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The idea of Julia Louis-Dreyfus not doing comedy is about as laughable as Jerry Springer switching from doing trashy to serious talk shows. Her entire career since the Eighties has been dominated by long-running roles in series such as Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Now she is making quite the impression in the political satire, Veep. Not only has she bagged an Emmy for playing Selina Meyer, her renowned mordant lines are a hoot, writes Debashine Thangevelo.
WHEN it comes to women who have made a name for themselves in comedy on TV, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is up there with your Tina Feys, Amy Poehlers, Jane Lynches, Melissa McCarthys and Roseanne Barrs.
The 52-year-old actress got the best stepping stone in her career by being a regular on Saturday Night Live in 1982.
Since then humour has always been a cornerstone in her roles. While her movie outings have been rather pedestrian, she has entrenched herself in the TV industry.
Synonymous with Seinfeld until it ended nine years later in 1998, she busied herself with guest appearances before stealing the limelight in her own comedy, The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Although aficionados are rather au fait with Louis-Dreyfus’ knack for clowning around, she impressively ups the ante, albeit while retaining that humorous undertone, in Veep.
Cast as Selina Meyer, the Vice-President of the US, she elicits much hilarity as her character navigates the powerlessness and frustrations that come with being number two.
So popular is the series – especially with her shouldering the weight as the lead – that it has now been giving the green light for a third instalment.
On South African screens at the moment, viewers are watching the first season, which will soon be succeeded by the follow-on series.
Chatting to Huffington Post TV, Louis-Dreyfus said she wanted a role that wasn’t looking at an “asshole” character when she agreed to Veep.
She explained, “Yeah, she’s (Selina) kind of an asshole. And I think that comes to me naturally. I didn’t say to myself, ‘I’m going to play an asshole’, because you can’t start there. That wasn’t the intention. But she’s extremely driven, extremely vain and narcissistic, and all of that stuff gets in front of her good intentions, which are somewhere down there. Deep, deep down!
“She doesn’t mean to do the wrong things. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and she feels that. I’m not going to say she’s a victim – she’s not – but she’s definitely reacting to a political universe she’s been a part of for twentysomething years.”
As for whether she makes any contributions to those mordant insults Selina mouths off, Louis-Dreyfus laughed, “It’s a process that we share. So, it kind of comes out in rehearsal, I pitch things… I could tell you what joke belonged to whom, but that would be boring. We’re all part of the process.”
As in season one, Selina unfailingly lands herself in hot water.
The seasoned actress added: “The s**t’s really going to hit the fan. A lot happens (in episodes 5 to 10). I think we are pretty mind-blowing. We went all over the place; it was pretty funny.”
And the twist continues with a new nemesis written into the plot.
She nods, “Both Gary (Cole), as Kent Davison, and Kevin (Dunn) – the chief of staff, Ben Cafferty – I’ve known for years and years. So it was a complete treat to work with both of them all season long. Gary plays a senior strategist for POTUS (The US President), this sort of Dick Morris, James Carville type. He’s without emotion and is just a numbers guy. He did it brilliantly.”
Louis-Dreyfus points out that, despite the spoof of politics, Veep’s intention isn’t to skewer politics so people lose hope. However, it uses irony as a bedfellow to showcase how frustrating trying to do the right thing can be in politics.
As for highlights this season, she hints, “Selina goes overseas with her staff; she swears in senators after an election; we meet her ex-husband; and we have a lot of great guest stars this season – like Allison Janney. She’s fabulous. We have the wonderful David Foley. There are a lot of surprises, including (literally) a massive stunt towards the end of the season.”
• Veep 2 airs on September 1 on M-Net Series Showcase (DStv Channel 113) at 10.30pm.