SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Veep Season 5 finale.
EXCLUSIVE: So, with hundreds of thousands of people packing the National Mall in Washington D.C., America tonight finally saw what the inauguration of a female President of the United States looks like. This being the Season 5 finale of premium cable’s scathing Veep and not cable news, it was not the swearing in of Hillary Clinton as POTUS – and it wasn’t the HBO series’ Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer taking the oath of office in her own right either s President or once again as VP.
After five seasons and spending all this year trying to gain traction in the deadlock election results that ended Season 4, a totally defeated Meyer is now completely out of office. The Svengali strategy by Hugh Laurie’s Sen. Tom James almost VP character to snag the Oval Office for himself in a deciding Senate vote failed. For a brief moment, it even looked like Louis-Dreyfus’ character might end up as VP again, this time to Laurie’s James, but that humiliation came wonderfully crashing down too.
Having taken over the Emmy-winning series this hilarious season, former Curb Your Enthusiasm EP David Mandel chatted with me about tonight’s finale, what is next for ex-POTUS Meyer and what role, if any, he will play on the recently announced return of the Larry David-led series. With refreshing candor, Mandel also talked about working with Louis-Dreyfus, Laurie and what is was like to step into Veep creator Armando Iannucci’s shoes just after the series had won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series last year.
DEADLINE: So, first things first, where does Veep go from here in Season 6 now that this season has ended with Selina Meyer no longer president, her grand foreign policy triumph of freeing Tibet from the Chinese scooped up in her successor’s swearing in and Julia’s character left looking to get out of the rain?
MANDEL: Well, that’s what she’s looking to do right now, is get out of the rain. However, one of the things I am really excited about is much in the way Veep became the story of the president of the United States when she became president, we are now going to get a chance to sort of check out what it’s like for her to be the former president of the United States – and not perhaps a well regarded former president of the United States.
Selina was a placeholder president who held the job for only a year, and perhaps, in the eyes of many, isn’t perhaps deserving of her round-the-clock Secret Service, of the things that normally go with an ex-president of the United States. These are going to be very hard things for someone like Selina Meyer to hear, and so that’s what gets me very excited, is sort of the new world, the uncharted territory going into next season
DEADLINE: So, Selina’s really out of office – because at the end of the finale, we had the reveal that Sufe Bradshaw’s Sue is staying at the White House with the new president, Laura Montez (Andrea Savage) and then Martin Mull’s Bob Bradley walks up to President Montez and says, said, “Selina, we found those lost Nevada ballots. You won.” Feels like you are opening the door to another Meyer presidency there.
MANDEL: (laughs) No, that’s just a joke for those of you who enjoyed the Eagle character Martin played. You have my word that she’s not president of the United States. She is not vice-president of the United States. Veep will be the continuing adventures of former president of the United States.
DEADLINE: Where are you on Season 6? Will we see more of Hugh Laurie’s scheming almost Veep and almost POTUS Tom James? He and Julia were so ripping together…
MANDEL: Literally, the finale just aired, and the writers will start on Monday, the next day. So we’re just starting to get together.
I will say, I go into the season saying everybody is fair game, from Tom James to people we haven’t seen this last season. They’re all fair game. It’s all about the ideas. Great lines win. Great ideas win. If we come up with a great idea, you will absolutely see Tom James, but again, we’re not going to parade him out to parade him out. I think the relationship that they had, I think the season that they had, it would sully it. It would piss on it to just bring him back to bring him back. So it’s just something I don’t want to rush into.
DEADLINE: This could be a big Emmy year for Hugh, with Veep and his performance in The Night Manager…
MANDEL: Yes – I was a Fry & Laurie fan, I was a Blackadder fan, I was a House fan and he’s a pleasure. You know, some of my fondest memories of this season were working with him and Julia on the dance scene into the fight into the kiss in episode seven
And my other probably favorite memories were just working on the last scene between the two of them in the finale in the rotunda of the Capitol. We did not go into that day with a lot of that stuff. We really played with it and had writers pitching and stuff, and really, the way he delivers that line about opening up a little shop on Main Street and opening up a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund was great. He is exquisite, and this is a tough one especially I think on the male side because I’d like to give every member of our cast a best supporting comedy Emmy.
— David Mandel (@DavidHMandel) June 27, 2016
DEADLINE: Speaking of wishes, how much are you going to be involved with the return of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where you were EP for several seasons?
MANDEL: It’s a tough one. Here’s one of the great things, and I may have said this somewhere, so forgive me. Curb ideas are not Veep ideas. I definitely have my Curb idea list that I’ve been carrying around for the last five years, and it’s a giant, long list, and I’ll send it to Larry eventually, and hopefully there’ll be at least one thing on the list that he thinks is worthy.
So I’ll definitely be helping that way. I’ll kibitz on outlines where I can, but the real truth is it’s going to all be about a production schedule. I’m sort of hoping that he doesn’t get his act together enough to not go into production until we’re done with our production. Then maybe I could jump in at the end and direct one or two. That would be a dream to be able to just pop back and help out. Right now, Veep is my priority. Veep is my home, but I have nothing but obviously, good thoughts and really want Curb to be Curb. So anything I can do, as long as Veep is not getting hurt, I guess is the answer
DEADLINE: With Veep being the priority, what was it like for you coming on board to the show with Julia, Tony (Hale) and gang to take over as showrunner after creator Armando Iannucci decided to leave and production moved from Maryland to California?
MANDEL: You know, a little daunting, obviously, in the sense that it was this incredibly well-oiled machine that had not only done four amazing years, but the very nature of the way they shot in Baltimore made them a very insular team, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
To some extent, they were trapped together in Baltimore. So they really ate their meals together, lived together and created together. This is a show where they really spent a tremendous amount of time together and did like each other. Luckily, I had, obviously, some kind of a relationship with Julia, so that was nice…
DEADLINE: From Seinfeld?
MANDEL: Yes, and I love Veep so I felt like there was a lot I could bring to it. I think that’s part of being a comedy writer. You have to be confident. If you’re sitting around worrying about, like, oh my God, what are people going to think, then you’re not writing comedy. You have to write what makes you laugh, and then the world hopefully laughs as well.
If we wrote the show the audience wanted, then, I don’t know, Dan (Reid Scott) and Amy (Anna Chulmsky) would’ve gotten married in episode 2, and Selina and Tom James would also get married, and they would be co-presidents, or I don’t know what. You know what I mean? I went into it trying to think of what did I think was the perfect way for this show to go, and then I tried to execute it. So that’s all you can do, really.
DEADLINE: How much did you communicate with Armando about taking over and the direction you wanted to take Veep this season?
MANDEL: I had an email or two with Armando and a brief conversation with him on the phone, and then later on, I went and visited him in London, and we sat down together and had more of a proper talk. During the visit, I filled him in on what I was thinking about the season and what I was thinking about what is episode 10?
I think Armando and I speak a lot of the same language in terms of comedy, but I think we come at it in just different ways. I’ll go even a couple of steps further than that. I really started thinking about that the season would end with her losing, and how she was going to lose, and losing to Montez, and that I wanted to see her get on that helicopter sort of Nixon style and take off. So that idea and those images were really the stuff that I started with. So, when I was first given the job, I was simply presented with it’s a tie at the end of Season 4 – Do what you’re going to do. That’s the stuff I came up with as part of what I thought the season would be.
And when I did visit with him in London, I shared it with him, and he gave it the thumbs up, as they say, and we went from there – I think it’s the way he wanted it. He’s had no involvement, and he wanted no involvement, and he’s been gracious enough that I think he’s actually watched a bunch of the episodes and had nothing but nice things to say, which has been, obviously, lovely.
DEADLINE: You really packed in a lot of Presidential historical moments this season, from Nixon’s resignation fly-off, the hostages being released by Iran in 1981 just as Reagan took the oath of office and Jimmy Carter was out, the 2000 recount…
MANDEL: We always do walk that fine line where when we sort of steal from real history, we like to steal a little bit. Never a lot, but a little. So we took the notion of the simultaneous inauguration with, if you will, the hostages being released, in this case of the Chinese Deal as the visual inspiration, but didn’t want to take it all the way. We were never going to do line for line, but we’ve stolen little bits and pieces.
Earlier this season, we had Jonah (Timothy Simons) doing the Howard Dean yell as he was listing off cities incorrectly in New Hampshire. This sounds silly but I love politics. I was a government major at Harvard. My first job out of college was writing comedy coverage of the Democratic and Republication Conventions that Al Franken hosted as part of Indecision ’92 on Comedy Central.
DEADLINE: Is that part of a different sensibility you brought to Veep this season?
MANDEL: I think it’s a fun thing, and perhaps maybe very so slightly as an American, it’s a slightly different thing that they didn’t do as much of when the show was 100 percent written by Brits just because I’m not sure they were quite as familiar with some of these little moments in our government system.
So, all of a sudden, making a Spanish-American War joke. I think you sort of had to go to probably to an American high school to have remembered that. It’s probably a little something that we added to the show this season that was a little different than what they had done in the past, and that was always going to be the thing. I didn’t set out at the beginning of the season and tell writers I want to make references. It was just simply we were a different bunch of writers. I was a different showrunner.
— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) June 27, 2016
DEADLINE: Part of that was how every week you were so active, as were Matt Walsh, Julia, Kevin Dunn and many other members of the cast on Twitter and social media – were you trying to pull back the veil a bit and introduce yourself to the show’s fans at the same time?
MANDEL: I guess I was very aware of the fans were nervous about what the show would be like without Armando, and so the fact that they were so welcoming and then approving of what we were doing was just really nice.
As for being on Twitter, I enjoy it tremendously, and it is wonderfully overwhelming to see people not just digging it and liking it, but also, much in the way you keyed in on the Reagan inauguration, it’s wonderful when they see the little things. Especially like in episode 9, where we showed Catherine Meyer’s documentary, watching the fans key in on some of the little things that we planted in the background and some of the little things and kind of get it. It’s gratifying that people are watching that intently and that hard. So it’s been really nice and it’s been really fun.
— David Mandel (@DavidHMandel) June 27, 2016