Queen Julia Louis-Dreyfus for GQ

What do you get when you take Elaine Benes and make her ruthless, even more self-absorbed, and frequently enraged? You get veep Selina Meyer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus's most unforgettable character yet.

“When you lose your moral center, it’s easy to get pissed off,” says Louis-Dreyfus, sipping tea at an L.A. hotel before a script meeting for season three, which premiered on April 6. “Selina has been eaten by the machine, but also, she is the machine. She’s a mangled, bloodied, pulpy working mess.”

Here she is in season one, scolding an aide for using a White House lackey to gather intelligence: “That’s like trying to use a croissant as a fuckin’ dildo!” Delivered more softly, the line could be funny in a Tina Fey-on-30 Rock way. But here it’s just nasty, and it’s followed by a louder, crueler expulsion of wrath: “Let me be more clear. It doesn’t do the job, and it makes a FUCKING MESS!”

Louis-Dreyfus swears that Selina’s anger isn’t fueled by her own inner demons. “I don’t have a shit-ton of baggage,” she says. “There’s not some grotesque, dark thing.”