Just this past week, there have been two major announcements coming out of HBO's hit comedy "Veep." First, on screen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Selina Meyer finally publicly announced that she'll be running for President; then off it, HBO finally revealed the show's been renewed for Season 4. All of which means there's a lot more foul-mouthed fun on the way from the fictional vice-president and her dysfunctional staff.
It's especially fitting since the Armando Iannucci-created show is all about making big moves so far this season, taking Selina and her team out of DC and onto the road, shuffling fan favorite Jonah (Timothy Simons) from the West Wing to the blogosphere, and veteran actor Kevin Dunn getting a promotion from his recurring role as Ben, the President's Chief of Staff, to becoming a series regular in Season 3, and earning a more entrenched place at Selina's side.
So, on the heels of the show's recent big news, HuffPost Canada TV spoke to Dunn about Ben's new place in the group, why he calls Louis-Dreyfus the cast's "player-coach," and how he pictures the elusive POTUS nobody ever gets to see.
HuffPost TV Canada: Now that the Vice-President has officially announced her campaign, are we going to see Ben start helping her out more this season?
Kevin Dunn: He's doing his best. He sees an end of the road with POTUS and he needs to land somewhere, because he's a political junkie and that's all he is. That's all he's got, so, yeah, he's trying to make himself needed and indispensible.
What's been the biggest change for you this year, going from a recurring role last season to becoming a series regular? Has it changed the dynamic for you at all?
The dynamic changed during Season 2, even without knowing what the future of Ben was. Certainly there's an amount of joy and relief in being a regular on the show, and knowing that you're going to continue working with these people. But it's a different style of work than I'm normally accustomed to, in that there's a lot of rehearsal, there's a lot of improv involved, and there's a lot of rewriting involved. Because we get a script and we read it out loud and then we pick it apart and do the scenes, and then we improv the scenes. And then we take notes, and then they rewrite. It's a process that's just ongoing, always being tweaked and it works well that way. It was hard for me to get used to. It was a little terrifying.
What was terrifying about it?
Because I'm not from that world. I'm not from that world where you get on your feet and somebody gives you a suggestion and you improv your way through things. And most of the cast is very used to that. But they were very helpful and encouraging, which I really appreciate. How not to worry if you don't have your lines down, because your lines are going to change, so you'll get 'em. [Laughs] Things like that.
This show is definitely at its most fun when there's just total chaos and everyone's shouting at each other. Is it difficult to get your feet under you in those scenes?
They're tough to choreograph, but people know their characters so well and their place in the whole picture that those are the most fun. And things happen that are really surprising. Even action-wise, like with the balloons [in the last episode], when Selina beats the s**t out of the balloons, that was a totally brilliant move that came out of nowhere. She just unleashed that barrage. It was fabulous, and you react to that, you're just in the moment. And if you're in the moment, then really good things can happen.
Last year, you got to spar with Gary Cole a lot, and you had a bunch of scenes with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Was there anyone that you were looking forward to getting to share more scenes with this season?
For me, it was to be able to become more of the mix. That I'm not always just hovering around, trying to get Selina's ear. I'm in the mix with everybody else a lot of the time this season. So that's really fun, because I get to work with the cast a lot more completely than I did in the first season. I'm just one of the gang in a way. He's fighting for a spot.
There's no question that this show has far and away the best insults on TV right now. What's the key to a good insult in your mind? Is it the wordplay, the timing, the proper execution of profanity?
They come up with incredible descriptions, and then they lace it with profanity. Like, let's use an example of Jonah: "F**king ugly scaffold of a man." Before it's dirtied up, it would be a great insult on its own without some of the profanity. But it just enhances it when it's laced with it.
It seems like each character almost has their own style too when it comes to laying into someone.
Yeah, they really do. Their insults are very particular to their character.
How would you define Ben's style?
It's a little bit more direct and glib. It's not as pointed as some of Dan's things. He's a little older, so it's not so peppered with current references. He's more of a political dinosaur in a way, so it's more blunt. And we talked about that a lot when I came on, about how his insults were compared with others, and that he just had a certain bluntless that's more of a bar room insulting style than others might have.
You were in "Luck," then "Veep," then you got a part in "True Detective." It must be nice to get in good with HBO, because they seem to like bringing their own people back for projects.
I certainly am grateful that they've kept me alive for the last couple of years. And their stuff is always interesting. That's really where some of the best writing is happening, so it's really nice. With "True Detective," I was so delighted just to be a part of that, I loved that. You have a showrunner to do all the shows, and to have one director direct all the shows, it was just a very unique experience. I was a big fan of it. I didn't even feel like a cast member. I had all the scripts, but when I finished the five of them, I didn't want to read the last three episodes, because I didn't want to know what happened. [Laughs]
You've also had a long career in film, and you've been in some big movies. How do the two compare in your mind right now? It almost seems like you're able to get away with more on TV these days, especially with a show like this.
Oh, you are! You can get away with a lot more. I mean, our shows are carefully scripted, but we spend so much time working on the script while we shoot it, whereas you never have that [with a movie], it's a luxury. On a film, they'll always say there's going to be a rehearsal period, and there never is. [Laughs] Rarely. But here, the rehearsal process is very important. It's almost like it's got a feeling of theatricality involved in it, because you're always tweaking it and you're always working really closely with the writers.
And Armando Iannucci lets you know that he leans on us. He puts us out there with the idea that we're going to come up with some things that no one has come up with. Julia does that all the time, she's amazing with scripts and how she analyzes things, really incredible. And I call her our "player-coach" because she dissects everything, and a lot of times things will change because of how she can see everything unfold. She has a just a great mind for this kind of thing, for a half-hour show like this.
One of the great running gags on the show is that we never actually see the President, but considering you have to fictionally interact with him the most out of anyone else on the cast, do you have to have a picture in your mind of who the POTUS is?
Yeah, I got some really good info in my first episode, in the scene where Selina finds me in the closet: that we were fraternity brothers, and I latched onto him then. I thought he was going to be somebody. So he was a popular frat guy who always said the right things, but over time, I lost that admiration for him. Because of all of the decisions that he's made. So yeah, I do have a picture in my mind of this aging frat guy who just really had a hard time making his mark, and not being the decisive guy that I thought he was. I don't know if that's a complete character study of the President, but just that kind of guy who was golden in college and very politically motivated. He knew that he wanted to run for President probably when he was president of the fraternity. And I responded to that, and I became his #1 guy. I was with him through the long haul.
Watch "Veep" Season 3 on HBO and HBO Canada on Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET.