She may be the No. 2 on Veep, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus is TV’s comedy commander-in-chief. As Selina Meyer — the vainglorious, profanity-prone vice president with a gift for gaffe — the 53-year-old actress has been scoring laughs with blunt-force punchlines, tossed-off bons mots, and a splash of slapshtick. She’s won the hearts and minds of (TV Academy) voters, claiming two Emmys for the role that pair nicely with her other two from Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine. With Veep returning to HBO for a third season on April 6 — and Selina ready to test the campaign trail as she plots a bid for the Oval Office — we reached out to her colleagues to learn what it’s like to work with JLD. These truths became self-evident: She has a Jedi-like understanding of the science of comedy. (”She’s the greatest quarterback you could ever hope for because she knows every angle,” says costar Reid Scott. ”She’s like a Peyton Manning of television comedy. I don’t think she’ll choke in the Super Bowl as much, though.”) She’s a natural-born leader. (”I think of her as the Knute Rockne of comedians because she’s so inspiring,” says Kevin Dunn. ”A Knutella Rockne.”) She’s also a relentless competitor. (”She’s always trying to find the better scene,” says Sufe Bradshaw. ”Like, ‘This is funny. But how could it be funnier?’ ”) Herewith, six anecdotes from her Veep mates — with rebuttals from the top second banana herself.
Reid Scott, Deputy director of communications Dan Egan
”It was the day after we wrapped. And season 2 was grueling. We were just trying to get it right and show that season 1 was not just a fluke. We worked so hard and were so tired, and Julia and I ended up on the same flight on the way home. We were up in the very cushy first-class cabin, and she was sitting toward the front and I was in the back, so she came back and asked my neighbor very politely if he wouldn’t mind switching.
This stuffy, needle-nosed D.C. archetype — in a sweater-vest and everything — glanced up from whatever crappy book he was reading and just looked at her, looked at me, looked at the seat, and said, ‘That’s a bulkhead. Sorry. No.’ And goes right back to his book. She just stood over him and glanced at me, and then I saw her just turn on that JLD charm with that cherubic smile and those big brown eyes and say, ‘Would you mind terribly…?’ And I watched her sweet-talk this a..hole into doing exactly what he didn’t want to do. Then she and I sat on the plane drinking white wine and bitching about season 2 all the way home. She can do it, man! She’ll sweet-talk you into writing, like, six more articles about her.”
”Well, let’s see how this particular issue turns out…. You know, it didn’t seem very polite or nice, so I sort of wiggled my way into convincing him that it was the right thing to do…. I’m not sure I’d call it ‘JLD charm,’ but I can get under somebody’s skin and help them see the light.”
Tony Hale, Personal aide Gary Walsh
”She’s really devious in liking to see other people break [character]. Every single shooting day she has a full game plan, she’s out for you, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get you to break. Her performance can make me laugh constantly, and nothing makes her laugh harder than to see me break. So then she breaks because I break, and it becomes this vicious cycle. She’s like, ‘How can I destroy your performance by doing something funny to make you break?’… If her character is annoyed by something, she does this Uh-uh. She makes this noise under her breath. Since I’m so close to her all the time as her body man, sometimes only I can hear this sound. Therefore Gary has to look into his bag or turn around, or I’ll ruin the shot…. Here’s the deal: She would rather shoot a blooper-reel series than the actual series.”
”And here’s the other deal — so would he! He and I would star in the blooper-reel series. It would be so much fun! The thing that he’s not mentioning is that he will crack up under any circumstances. It takes nothing to make that guy lose it in a scene — it’s a cinch — and it does give me great joy. The camaraderie on the set is why I do what I do, to be honest. It’s great fun to have a good job and to make people laugh, but if it’s possible to make the people you’re working with laugh, then you’ve won, and the fun factor goes high, maybe even off the charts. And if that happens, then you see it translate to screen even unknowingly…. By the way, watch the show and see how many times that man turns his back to camera — seriously! That’s a fun thing for all the fans: Watch Tony Hale break. It’s the new drinking game — you’re gonna get wasted in about 10 minutes.”
Armando Iannucci, Creator
”We were shooting the episode last season where she’s out on a 10K run. It had to look like it was summer and everyone was very jolly. But it was freezing cold. And because we were in a park, we were spread out, so we had electric golf carts to get people [around]. As the day was going on, it was getting colder, and we wanted to get things done quicker. Julia’s always focused on her performance, but she has this other ability to be completely aware of all the other issues that need dealing with on set, and I think someone needed to go change a costume. There was going to be a delay. I remember the word going out, ‘Okay, the driver of the golf cart will be up here in five minutes,’ and Julia just said, ‘Oh, I’ll do it!’ and she ran over to the golf cart, got in, and drove off with the person while still dressed as Selina. It’s just that thing of: If you want something done, you might as well do it yourself. That kind of sums her up.”
”It was getting late and we were going to lose light, and we had something like 150 extras and these people were freezing. The crew was freezing, and we did not have any time to sit around and wait for five minutes for the right person to drive the cart. So I was like, ‘F this,’ and I got into the cart and just took off. Eat my dust! And we got the shot, so that was good.”