As “Veep” premieres its fourth season Sunday, the show enters new territory as Vice President Selina Meyer prepares for a new job.
HBO’s Washington satire has been a favourite amongst comedy fans, critics, and politicians alike. The show goes to extremes in order to both replicate the experience of working in Washington while maintaining its rapid fire joke pace.
Here is what goes on behind the scenes of “Veep”:
1. The preparation process is intense
It might be a contradiction to say that “Veep” is reliant both on improvisation and heavy preparation.
Yes, “Veep” relies heavily on a script. But during the days leading up to a shoot, the script is tinkered with and new plot lines and jokes are born.
These preparation periods give birth to some of the show’s funniest moments. Like this one:
2. Each episode is well over an hour long before editing
In a panel discussion at the Paley Center, the cast revealed that they shoot an hour and 10 minutes for every episode. Then, that 70 minutes of footage must be whittled down to about 28 minutes to be run on HBO.
3. The crew only uses handheld cameras
To accommodate all of the walk and talks, the shows only uses handheld cameras.
This enables the loose, free-flowing feeling of the show, but also creates many logistical challenges for the crew.
4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus uses a visual trick to make Jonah scenes even funnier
White House liason Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) is the character every “Veep” fan loves to hate. He inspires endless supercuts and mash-ups on YouTube, as some of the most fun parts of the show are both watching how creepy he can be, and seeing what insult somebody will hurl his way.
According to the Paley Center talk, to make scenes between Jonah and Selina even funnier, Julia Louis-Dreyfus likes to take off her shoes before getting in his face and yelling at him.
“I will make sure the camera comes in tight so its not full body so I can take my shoes off and I can be my solid 5’3″ up against [Timothy Simons],” Louis-Dreyfus said. “Because I think it’s really funny to get in someone’s face in that direction.”
5. A famous New York Times columnist helped bring the show to life
New York Times’ columnist Frank Rich serves as an executive producer on “Veep,” bringing his experiences with Washington to the show.
Rich had been a creative consultant at HBO since 2008 while the network was looking for a fictional show about D.C.
Rich was a fan of Armando Iannuci’s since “In the Loop,” and luckily, while Rich was at HBO, Iannuci came in to pitch “Veep” to the network.
6. There are no plans for cameos from real-life politicians
While other politically-centered shows will often feature cameos from real politicians (“Parks and Recreation” nabbed appearances by Joe Biden and John McCain), “Veep” doesn’t plan to pull its farcicial bureaucrats into the real world anytime soon.
“We don’t allow it. We want to have our own world, our own reality,” Frank Rich explained at a Q&A at 92nd Street Y.
Despite this, Louis-Dreyfus shot a video for the White House Correspondent’s Dinner where she played Selina alongside Joe Biden:
7. They make sure guest stars don’t take any of the personal insults too … personally
“Veep” has become well-known for its well-worded and instantly quotable insults. Cast members are comfortable enough to get really vicious with each other, especially involving each other’s physical appearances.
Because of this, they need to warn guest stars and newcomers alike to be prepared for some very personal putdowns.
8. The show can’t actually shoot in Washington
Because of logistical issues, the show can’t actually shoot in the nation’s capital, so the cast and crew had to settle for nearby Baltimore.
Instead, they were able to build an almost exact replica of the vice president’s office, which can be found in a Baltimore warehouse.
9. There’s no glamour to this version of D.C.
Despite comparisons to “The West Wing,” “Veep” wants to go for something completely different.
“I want to show a side of D.C. that people haven’t really seen before,” Iannuci said in an HBO documentary.
To do this, they give a complete tour of behind the scenes of Washington, and not everybody’s office looks as nice as the Oval Office.
“Anyone who’s been around D.C. knows a lot of the offices of very powerful people are…they’re messy like anyone else’s office,” Frank Rich added.
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