8:00pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Veep' Boss Discusses Richard's Breakout Moment: It's "Eating at Jonah's Soul"
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of Veep, "The Eagle."]
Let's talk about Splett.
Richard T. Splett (T., though his middle name is actually John) is the latest political lackey to break out on Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Veep.
Last week, Richard (Sam Richardson) told a member of the press to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, adding, "Splett1’s my father. I’ll be sad to see him go, but it’ll be nice to get my hands on that handle."
On Sunday, Richard followed up the joke with the reveal of his blog name, Let's Talk About Splett — which actually exists (and so does the above e-mail, by the way). A quick review of Let's Talk About Splett uncovers Richard-esque blog posts and musings that range from "Spletterings" to rankings of the best brand of apple and the top five episodes from Star Trek: Voyager season two. Plus, his rap voicemail, ripe for a download.
Given Richard's scene-stealing presence this season, it's no wonder the minds behind Veep decided to give the cheery and wide-eyed recount strategist the honor of the Easter egg.
"He’s a different kind of energy," showrunner David Mandel tells The Hollywood Reporter. "In a world where the denizens of Selina [Meyer]’s world are vipers, he’s a little bit of the bunny rabbit in a viper pit."
A treat for the show's fans, Richard's blog, Let's Talk About Splett, exists in the real world, too.
Richard, who has risen up the ranks since his introduction in season three as one of the incompetent staffers under the charge of Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky), has made an imprint on President Meyer with his knowledge in the recount process, thanks to his doctorate in electoral law. Newly promoted over former boss Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), it seems Richard can do no wrong: On Sunday, he saved the day when he unintentionally discovered the location of the missing ballots Meyer and co. have been hunting for in their quest to clinch the Nevada recount.
"Richard as sort of this idiot savant with election law, it has so many rippling effects," Mandel says. "Its effect on Jonah, who is having this great sort of grown-man-throwing-a-six-year-old-hissy-fit, basically, is just a pleasure to watch."
Mandel likens the duo of Richard and Jonah to the 1930s comedy act of Laurel and Hardy: "I would watch a 20-minute short about those two guys trying to paint a house." But so far, it's mostly been Jonah bossing Richard around. What if that were no longer the case?
"Somewhat early on, we came up with the idea of flipping that relationship and having Richard be in charge of Jonah and seeing what that would bring out in Richard, as well as the petulance it would bring out in Jonah," he says. "And I think it worked better than we ever imagined."
"Everybody we ever meet in Washington knows somebody like Jonah, but never fesses up to being Jonah," Mandel says of Ryan, played by Timothy Simons.
Even though Richard is the only one in the group to worship Jonah, he's no dummy. "He’s aware that he has something to say about election law," Mandel says. "He doesn’t always quite know what he’s going to say, but he's not an idiot and that's really important. You do get the sense that he would take a bullet for Jonah, in a way that I’m not sure anyone other than Jonah’s mother would, but he’s very happy to be having his time in the sun."
As for whether or not the moment will last, Mandel says not to count Jonah's "cockroach-like" nature out.
"It’s definitely eating at Jonah’s soul, I think it’s slowly destroying him," he says. "But as you know, just when you kind of get used to that status quo, things will change and we’ll hit you with something else."
And Jonah isn't the only White House staffer to be feeling pangs of jealousy over Selena's shiny new toy.
"His optimist energy interacts really well with a crew of pessimists and 'What’s in it for me?'-ists — that’s a little bit of a secret to the Richard character," Mandel says.
Bouncing Richard's likable nature off the self-serving interests of Dan Egan (Reid Scott) and Amy — who, spoiler alert, asks Richard in next week's episode: "What is wrong with you, you Paddington Bear-looking f—?" — was the inspiration for Richard's rise in the ranks.
Jonah Ryan, Richard Splett, Bob "The Eagle" Bradley, Amy Brookheimer and Dan Egan on Veep.
"Richard may actually be, in terms of as human beings, the best of all of them," Mandel says. "He’s genuinely kind, he genuinely believes in the political process and that the best candidate should win. He’s genuinely loyal and trying to do a good job for the sake of the country."
When tasked with figuring out how to explain to viewers the obscurity of election law amid the recount storyline, Mandel was looking for creative ways to tell "very boring stuff." The idea to make Richard Veep's version of The Big Short's Margot Robbie explaining stock market "shorting" in a bubble bath became appealing. "By putting it in Richard’s mouth, we were able to get away with something without putting the audience to sleep," he says. "And having this revelation about this side of Richard, it’s giving you these multiple purposes."
So when its Richard — not Amy, Dan or Jonah — who successfully delivers during the tete-a-tete with a party elder when Bob "The Eagle" Bradley (Martin Mull) goes missing, it's infuriating to the others and enjoyable to those watching.
"In every office, there’s that one guy that just looks like he’s so happy to be there," Mandel says. "Everybody’s a little grumpy, hungover or just tired because no one ever gets enough sleep, and it's sort of like, 'Why is that guy so god damn sunny?'”
Despite the obvious threats posed by dismantling the power structure between Richard and Jonah — not to mention what it's doing to Amy, still desperate to claw her way back into Selina's most inner circle — the showrunner assures those rooting for Richard that his hard work won't go unnoticed.
"Dare I say it, if they win the presidency, maybe there’s a spot for him," says Mandel about if Richard has any value to Selina when the recount is resolved. "Richard is proving his worth to the administration. I don’t think that will be forgotten."
Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.