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Julia Louis-Dreyfus on hit series Veep: Stay tuned for dramatic twist

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the U.S. vice president on Veep.

There is "a big change of sorts" ahead for Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus revealed at the Banff World Media Festival on Tuesday. She hinted at dramatic developments, as the hit HBO series nears the end of season two.

"Next season is going to be even more different, believe it or not. A lot happens in the last two episodes of this season, which will be indicative of certain things for next season."

Louis-Dreyfus was at Banff this week to receive the inaugural Variety TV Impact Award. The impact for which she was recognized includes nine seasons playing Elaine Benes on the hugely successful Seinfeld, and now another Emmy-winning role on the acclaimed HBO series Veep, where she plays the foul-mouthed, blundering U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer. If there's any question about the impact of Veep, consider Louis-Dreyfus's recent lunch at the White House with the real Vice President, Joe Biden.

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"The first thing that happened was someone in his office introduced herself to me and she said 'I'm the Dan Egan of the office,'" she told the Banff audience, referring to a character on the show. "And then another woman comes in and she says 'I'm Sue, I'm Sue.' I said 'you're name's Sue?' And she goes 'no, no, no, no.' … In other words they were identifying with the characters, which I thought was bizarre," said Louis-Dreyfus. "But it was a lot of fun."

Louis-Dreyfus, 52, started her TV career in her early 20s, landing a spot on Saturday Night Live. But it was 1982 – a tumultuous time at SNL with cast and management changes – and the experience was not a good one.

"When I came off of Saturday Night Live, which was a fraught time when I was on it and … it was rough. It was rough for me as a woman and it was rough for me because I was crazy young and crazy inexperienced and naive. So what I learned after having done that show for that year was that, and it's so basic and so Pollyannaish, but I really came away from that thinking you know what? I'm not going to do anything else unless it's really fun. Because it zapped the fun out of me, doing that show."

Louis-Dreyfus went on to win the part of quirky ex-girlfriend/best friend Elaine on the hugely successful Seinfeld, and then proved the so-called Seinfeld curse (pointing to various failures of the cast in their post-Seinfeld projects, including Louis-Dreyfus's own Watching Ellie) wrong with her successful sitcom, The New Adventures of Old Christine – for which she also won an Emmy. After the show went off the air – prematurely, Louis-Dreyfus said on Tuesday – she wasn't quite ready for another project, but the possibility of playing "an unhappy vice president" – and on HBO – was too exciting to pass up.

"I thought oh, oh, that sounds fantastic. … Nobody's gone to this area and of course it makes sense, because the position of vice president is such a powerful and powerless position and it's ideal for comedy. And the fact that nobody had thought of it before, I was like give it to me."

The show, created by Armando Iannucci in the vein of his BBC comedy The Thick of It, set in British government, and the spin-off feature film In the Loop, had the luxury of an almost unheard of six weeks of rehearsal before the first season was shot, which turned into a collaborative creation process, Louis-Dreyfus says.

"There are weeks and weeks of rehearsal that go into the production of Veep before we even get on set, and that is very much a part of the process. And so much material is born out of it. It's not to say that the show is not written; it is written. But it's really not completely written until it's edited, because there's a lot of material that doesn't make it in and even when the cameras are rolling, we'll do one or two passes in which [Iannucci will] say let's free it up, just say whatever you want. And a lot of times that stuff stays in, which is what I think gives the show a very conversational tone. He doesn't want it to ever seem as if it's written."

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She believes the series should have a long life ahead of it. When asked if the HBO experience – that kind of preparation time, the character development, the creative swearing – has ruined her for network television, Louis-Dreyfus said everything is changing so rapidly, it's hard to know what's ahead.

"Assuming that Veep has a long life, which I certainly hope it does, five, eight, 10 years from now, what's going to be happening on broadcast television, I don't know. So I'm not shutting any [doors]. I just want to keep working, doing good material and I will go where the material is. Because I really do love to perform."

If TV comedy has traditionally been male-dominated, Louis-Dreyfus says "it feels like the landscape has changed," naming a number of successful female comedy actors, including Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Jane Lynch.

"There are so many very fine female actresses who are very capable of doing comedy – just tons of them. They've always been there, but I think there's now more of an outlet for these ladies and there seems to be a market for it too, which will create more outlets."

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More


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