{{show_title_date || "Lawrence O'Donnell interviews the 'Veep', 4/8/13, 11:17 PM ET"}}

O’Donnell brainstorms ‘Veep’ episodes with Julia Louis-Dreyfus


HBO’s Veep, returning for its second season April 14th, chronicles the hapless adventures of the first female vice president and her enthusiastic, if blundering, staff. Last year, actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus won an Emmy for her portrayal of the show’s lead, Vice President Selena Meyers, a triumph for which she was personally praised by her real-life counterpart, Joe Biden.

On Monday, Louis-Dreyfus spoke with msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell about the upcoming season. “I got a really incredible voicemail message from [Biden], in which he called to say congratulations on winning the Emmy, which was unbelievable,” Louis-Dreyfus said on The Last Word. “And then he extraordinarily apologized for not calling me sooner.”

“You know, I’ve gotta say,” remarked O’Donnell, “that does sound like something that your character, your vice president, would do. Call up the actress playing the vice president in a comedy show saying congratulations.”

Meyers’ political journey does bear a certain resemblance to Biden’s. In Veep’s opening title sequence, we learn via a series of newspaper headlines that Selena ran for president, lost the primary, and was eventually offered the position as the country’s second in command. Similarities between the two veeps don’t extend much further (one would hope: Louis-Dreyfus’ Meyer is often vain, egocentric, and shallow). Like The West Wing or Netflix’s House of Cards, Veep exists in an alternative political universe.

“The last thing in the world I want [Biden] to think, or frankly any vice president to think, is that we’re poking fun at a specific vice president,” Louis-Dreyfus said.

Despite being a sitcom, Veep trades in the laugh track for a more realistic feel. Show creator Armando Iannucci maintains the documentary-style camerawork of his previous political sitcom, BBC’s The Thick of It, and encourages improvisation by the show’s cast, which includes Tony Hale of Arrested Development and Matt Walsh, a founding member of the improv group, The Upright Citizens’ Brigade. Even vice president Meyers’ key initiatives–filibuster reform and green jobs–are particularly topical.

“Credibility is incredibly important to me and to [Iannucci] and all the writers and cast,” Louis-Dreyfus recently told Politico. “We have a lot of political consultants on our show and from both sides of the aisle that are in our employ, so we are constantly vetting scripts and having them vetted…Somehow it’s a little more juicy if you can believe it, and it’s funny at the same time.”

Veep holds its focus on the insular group of Meyers and her staff, who spend most of their time cleaning up messes of their own creation. The show’s fictional president has remained nameless, faceless, and incommunicado throughout the series. This underlines one of Veep’s key comedic thru-lines: the disparity between a vice president’s position and actual power. “Did the president call?” Selena routinely asks her secretary; the answer is always the same.