In prepping to sit down with Veep‘s Reid Scott, I’d assembled a series of questions based on the relatively small footprint his character Dan Egan has had in Season Four’s first two episodes. After last week’s game-changing episode “Data,” I tossed all of my work out the window. Gladly. Scott’s performance as now-former Presidential staffer has always been best informed when Dan Egan is dealt a blow to his massive Alpha Male ego. The episode, which saw Dan become the scapegoat for a widespread privacy scandal in President Selina Meyer’s administration, provided Scott some of the juiciest material he’s ever had on the Emmy-winning HBO comedy. He simply knocked it out of the park.
Now that Dan is on the ropes and floundering for that next opportunity, perhaps it’s time the Emmys took notice of Scott’s tremendous skill as a comic actor. Scott’s range through the episode ran from manic highs at saddling nemesis Jonah Ryan (Tim Simons) with bumbling aide Richard (Sam Richardson) to desperate lows, melting down alone in his car. Scott’s performance in “Data” was even better than Dan’s Season Three stress-induced mental breakdown.
What can we expect from Dan Egan moving forward, and how has the cast reacted to the recently announced departure of Veep show runner Armando Iannucci? I chatted with Scott about these topics and more, including his favorites in the upcoming Emmy race.
I ran across this quote in Vulture by [exiting Veep show runner] Armando Iannucci about Dan Egan. He was asked to pick a character from [Veep] and determine which reality show he/she would be best suited for. He responded with ‘I’d like to see Dan Egan, who thinks of himself as an ambitious and natural leader, see himself whither and sweat in the jungle in I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.’ How accurate do you think that is for Dan?
I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment on Armando’s part just because, while Dan is not necessarily a celebrity, he certainly thinks of himself as one, and he has the ego to kind of go along with that. And as we’ve seen in the show, one of the fun things about Dan is watching him squirm constantly because he always thinks he has the answer, and he always thinks he’s more important than everyone else around him. To see him get close to his goal and eventually sort of fall flat on his face… Yeah, I think that’s probably pretty fair. A pretty good call.
Where do you get your inspiration for Dan? Is that something from your experience? Did you know someone like Dan or is it just all there on the page for you?
It’s a little bit of both. We’ve actually gotten some incredible access for research purposes in D.C. because of the popularity of the show in Washington. So, I’ve gotten to interview a ton of staffers that would be sort of similar to Dan, some lobbyists, some D.C. movers and shakers. He’s a bit of caricature based on them. I also have a very good friend who has been in and around politics at a very, very high level for a very long time. In fact, when I actually got the job I asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at this and sent him the pilot script to read. He wrote me back and said, ‘Oh, shit. You’re playing me.’
He’s been great just because he’s sort of out of that particular game that Dan is in at the moment… He’s been sort of guiding me in where this kind of guy comes from, what this guy does on a daily basis, who he thinks of himself as, what his goals are, where you’ll find this guy eating, where you’ll find him drinking… [Dan’s] really an amalgamation of people, and I like to see the guy succeed and then subsequently fail. I think that’s interesting because given that A-type, Alpha male that he aspires to be… there’s nothing worse than seeing those guys succeed so I kind of like tripping him up whenever I can.
That’s interesting because it seemed like he was on this upward trajectory in Season One and Season Two. Then in Season Three, he became the [Presidential] campaign manager until he had a complete mental breakdown. There was a scene in the hospital after the panic attack where it seems there’s a mixture on Dan’s face of simultaneously being horrified that he’d lost the job and totally relieved.
Absolutely. That’s totally what I was going for. It’s sort of the first time ever where he’s realized that he’s not going to survive this, and I think he can’t quit. I don’t think he knows the meaning of the word quit. But I think he was secretly relieved to be relieved of his position.
There’s an interesting parallel here to last week’s episode where he was the scapegoat to the privacy scandal. The episode closes with Dan scrambling for friends and contacts in his car, and nobody’s returning his call, nobody’s answering, and the one person that does hangs up on him. He’s definitely more desperate this time. He doesn’t necessarily have any idea where he’s going, and he clearly doesn’t have the same sense of relief as before.
Oh, no absolutely not. You know, when he had his breakdown, the Veep was just the Veep, and now that she’s the President, everyone’s stock has risen, his as well. And then to fall from that position – to really get pushed out – amidst a controversy… There’s a very short life for politicos under that circumstance. You only have so many avenues you can pursue, and there’s a rapidly closing window as to your viability, as to your importance, as to your connections. So he’s panicking. It’s different than just the sort of ‘Oh my god, I couldn’t handle this job.’ He was actually really good at his job or getting good at his job. He was wielding some power finally, and to get pushed out because someone needed to be the face of the fall… It’s desperate times for Dan for sure.
So were you in touch with your friend that’s involved in politics after that episode?
Yeah, he dug it. He had something similar. He wasn’t pushed out of an office, but a politician he was working for sort of went [bust]. Not really amidst a scandal, but for other reasons. He really kind of quickly found himself having to tread water and seeing where he was going to land. He somehow landed upward, but he absolutely said that moment of sheer panic – where Dan is about 31 at this point – at 31 is your career over? Especially when you’re the face of a scandal at the White House no less. You’re sort of toxic for a while. He said that absolutely was perfectly legit. I keep needling for how I’m doing, and he tells me how hard it is to watch me being him.
Without giving any spoilers, what can we expect from Dan now that he’s jobless in Season Four?
Well, he flounders for a bit, which I felt, was really fun… to take the Black Knight and tarnish him a little bit. That’s always sort of fun. But Dan goes on to not necessarily bigger and better things, but he ends up finding a gig that is so well suited to his skill set that it’s disgusting.
Ha. Does he become an agent?
[Laughs] You’ll see. I don’t want to give it away.
I was relieved to see some of the original cast coming back into prominence. Watching the beginning of Season Four at the presidency level, there are so many new characters. There’s only so much you can fit within a half-hour show, and there are a lot of great actors on the show. I was glad to see the focus shifting on Dan for a little bit.
Oh, thank you. Yeah, one of the things we like about the world that we’ve created in this show is it does keep expanding. To your point, it can get sort of confusing at times – there’s so many new storylines, trajectories, to keep straight, but I think it really gives the show a certain air of authenticity because to keep the entire world of D.C. limited to our seven main cast members becomes a little disingenuous. There’s so many people coming in and coming out [in reality]. This is a fun season because the world got bigger, but we were still able to get back to the roots of the main characters.
So what happens now between Dan and Jonah?
[Laughs] Oh god. Well, now that Jonah has this great new sidekick in Sam Richardson’s character, the three of them – again without giving away too much – sort of embark on a little journey together, and it’s some of my favorite stuff. I’ve always loved the back and forth between Dan and Jonah, and Tim Simons and I have a blast playing that stuff too. Now that Sam Richardson [aide Richard] has come on the scene, it makes this little idiot triumvirate and becomes that much more entertaining. Veep won’t ever really edge into slapstick comedy – they try not to go broad with it – but if there were some of that classic Three Stooges sort of comedy, it lives in those three. It’s really fun. It sort of rekindled and renewed the Jonah / Dan relationship for Tim and me this season by adding [Richard].
Picking up on something you just said about the tone of this show – not a broad comedy, very specific and very specific to Armando Iannuci’s style – now that he’s leaving as show runner, what are your thoughts on a future with David Mandel?
We’re really excited about David. Obviously, we were saddened that Armando’s going to be leaving us, but we totally get it. He’s been absolutely crushing political comedy for almost two decades now. It’s really remarkable. I think he’s set a tone for the show and a high bar for the show, and I honestly don’t think there’s anyone better suited to take over from Armando than someone like David just because he understands this type of comedy. Granted, he hasn’t worked necessarily in the British comedy sphere as much as Armando, but his work with Julia in Seinfeld and then on a show like Curb Your Enthusiasm… You know Seinfeld could both be broad and sometimes very specific, but Curb is a very solid example of an American translation of that [British] style of comedy. It’s a testament to him having run that kind of show.
We all sat down with David at Julia’s house a couple of weeks ago to say ‘Hi’ and get to know him and discuss ideas for the future. I think he’s right on point. I think what he’s going to bring to the show in terms of a new, fresh outsider perspective to the world we’ve already created is just going to juice it up that much more. He’s a political junkie like the rest of us. He’s so smart and so funny. He’s also just a big fan of the show too, so I think he’s really keen on not changing the show but just sort of dialing up the color on it a little bit by getting some new blood in there. So we’re really happy to have him.
So, before I let you go, tell me what’s on your DVR? What kind of TV shows are you a fan of now that we’re headed into Emmy season?
Oh man. Game of Thrones, obviously. Love that one. Vikings is a big guilty pleasure for me. It’s just a fun show. We love The Americans – my wife and I – and I’m still not sure why it doesn’t get the Emmy love that we think it deserves because I think it’s some of the best dramatic acting on television. I think Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are just stellar. Last Man on Earth I think is hysterical. I think Will Forte is doing something really, really special in terms of comedy, and I think he’s going to be a hard guy to beat, at least in my book, for [Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series]. I think he’s just absolutely out of this world fun.
Veep continues airing new episodes Sundays on HBO at 10:30pm EST through June 14. Current episodes are available through HBONow and HBOGo. Old episodes are available on iTunes, steaming on Amazon Prime, and through DVD on Netflix as well as HBO outlets.