Coming onto Veep as showrunner in Season 5, David Mandel has been caught since then between a rock and a hard place. “It’s funny. When I started this thing, the question was always, ‘What are you doing about the pressure of taking over for Armando [Iannucci]?’ Then, I guess I got a year off, and it’s now turned into, ‘What about the pressure of ending it?’ My answer is sort of the same, which is, ‘You ignore it, you have to ignore it,’” Mandel told Deadline today. “I’m not trying to discount what the rest of the world thinks, but at some point, I was just very much trying to come up with something that made me happy, made Julia happy, and I just figured the rest would fall into place.”
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In the end, of course, it did. As challenging as it is to craft a satisfying finale for a series as popular as the HBO comedy, Mandel leaned into the task of writing and directing Veep’s final episode, to his own satisfaction, as well as that of critics and his cast, seeing the series take nine Emmy nominations today for its swan song season.
Wrapping its seventh go-round in May, Veep centered on Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a former U.S. senator who chases the position of Commander in Chief, following an extremely dissatisfying experience as Vice President. A natural progression of the plot as Iannucci left it, when he departed the series after Season 4, the Veep finale relegates Meyer to the status of a historical footnote, which Mandel viewed as “a way of commenting on the entire show a little bit.”
“The only way to really judge a President is history. There are so many examples in the real world of presidents who maybe weren’t liked, or [were] run out of office, and then 40 to 50 years later, history re-evaluates them, re-evaluates what they accomplished. That was really what, for us, our end was about,” the showrunner and executive producer reflected. “We can’t really talk about Selina unless we jump to the future and let history evaluate her, and obviously the opportunity to show that history really didn’t think twice about her was kind of the perfect epitaph.”
To some degree, the way the final season of Veep was shaped had to do with timing. Following the HBO series’ sixth season, the show sat last year out of the Emmys, as Louis-Dreyfus endured a fight with breast cancer. Looking back now, Mandel believes Veepmight have taken a hiatus no matter what. “When you look back at the schedule, we probably never would have made it anyway,” he said. In any case, this break gave him extra time to think about how Season 7 would play out, and as disturbing events transpired within the real world of American politics, one after another, Mandel was inspired to lean into the darkness within the show. “[During] that shutdown, the real world was sort of just creeping up on us. We were saying stuff, and Trump was saying versions of it four days later by the very end. So, rightly or wrongly, what that shutdown did was, I think it allowed me to go in a little bit with my writers, with just a little bit of a paintbrush, and go, ‘These are darker times,’ and really play to that strength,” the Veep showrunner said. “I think we just embraced the darkness in a more fulfilling way because of that break.”
A 25-time Emmy nominee who has won 11 in her career, Louis-Dreyfus couldn’t have been happier with the resolution Mandel came to, for Meyer and all of the miscreants in her orbit. “Hats off to Dave Mandel for that [final] episode, because I really feel as if he did the series a total solid with this finish. I think every character was handled appropriately and came to a just end, one way or the other,” the actress shared. “I don’t mean it was a happy ending, necessarily. But it felt correct for everybody.” Nominated for the sixth time for her turn as Amy Brookheimer, Chlumsky, too, was “jazzed.”
“I can kind of be a dramaturge at heart, so I was always hoping that by the end, you could see the character from the beginning and be able to answer the cinema studies-type questions—and I was just jazzed that I could actually make a story out of it,” she said. “I just got super nerdy about it, and loved every second of closing that arc, making it really as authentic and earned as I could.”
Prior to this season, Veep earned 59 Emmy nominations, taking 17 statuettes for HBO over the course of six years. Season after season, Louis-Dreyfus has built upon her own Emmys records, looking this year for her ninth statuette, which would give her the solo record for most wins by a performer. At the same time, the show’s swan song success is something that the actress could never take for granted. “This kind of thing doesn’t happen frequently, and I’m well aware of the unique moment that this is. I’m kind of stunned by all of it, to be honest,” the Veep star admitted. “It’s really kind of astounding, the way this has all happened.”
A meaningful, rich ride for Louis-Dreyfus, Chlumsky and Mandel, the HBO comedy has been difficult for each to walk away from. Louis-Dreyfus said she’s “still mourning leaving behind this character” of Selina Meyer—this “heinous individual” she so loved to play. But for all three artists, the camaraderie shared amongst the actors and crew may be missed most of all.
In the end, each has great pride in Veep, and specific hopes for its legacy. For Mandel, who considers himself “a pretty simple guy,” having the show remembered as being “god*mn funny” is enough. No stranger to shows with a legacy, with her work on the iconic Seinfeld, Louis-Dreyfus agrees. “My hope is that this show remains funny in perpetuity,” she shared. “That’s our goal, at the end of the day, and that it has resonance beyond this moment in time, which I’m really hopeful about.”
“I’m really proud and feel so privileged, and also concurrently very humble, that we kind of got to be the satire of this decade. Because our show really examines what it is to be in the human and political realm right now, we get to be part of the time capsule,” Chlumsky added. “I think we can stand by all the questions we asked, all of the motivations, and all of the jokes.”
Other members of the Veep cast up for Emmys in 2019 include Peter MacNicol and Tony Hale.
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