Reid Scott talks about Veep‘s continued success under a new showrunner and Dan Egan’s future in D.C.
Veep‘s Dan Egan is the most underrated character on HBO’s Emmy Award-winning political comedy. As embodied by actor Reid Scott, Egan’s trajectory on the series has progressed (regressed?) from cocky Deputy Director of Communications in the Vice President’s office to a lobbyist to, most recently, a senior campaign official on President Selina Meyer’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) re-election bid. Recently, the series seems to derive a perverse amount of pleasure from putting Scott’s Egan through one embarrassment after another.
I had the chance to talk with Reid Scott about his character on the acclaimed comedy. I wanted to find out if there was any end plan for his ambitious campaign consultant and, ultimately, the show itself. Talking with Scott was very breezy and casual. We talked about his Veep role, the process of creating a great final product, and even his recent voice-over successes.
AwardsDaily TV: Do you think you’ll be able to safely enter a CVS or a Rite-Aid ever again?
Reid Scott: [laughs] I may have to switch to Walgreens.
ADTV: I think everyone will be keeping an eye out for Dan Egan.
RS: Yeah, I’m getting offered jobs at the pharmacy.
ADTV: One of the big questions I wanted to ask you first is when David Mandel came on as the show runner, did anything in the environment on the show change at all?
RS: That’s a great question! Yes and no. It was really an interesting process changing captains, you know, midstream like this. I’ll only speak for myself…I knew David just by reputation, and he had this wonderful rapport and history with Julia [Louis-Dreyfus]. So they obviously were going to come together and have a lot of similar thoughts and similar ideas for the trajectory for the show because they were going to work really well together. So we met David and he was instantly great and so excited, but you know you always wonder like, “Wow can we match the same tone? Can we keep it up? Will it be the same feel?” Especially after season four where we won the Emmy, and it’s kind of like, “We’re really cooking now!” It’s sort of strange to mix it up. And there was certainly a period of some growing pains. You have a whole new staff of writers trying to get used to our voices. We have a really unique process—we do a lot of rehearsal, there’s a lot of improv. So I think we were all sort of wondering how this was going to go. I don’t think those questions got really answered until we probably had, you know, an episode or two in the can. It started to become really obvious that David and his guys really rose to the challenge and they told us how hard it was to really try to pick up where Armando Iannucci and his guys left off. But I think they did an incredible job having seen the first few episodes already. I think from an audience standpoint, you wouldn’t even notice a difference.
ADTV: I was about to say that it was a very, very smooth transition. It’s like nothing ever happened.
RS: It’s incredible, really incredible. And I can’t tell you how difficult of a task that was. We watched these writers not sleeping for days on end trying to get a tone just right, and they rose to the challenge. They really crushed it. I think it’s one of our best.
ADTV: With this being an election year, do you feel like you guys are kind of exposed or in the spotlight since Veep is one of the (or the only) political comedies on television right now?
RS: Yeah. We certainly get asked that a lot. “Are you borrowing from the current election cycle? All the gaffes and the wonderful material must be coming out of that.” You know, Veep has never been the show that does the “ripped from the headlines” kind of thing. Even though it seems like it [laughs]. We used to laugh amongst ourselves that our writers or our cast would come up with some insane scenario and we’d shoot it, and then the next week it would actually happen. And when they see this episode they’re going to think that we took it from the actual headline when we’re actually ahead of this curve. With this election cycle, we weren’t trying to emulate anything, but it’s hard to not be influenced here and there. We’ll let the audience drawn the conclusion. If they see something that they think is completely influenced by the election, then so be it. If anything, we were trying to do our own thing.
ADTV: So we’re not going to see a Trump political figure or some really angry Bernie Bros knocking down the doors to the White House?
RS: [laughs] There’s a little bit there. Every character in the show is some sort of a political caricature. There’s little bits in there, but I don’t think there’s like it’s stridently based on somebody.
ADTV: One of my favorite lines was from the last episode that just aired (episode 3 titled “The Eagle”). Dan realizes Amy’s [Anna Chlumsky] sister does not work for CBS, and Amy walks away from you. You have that great line, “I’m not having a good year.” You just say it to yourself. Can you tell me if Dan’s year is going to improve? Is he a little more humbled this season or is still just kind of a dick?
RS: Man, you get right to it!
ADTV: I recently read an interview where you referred to Dan as a dick, so that’s why I say that [laughs].
RS: Totally! That is nothing new. I mean, look, Dan is nobody if he’s not a dick, so that’s still going to continue. He’s got an interesting ride—I don’t want to give too much away. Most of the fun of Veep is watching everyone try to succeed and ultimately kind of failing. There’s a bit of that on the ride, but Dan…how I say this…Dan’s trajectory throughout the season is really interesting. He gets involved in some stuff that I’ll say is perfect for him and Dan opens up some doors that I don’t think even he thought were available to him.
ADTV: Very mysterious—I like that. With the Amy material and the “hook up gone wrong,” How was it to explore that with Anna Chlumsky?
RS: It was fun. That Dan/Amy is something that has been simmering in the background while it’s never been explicitly said what their exact history is. We obviously worked some stuff out on our own, kind of behind-the-scenes to help us with the characters and whatnot. It’s always been this sort of fun little tension, and I gotta be honest: it’s fun to toy with the audience. “When are they going to hook up?!” “When’s it going to happen?” I can honestly tell you that I don’t know if it ever will. It might. It’s been a fun little element, because those kinds of relationships are fun to explore. Someone that you love, you hate, and between the two of them they realize they work fairly well together. But there’s this competition and this sort of like one-upsmanship. So that can also fuel the libido. It was fun—it was cute.
ADTV: I do feel like if something were to happen and they were to become an item and break up…because of their competitive nature…a break-up between Dan and Amy effectively burn down all of Washington D.C.
RS: Oh yeah! It would just burn the city to the ground.
ADTV: Veep is in its fifth season. A lot of comedies get to that point, and stuff becomes stale. Veep, on the other hand, stuff keeps getting better and better. Is there already a clear idea where the creative team would want to finish things?
RS: You know, that’s a great question. I don’t know. It’s something that’s been bandied about a lot. Back to when Armando was running the show, we always wondered, “what’s the endgame here?”—especially when Selina became president in season four. There was even talk of whether we change the title. What’s happening here?
I don’t think anyone knows, and I think that’s in the style of the show. Even when we show up to shoot (because there’s a decent amount of improv involved), there’s a bit of magic the show has capture in not knowing where we’re going to go. It’s sort of like flying by the seat of your pants—and that’s not to say that the writers don’t have a plan. They have extensive plans. It’s like, here’s the general GPS of the show. How we get there is completely up to us as we discover it, as we shoot it, as we play with the stuff. So, I don’t know. As long as there’s political fodder to explore, the show’s going to have some life. God knows it can go on forever. There’s endless possibilities and endless combinations of how to keep these characters together and what they can do. I’m curious about that myself.
ADTV: Do you know where you’d like Dan to end up in D.C. ? Do you have an idea of where you’d want him to go?
RS: I’ve said before that I won’t be satisfied until Dan catches a sniper bullet in the head walking down 8th Street. I think that’s such a natural, fitting, and perfect ending of Dan. Whoever he has to piss off to make that happen, I think would be great.
ADTV: You mention a lot of improv. You see all the scenes at the end of the episodes where actors are going through different takes of the show and they’re throwing different stuff out there. Is that something you really like the atmosphere of the shooting? Do you fire stuff over and over again?
RS: Yeah, it’s one of the things, I think, drew all of us to the show in the first place. We were told from the get-go. My first meeting with Armando and Frank Rich was meeting with them in character. And they specifically asked for that. Came in and we ran a couple scenes and then Armando said, “Let’s just talk.” And we were talking for about half an hour to forty-five minutes just in character, and that’s where most of the character came from. Armando knew who the guy was but I sort of filled in all the back story and all the blanks. That sort of atmosphere has continued in that everyone is encourage to contribute—whether it’s a joke, whether it’s a plot point, whether it’s some back story. And for each other’s characters, it’s a really giving and very generous environment. You know, a lot of times actors are very precious about their character or can be selfish and this is almost the opposite. Everyone is throwing in ideas. It’s all about how do we make this scene funny, how do we make this situation funny. It’s exhausting at times. We make a lot of work for ourselves in doing that, but then you see the end result and it’s like, man it’s fun to know that we were all playing jazz together and this is what we come up with.
ADTV: You can tell from just watching the actors that if you throw something at them, every single actor on Veep with throw back at you
RS: Absolutely. You know, it’s classic improv games. It’s “Yes, and…” and heightening the stakes and just passing the ball is what it is. It’s almost like an athletic environment where we all have one goal to win the game. However we get there, let’s just have fun and do it, and everyone be unselfish and make these moments stick. It’s a lot of fun. We have a huge rehearsal process, and I know a bunch of our cast has already talked about that. And that rehearsal process is what makes the show. We find so much in the rehearsal process and we improv so much. Usually what happens is we have the script and we rehearse the script. And then we improv the script and the improvisations make it into the next draft, and then we’re improving on top of that. SO it’s this wonderful combination of structure and free style.
ADTV: I wanted to congratulate you. You were nominated for an Emmy for your voiceover work on Turbo F.A.S.T. Were you always interested in voiceover work, or is that something you just fell into?
RS: A little bit of both. One of my good buddies, Jamie Kailer (Scott’s co-star on TBS’ My Boys), he did a bunch of voices on Robot Chicken, and I was a fan of the show. I pestering him, “How does it work?” He actually got me my first voiceover agent, and it’s really a tough nut to crack. I think I went three or four years before I got anything. It’s a very tight niche of incredibly talented performers, and because it’s voices, most of these men and women can do dozens of voices. You don’t even need a big pool of actors that it’s hard to break in. I got lucky, because a really old friend of mine, Chris Prynoski, of Titmouse (Animation Studios) fame. He and director Andrew Romano gave me a shot. I was completely green. I learned on the fly, and I just love it. It’s one of the most freeing forms of acting you could ever do. You don’t have to worry about the camera and the lights and the hair—you just have to play with the character. I was so surprised and proud to be nominated like that, because other actors in the field are incredible performers.
ADTV: I wanted to close with a random question. Is there any show that you’d like to guest star on? For instance, a small character arc that is completely different than what you’re been doing the last few years on Veep?
RS: The Americans on FX. I am just a huge fan of spy intrigue novels and whatnot. I think the acting between Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell is the best on television. It’s just incredible. I love how dark and moody—the nice, almost languid, pace is so interesting to me. I would jump at that in a heartbeat.
ADTV: I’ve always thought that you’d be a great addition to something like Mad Men. I think you’d look really good walking around in a tailored suit, chain-smoking, in the 60’s and 70’s.
RS: My god, that’s my dream! [laughs]
Veep airs on HBO Sunday nights at 10:30pm ET. Turbo F.A.S.T. is available streaming on Netflix.