David Mandel Interview: ‘Veep’ showrunner

“We just didn’t want it to end,” reflects showrunner David Mandel about saying goodbye to “Veep.” In our exclusive webchat (watch the video above), he adds, “We had all gotten so close, like a family. It was beautiful but so sad. We were not going to lose touch but we were not going to be together like this again.”

For seven seasons on HBO, “Veep” followed the rises and falls of Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who started the series as Vice President. It provided dark political satire highlighting the convergence of selfish ambition and bungling incompetence in the beltway. The final season saw Meyer run for president (again). Mandel explains that in approaching the end of the series, “I wanted to give Selina the ending she deserved. But it took me a second to figure out what that would be.”

The final season has snagged nine Emmy nominations, including best writing for the acclaimed series’ final (written by Mandel). In the episode Selina promises to outlaw gay marriage, cuts a deal to un-free Tibet and throws her most loyal servant (Tony Hale) under the bus, all to become president. Mandel confesses originally this was not the plan. He explains, “The final season was delayed because of Julia’s cancer. Everything was mapped out. The difference in the pre-cancer world, which was very early in the Trump presidency, is that Jonah was going to cost her the election and she would end up as Richard’s Veep.”

The showrunner says that Selina became President (again) because, “during the cancer year, as things got darker, to me it seemed like there was a willingness to flout laws for power. Donald Trump did a lot of things we had done that had cost Selina, but he didn’t seem to be paying any price. I started to wonder why Selina was paying a price when we were starting to be in a world where there are no consequences. Also there was something dark about the very fact Julia had gotten cancer, even though she was doing better. So all of those things worked towards the idea that politics have changed, things are different and people are getting away with stuff.”

This had a broader approach on the season as well. The writer tells that “all of a sudden we amped things up. We went from one school shootings in that first episode to multiple school shootings. There had been so many shootings that we started to feel the way to make our satiric point is to have multiple shootings and have them increasingly not matter. How can Selina advance herself on these shootings? At the end of the series what is she prepared to do? That led me to the worst thing she can do. And I realized the worst thing you can do is kill Fredo. And Gary (Hale) is Fredo. Gary’s the only person she legitimately had feelings for. In some ways the cost is whatever is left of her soul.”

Mandel, whose past writing credits include “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” came to be the showrunner of “Veep” after creator Armando Iannucci departed the show at the end of season 4. His first table read was just after “Veep” won their first Emmy for Best Comedy Series. He recounts, “The first day we read the new scripts was literally a day or two after the show had won its first Emmy and we had the worst table read ever. The scripts died and it was right in the shadow of the Emmy. It was as a terrible feeling.”

However they were able to rally as “Veep” went on to win the next two Comedy Series Emmys. For Mandel his first one was the sweetest. He describes, “There was a moment when we were on the stage after I accepted it. There was this wonderful spontaneous group hug of me and the entire cast and the writers . I will never forget that. When I think about that I get this goosebump teary thing. The work we’d done taking over the show. That people still liked it and didn’t want to murder me. That was very special.”

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UPLOADED Aug 16, 2019 12:02 pm