Stephan Lee
December 20, 2013 AT 05:00 AM EST

Often the longer a politician stays in office, the lower her approval ratings fall. But in the case of HBO’s Veep, the more egregiously Vice President Selina Meyer stumbles, the harder we laugh and the more praise we heap on her. This year, Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her second Emmy award for playing Selina. “I understand her inner conflict,” says Louis-Dreyfus of the mesmerizingly frenetic, gaffe-plagued VP. “She’s very powerful and driven, [but] her sense of righteousness and morality is defused by her drive for power.”

The second season gave Selina some actual authority — and it was hilarious to watch her buckle beneath it. “She sucks at her job, to be frank,” Louis-Dreyfus, 52, says with a laugh. A low for the VP but a high for the actress came in the much-talked-about episode “Running,” when after a minor victory a reinvigorated Selina marched through a glass door on the way to schmooze with potential donors. “That was so much fun, and actually a bit scary because she walks away from the accident pretty beaten up,” says Louis-Dreyfus. “We tried to find the line between scary and funny.” That’s a line that Louis-Dreyfus has struck in her lauded career as Seinfeld‘s Elaine Benes, The New Adventures of Old Christine‘s Christine Campbell, and now Selina Meyer. “Maybe there’s an underlying rage-slash-paranoia that pits them against the universe,” she says. “I think that’s the link.”

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