“Jesus, look at his stupid gaping mouth. Let’s put stuff in it.”
This line, delivered by Reid Scott on the HBO comedy “Veep,” isn’t the most inventive insult aimed at the show’s lumbering scapegoat, Jonah Ryan, but it’s one of the few we can print in this magazine. Some of the best (and most unprintable) lines come from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays the Vice President of the United States, and whose fans include real-life VP Joe Biden.
Entering its third season this month, “Veep” is the work of the Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci, creator of the BBC’s acerbic political comedy “The Thick of It,” and like its predecessor the show is extravagantly profane. Certainly, anyone who has watched “Veep” will never look at a croissant the same way again.
Scott, who plays Dan Egan, the Vice President’s smarmy, self-serving deputy director of communications, says that one of the perils of being in “Veep” is taking your work home with you. “I’ve found my insults have gotten very verbose,” he says. “I try to be polite, quiet, but then someone will turn without using a signal and Dan Egan comes vomiting out of my mouth.”
While much of the invective lobbed about on “Veep” is the product of Iannucci’s febrile imagination, the show’s actors are also encouraged to improvise, which, Scott says, can get awkward at times. “You’ll have said something about someone’s face, and you’ll go over afterwards and say, ‘I’m so sorry!’”
Off screen, says Scott, there’s a little more warmth among the cast members, who are effectively sequestered in Maryland during the shooting. “We go to a lot of movies. We drink a lot of wine.” As for Timothy Simons, who plays the hated White House liaison Jonah: “He’s one of my closest friends.”
Simons, Scott continues, is “a great guy, so unlike his character,” but admits that the line is a little more blurry with his own role. “There’s a bit of Danny here or there,” he says, adding that this fact isn’t as bad as it sounds. “He’s a charming, upwardly mobile jerk, but there’s a heart in there somewhere.”
Becoming Dan: “When I first went in, Armando asked me to just talk to him as Dan, without a net, just get on with it. I’d never been asked to do this before. I’m spoiled for the rest of my life now. I don’t think I can go back to ‘Come in and be the guy on the page.’”
Popularity: “I thought for sure ‘Veep’ would find an audience in New York and L.A. I thought people in Washington would get a kick out of it. But I’ve been blown away by the response. I get stopped every day by people who love the show, some of them kids.”
Realism: “I’ve met congressmen, lobbyists, chief-of-staffers, and they all said, ‘Oh, man, you guys are nailing it.’ One of my friends worked in D.C. for years, and the first words out of his mouth were, ‘Okay, so you’re playing me.’ I’m happy we’re accurate, but it’s also terrifying.”