If you want to be a guest actor on Veep, you need be able to stay in the moment.  In a show heavy on rehearsal and improv, you don’t need to come up with an arsenal of funny lines.  You just need to stay real.

If you want to spec Veep, be prepared to write a 58-page script.  That’s how long the upcoming episode 8 of season 2 was.  But the script was only the foundation of the episode.  The final product arose out of two weeks of rehearsal and a whole lot of choices, including found moments improved of the actors.

It’s a long but thoroughly rewarding experience for the cast and crew who ultimately want to find the humor in realness.

Those are some of the tidbits shared at the panel held at the TV Academy for the HBO series, a For Your Consideration event in the campaign for Emmy nods.

The cast all sat and watched the screening of episode 8 which was shot in 2 days. Usually episodes are shot in 5, with 12 pages shot each day, but because the episode utilized just one location, there was a consolidation of the shooting schedule.

Unusual for television, the cast is provided scripts in advance. In the 1st season, six episodes were given to the cast who had the luxury of rehearsing for 2 weeks. Because the cast and crew use a long time for discovery, often entire episodes are rewritten. Writers are on set, and show creator Arnando Iannuci insures that the dialogue is conversational and not so precise.

Those razored zingers come from both cast and the writers; uniformly the actors are more comfortable with the lines because their ideas and words are incorporated.

The cast had the opportunity to meet their real life counterparts. Reid Scott (Dan Egan) said he was surprised at how young those in positions of influence in our nation were.

The consensus was that Veep is the most accurate portrayal of Washington politics. The show is amongst a spate of TV shows based in Washington including House of Cards, Newsroom, 1600 Penn (cancelled), Scandal, and Homeland.

In fact, unbeknownst to the producers, politicos have done background work for the show, with some offering corrections in the depicted protocol.

A modest Kevin Dunn said when he auditioned for the role, he was intimated by the strong improv skills of the cast.

Emmy award winner, Julia Louis Dreyfuss says that she taps in aspects of herself such as being driven, lonely, and sad.

With a long history on TV, Dreyfuss emphasized that what’s funny about the show is the reaction to the joke. Often Iannuci takes out the well-manicured lines or focuses the camera on the reaction rather than the delivery of the line.

With the rapid fire jokes, how do they know they’ve mined humor? The hand-held camera operators shake.

Favorite insults:

Dunn: “Axis of dick”

Scott: “Jolly green jizz face”

Iannuci: “Biggest single-cell organism”

Dreyfuss: “That’s like trying to use a croissant as a f—ing dildo. It doesn’t do the job, and it makes a f—ing mess.”

Another: “You’re Frankenstein if Frankenstein’s monster was made entirely of dead dicks.”

Shamefully omitted from the 101 best written TV series, Veep airs on Sundays on HBO.


–Ken Choy

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