Politics as Pop Culture

In 'Veep,' Julia Louis-Dreyfus Plays A 'Political Animal' With Bite

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the frustrated vice president in the new HBO comedy, Veep. i i

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the frustrated vice president in the new HBO comedy, Veep. Bill Gray/HBO hide caption

itoggle caption Bill Gray/HBO
Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the frustrated vice president in the new HBO comedy, Veep.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the frustrated vice president in the new HBO comedy, Veep.

Bill Gray/HBO

Julia Louis-Dreyfus knows it must seem like she's "arrived," as NPR's Rachel Martin says during their discussion on Sunday's Weekend Edition. She's well-known from Seinfeld, of course, but she's also been on Saturday Night Live, and for five seasons held down her own CBS sitcom, The New Adventures Of Old Christine. Her new HBO comedy, Veep, in which she plays the vice president to an unseen and unknown president, premieres Sunday night.

But she says it doesn't always feel quite so much like she's arrived. She has a certain level of insecurity even as a successful actress who's still working in Hollywood — much like you might have both authority and insecurity as the vice president. That's part of the reason she says Selina Meyer — whom she calls "exceptionally frustrated and exceptionally ambitious, and thwarted" — is "the role of a lifetime."

"She's a political animal, and I'm kind of an actress animal. It kind of all works at the same time. I have a kind of an authority, like she kind of has an authority. Does that make sense? So there's a vulnerability, an insecurity, and the opposite — and there's also a confidence and a narcissism all at play, all at the same time, and I can use all of that."

While Julia Louis-Dreyfus may find Selina Meyer the role of a lifetime, Meyer fairly clearly does not find being VP to be the same. For one thing, there's a running joke in which Meyer asks her assistant whether the president has called. The answer is always no. "We're depicting a situation in which that relationship is highly dysfunctional," Louis-Dreyfus says, "and the president is very much trying to keep this vice president, Selina Meyer, at arm's length away."

Also at arm's length? The politics of the particular president and VP involved. "You'll never see the president," she says, "and you'll never know what political party Selina is in." Louis-Dreyfus says this helps to preserve the focus on the people involved and the fact that no matter what party Selina is in, she works both sides to survive.

The vice presidency may not be a very satisfying place for Selina Meyer, but Veep is a good place for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who says she hopes to play this role for a long time. "It feels fantastic," she says.

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