8:54pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Veep' Boss on "Digging a Little Deeper" to Reveal the Truth About Selina's Father
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of Veep, "Chicklet."]
Selina Meyer's life was turned upside down on Sunday's episode of Veep.
In the midst of battling a bout of depression in response to the heart attack she had recently suffered, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) returned home for an enlightening conversation with her uncle about her late parents.
Last season's "Mother" episode shone a light on Selina's long fractured relationship with her mother, MeeMaw, who left her estate and fortune to her grandaughter, Catherine (Sarah Sutherland), instead of Selina when she died. It was known that her father, whom Selina lovingly calls "Daddy," had died of a heart attack. But Selina didn't discover until now that he suffered that heart attack while having sex with his secretary, one of the many unsavory things about Mr. Meyer that MeeMaw quite humbly covered up to her daughter.
"Selina's general choice in men and her relations with men are relatively terrible," showrunner David Mandel told The Hollywood Reporter. "As much as that usually connects to one’s mother, that also usually connects to one’s father."
Here, Mandel explains why he continues to delve deeper and fill in some of the missing pieces to the Selina puzzle, and if the latest revelations will see the former president reevaluating any aspects of her life amid her season-six quest for relevancy.
Selina is already depressed from the heart attack — how badly will this revelation about her father, whom she idolized, hit her?
She’s in a bad place. A real low. In the early part of the episode, she’s rejecting talking to a psychiatrist, but in some ways Mike and the book become the psychiatrist. She’s not actually talking to a doctor but she is trying to talk to Mike about the book and her family. She does it out of anger initially, because she’s angry at Andrew (David Pasquesi) for cheating on her and just starts talking and then things just start coming out of her. It’s all connected.
You veered into new territory with the emotional and enlightening "Mother" episode last season. What made you want to delve further and explore her relationship with her father?
It’s interesting, for lack of any other better word. I said this last season when we tried the “Mother” experiment: We’re in season five and six and if we’re not digging a little deeper, then maybe we shouldn’t be doing it. It’s not a perfect explanation of Selina, but we’re giving you other pieces of the puzzle as to who she is and why she strives for what she strives. And also, why she’s with the people she’s with. There’s no perfect answer, but it fit very nicely into the fact that she’s trying to work on this book and is having a lot of trouble writing it and these pieces come together nicely. It’s part of why we had her back together with Andrew at the beginning of the season, to question why she’s with him and also the book thing, which leads into her early life.
How does finding out about how sleazy her father actually was contribute to her poor choices with the men in her life?
The truth about who her father was is something we had definitely hinted at when we mentioned him last season. There were some vague curiosities about his business and connections to President Nixon and Charles Rebozo. I always thought it was fascinating that this woman who hated her mother so much always spoke so glowingly about her father, and that the real truth probably lied somewhere in between. The mother couldn’t have been that bad, and maybe the father couldn’t have been that great. And the more interesting thing about looking at Selina is that her ex, Andrew, is this horrible and sleazy guy and yet she continues to come back to him over and over again. That was something that I felt like was there from the beginning and something creator Armando Iannucci and his people set up previously. Finding out about her father raises some of the questions about why her choices in men are so terrible.
It was nice to see an episode focused around Selina and Mike (Matt Walsh), who reminds viewers that he has worked with her for a dedicated 20 years. Why did you want Mike to go on this journey with her?
Going back to the start of the season and when we started thinking about how Mike would be ghostwriting her book, because he had this diary filled will all this information, we knew it would lead to them working closer together and that led to this episode. This becomes a moment for him to shine. In our minds, the book is constantly being worked on. We try and reference it always, but different people on the show will always be rotating at the forefront. One of the things about Mike that people might forget is that he’s been with her for a really long time. It took a lot for her to consider firing him last season. There is a relationship there and it’s nice to remind people that it’s different than the other characters. This is the closest Selina gets to bonding, and then in the end remains true to Selina when she screws him over with the reference. But Mike knew her when she wasn’t president or vice president, he predates all of that and all of these people in her life, including Ben, Kent, Jonah, Richard and probably Amy. Gary likely came in around the same time, so they’re the original staff. He’s her oldest employee and has known her the longest and that's the most important part of Mike. When the two of them bash the barn, Mike is a bit of a child man. There’s obviously a lot of emotion in that scene, and he also helps to keep it a comedy.
What was it like to film the scene of Selina crashing the car into the barn?
That’s about as stunty as we get in Veep. That’s as big as we get. We built an empty plot of land in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. We built this fence and bar facade, a classic Hollywood build where it was real but there was nothing behind it. So they went in the door and then we were on set for the interior at Paramount. We did run a real car through a real piece of wood. There was a stunt person. But Julia did get pulled out of the car. It was her lashing out at her own realizations in life.
How is she going to start reevaluating aspects of her life?
There are some things she’s realized, and she will be thinking about the men in her life. But as her speech to Mike shows, she's still Selina. She is sort of addressing that area of her life, and her conclusions may be incorrect because she’s Selina, but at least she’s addressing certain issues. There’s obviously something very funny about Julia and the character when we dump a lot of crap on her and we love doing that. Filming the opening scene of Selina's depression was some of the most fun stuff we've filmed with Julia. But at the same time, we love this character so the idea that she might find a couple answers along the way is not a bad thing.
It's revealed that her mother also referred to the loony bin as "the spa." Did her mother also have nervous breakdowns and will Selina have regrets about how she treated her mother?
I’d like to think it runs in the family. Her regrets all go into the reevaluation. It was interesting with Uncle George to hear a little bit of the other side about how smart MeeMaw was and what a good head for business she had. Despite what Selina thought, she was probably better at a lot of things than Selina ever gave her credit for. It shows how much history repeats itself. Catherine in some ways has found this happiness and in some ways it’s connected to not listening to what she’s supposed to by following her heart to her true love, which is Marjorie. Maybe for Catherine’s sake, that’s an advancement that Selina hasn’t been able to do. To go wherever her heart would lead her. We also enjoyed and laughed at the idea that Catherine’s therapist is very much like Selina.
Where did you come up with the Madame Tussauds gig with tourists defaming Selina's statue?
There was a pretty famous statue of Nicki Minaj on all fours with her butt up in the air and, needless to say, people were doing that. There’s also a bunch of very funny Internet sites of things people do to Ronald McDonald statues and things like that. The Madame Tussauds idea had been floating around for a while. They could have made her a statue when she was president and it's something that exists in the world of presidents. I myself was on a family trip to London and went to Madam Toussads and took my photo with Obama. It was just one of those natural ideas and it also seemed like it would be particularly funny for it to happen and also for poor Gary to have to deal with it.
Is Amy (Anna Chlumsky) already regretting being back on the job?
I don’t know if she’s regretting it, but she’s definitely trying to figure out where she fits in. She rushed back there and now there’s Richard, and Selina runs hot and cold, and this is where Amy finds herself. She’s wondering.
There's also a revealing scene where Catherine and Marjorie (Clea Duvall), after asking Richard (Sam Richardson) to be their new sperm donor, find out he has never masturbated and has some questions. Why is Richard their next logical choice?
That scene is probably the edge of as far as we have ever pushed anything on the show, but God it was hilarious. The energy of those three together is very funny because he’s so honest and forthright and the two of them are so serious. I think they found the perfect candidate. They come in at the end scene of the episode and tell Selina they have some big news, and Richard says, “I think you’re going to be very surprised.” One assumes that somewhere after that, they get around to telling Selina, as they are full steam ahead. I don’t think he’s a virgin I just don’t think he masturbated, which is a very specific and very Richard Splett line in the sand. Filming that scene was nonstop hilarity on set, Sarah Sutherland in particular had a really hard time. We were constantly hitting them with new variations and the writers really rose to the occasion. Like, "What’s the cup for? Do I have to fill it?" It’s a fine line with the character Richad Splett, who we all love and who people seem to love, where on the one hand he’s incredibly smart about certain things and on the other hand, he’s incredibly stupid about other things. You just want to make sure the stupid line is never too far.
Dan (Reid Scott) is now asking Amy if he should have sex with his co-anchor, Jane. How has Dan's and Amy's relationship evolved?
I know the greater audience continues to think they’re going to get back together. But they’ve been colleagues for a much longer time than at this point, whatever they had. If you think back to last year with Nevada, Amy is the one who called Dan and told him to stop what he was doing and come to Nevada. Even during the New Hampshire campaign, she went up there to help out. I’m not sure it’s something they would ever admit to, their bond. For those who feel there should be a relationship there, whatever feelings Amy may or may not have toward Dan, it’s that much funnier that he’s oblivious to them and is now talking about sex with other people. Dan being horrible is fun to write.
Jonah (Timothy Simons) finally has success in the lady department. Where is this relationship headed?
We’ll see where it goes. The notion of Sherman Tanz having this very powerful daughter is some of our desire to address the idea of billionaire backers. There’s some loose examples of characters like this in the real world. We had talked about this earlier in the season when Jonah was going on the dates that went horribly wrong, and it seemed like an area that would be fun to explore for Jonah. Him meeting a woman half-disgusted by him and also half-attracted. We were very lucky enough to find Mary Holland, who is a brilliant improver. It’s very fun to have those two playing scenes together. Not to mention Jonah’s new look. The glasses are out and the bow tie is in and I enjoy how much he allows himself to get reinvented constantly and that he does it without even pretending that there’s a pretense. The pace of how his hair is growing back shows that we have moved forward by a lot. It’s been a couple of months within the show. We're moving through the year.
What's next up ahead in Selina's quest for relevancy?
We have a lot of book to go. The new development, which she is very excited about, is that she’s going to turn her semi-birthplace into the library. That’s the latest plan and we’ll see how that goes. Nothing that we're doing or not doing on Veep has anything to do with what's happening in the real world of politics, but it’s yet another week where I’m so happy to not be in the White House. These weeks are just crazy and just when you think you’ve hit the level of crazy it gets crazier.
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