New York Magazine

Veep Is Over. Is America Next?

A behind-the-scenes look at the series finale.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets emotional between takes on the final episode of Veep.

THE TABLE READ for the final episode of Veep hasn’t started yet, but the cast is already in tears.

It’s the first Monday in December, and Anna Chlumsky, who plays Amy Brookheimer, the perpetually stressed-out political adviser, is weepy as she hugs colleagues near the bagel spread outside the writers’ room, which is located on the second floor of the two-level Martin Building on the Paramount lot in Hollywood. Timothy Simons, otherwise known as Jonah Ryan, the former White House flunky who became a congressman and then a presidential candidate, is inside, thumbing through the script. He has cried, by his count, three times today. When Julia Louis-Dreyfus—who plays the show’s central power-hungry politician, Selina Meyer—arrives, she’s dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

“Oh God,” she says, noticing an arrangement of white roses on the conference-room table. “We got flowers from the Veep wives.” The roses are from Elspeth Keller, Martel Hale, Annie Simons, and Morgan Walsh, the respective spouses of actors Reid Scott, Tony Hale, Simons, and Matt Walsh. The card is signed FROM THE VEEP WIDOWS, a joke about how much time the cast members have spent on the show since its premiere in 2012.

“I’m sad to say good-bye,” says Louis-Dreyfus, sitting at the table next to Veep showrunner David Mandel. She’s fully crying by the time she addresses the room, which is filled with actors, writers, and crew members. “I love everybody here very much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. As dysfunctional as this show is, is how good it is.”

It’s jarring to see so many tears here, since the people shedding them are responsible for some of the most coldhearted and despicable characters on TV. Over seven seasons, Selina—who has been a vice-president, a president, and now a presidential candidate again—and her staff have pinballed from one crisis to another, cleaning up messes of their own making, often in dastardly fashion. But they’ve never been as terrible as they are in this final season.

In 2017, not long after Mandel and the writers first started working on Veep’s ending, came unexpected news: Louis-Dreyfus had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which required a total shutdown of production while she sought treatment. (She is now cancer free.) When they reconvened in the summer of 2018, they faced the additional challenge of having to craft a satisfying conclusion to a story about behind-the-scenes political atrociousness in a time when real-world, out-in-the-open political atrociousness had become the norm.

In Mandel’s view, Veep’s only choice was to crank up the monstrousness. That meant that in the final act, Selina, who has engaged in truly horrible behavior over the years, would need to do the worst things she’s ever done—and would learn that not only will she not be punished, she will be rewarded with the presidency.

What follows is a look at how, in six not-so-easy steps, Mandel, Veep’s writers, Louis-Dreyfus, and the rest of the cast and crew worked together to push Selina Meyer to the dark side.

1. Reward Her Bad Behavior

IN THE ORIGINAL version of Veep’s finale, as loosely sketched by Mandel and the writers in 2017, Selina was not supposed to be president again. The initial outline for the episode went something like this: Facing a brokered convention—i.e., what happens when no presidential candidate has enough support from delegates to be the party nominee—Selina asks Jonah to be her running mate. But he takes so long to give her an answer that Selina’s former running mate

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