she was "crestfallen" upon hearing the news that season seven would be the end. After all, the young actress spent eight formative years on Veep. "I really went from being a child to an adult on this show," she says. From a storytelling perspective, however, she says the end does feel right. "It's nice that Catherine and Marjorie are so solid because Catherine doesn’t get many lasting, happy moments," she says of Catherine marrying Marjorie. "Prior to Marjorie existing in her life, Catherine lived off small crumbs from Selina and, as soon as she got them, she was knocked down again. It’s a happy ending that Catherine finds someone that takes better care of her and also, lest we forget, is supposed to be a direct parallel of her mother in another weird way. She gets a corrective parenting experience and a wife." DuVall echoes: "Marjorie loves Catherine more than anything in the world and thinks she’s everything that Selina tells Catherine she’s not,"
Fun fact: Catherine Meyer was originally billed as a guest spot when Sutherland came on at age 18. "When I auditioned for the show, I didn’t know if I was coming back or not. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined I’d be sitting here now. I didn’t foresee Catherine finding lasting love because she wasn’t given the best emotional tools, and I think that she’s been able to come into her own and separate her identity from her mother more than I thought that she would be able within the universe of the show."
What they took from set: Catherine's Persian lamb coat from the Camp David episode, Jonah campaign gear and items from Marjorie's wardrobe.
Gary Cole and Kevin Dunn on Kent Davison and Ben Cafferty
For both Cole and Dunn, Veep has always been about the ensemble. That's why, when it came to the end, they weren't concerned with guessing the details and instead knew there would be an organic way they would all say goodbye. "You’re a piece of a puzzle so I’m always focused on how my piece should fit," says Dunn. "Even though the vileness of what they said to each other rose, so did their tolerance of each other," adds Cole. And if viewers read the scripts without watching the words being performed, they would be "aghast" at what they were laughing at. "It’s the writing but it's also Julia and that character and being able to hit all of those things so it’s not jarring because it’s coming out of her and that filter," explains Cole. And Dunn agrees: "It’s a brave show. I think it will always be pretty jaw-dropping — I hope, otherwise we're in trouble. We were bigots and racists, but that’s what it showed. It showed that these people really don’t care about anything. I don’t know if a network or company would have the courage these days to be bold enough to OK it."
Fun fact: When series creator Armando Iannucci departed and Mandel took over running the show after season four, Veep also moved production back to Los Angeles after filming in Baltimore, Maryland, for four years. With the final season being on the campaign trail and away from the White House, the pair say the production was larger in scope. "They wanted to see all of the different worlds so every environment we were in was like a new playground," says Cole. The shorter episode count also led to jam-packed scripts. "We always shot 50 pages for a half-hour show. That’s crazy. And this year, it was even more," says Dunn of the extended half-hours. "In order for things to fit, there was a lot of rewriting going on during the course of shooting right on the spot."
What they took from set: A Kent suit, Ben's ties and the chair with Cole's name on it.
What's next: Dunn in Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Showtime crime drama City on a Hill; Cole in the the Disney-Fox film The Art of Racing in the Rain.
The Veep series finale airs Sunday at 10:50 p.m. on HBO. Check back in for THR's coverage with showrunner David Mandel here.