'Veep' Showrunner David Mandel on the 'Tragic' Season 6 Finale & Plans for Season 7
She's really going for it.
At the end of Veep's sixth season, Selina Meyer threw caution (and any remaining happiness) to the wind and announced another run at the presidency. "That's what this season was really about," executive producer David Mandel told Thrillist. "Tragedy." We spoke to Mandel to help us digest Season 6, unpack the prickly finale, and get a sneak peek at what's to come.
Thrillist: Why was it important to end this season with Selina's campaign announcement?
David Mandel: I guess you could argue we could've kept going with the post-presidency, but what I got very interested in was that the post-presidency was Selina dealing with irrelevancy, dealing with loss, and dealing with that idea of, Now that you're not president, you're forced to confront who you are.
Selina worked through a lot of stuff this season: her father, the men in her life, relationships. And by the end, she had found herself in a pretty, dare I say, happy place: this world of the library at Yale, the wonderful man in her life [Jaffar, played by Usman Ally], and this certain level of happiness in general -- like the relevancy that she craved. And yet because that relevancy she craved reopened the political window she thought was nailed and painted shut, she blows it all up and destroys it. The jump at the end isn't so much to make you go, Oh, she's running for president again. It's really about the fact that she's willing to throw everything good away for the possibility of it.
Where did the idea for the flashbacks come from? They seemed to be half fan service, half proving that point.
Mandel: One of the many inspirations for the idea of the finale was The Godfather: Part II, and how seeing young Don Corleone building the family helps underscore how Michael destroys the family. The past influences the present. By creating these flashbacks, we present Selina with choices, moments in her life where she can do one thing and lead a normal life, or she can do this and be a congresswoman or a senator. She comes into the bus, for example, and finds her husband getting a blowjob. She could've divorced Andrew there, wouldn't have gotten the TV money, probably wouldn't have won the Senate. But that's a completely different life for her. She needs a campaign donation from the woman blowing her husband. That's not a normal choice, but it's a Selina choice. And again: tragedy. You also get to see the hairstyles and the costumes, the old versions of people: Oh my God, that's Selina and Gary meeting! It's that, plus hopefully funny dialogue, because we're not actually doing The Godfather: Part II.
I died when I saw the old version of Matt Walsh's Mike.
Mandel: We didn't get to see Mike last year when we did our little '90s flashback. We kinda knew Selina and the headband, and Gary with the fanny pack. But we were trying to think of how Mike would see himself -- maybe the way he came to that job was he was a crusading newsman, writing for some kind of zine or Rolling Stone wannabe. We were joking it was too bad we didn't have, like, a Jerry Garcia tie for him.
As a whole, Mike had kind of a weird, but fun season.
Mandel: Yeah, at first he doesn't seem like he's doing much, but he's supposed to be writing this book. So we did a lot of jokes about Selina not wanting to work on the book with him, but then it kicks in with the book and his daughter, trying to get her into that school, and you come out the other end saying, Oh, wow, it actually was a really great Mike season.
Screen time changed a little bit. When I sit back, I notice it especially with Ben -- not having Selina's ear. I love when we see him, but I wished we could've gotten more of him into it. At the same time, so many other characters, like Reid Scott as Dan, had really big seasons in a way that they've never had before.
Dan has that big line at the end of the finale, where he says, "Fuck! I thought things were starting to turn around," which was perfect for Amy's pregnancy reveal, but it also seemed to encapsulate everyone's position.
Mandel: Very, very true. Reid in particular, as Egan, has that ability. There was a line last season that we always loved, which was when Dan realizes that he slept with Amy's sister and that she worked at CVS and not CBS. He says something along the lines of "I am not having a good year." His ability to self-realize that things aren't going well is very enjoyable.
How are Dan and Amy going to handle that baby?
Mandel: They are two of the most horrible people in the world, and in some ways, worse together. If I was that baby, I would abort myself. I don't know what to tell you. I have no doubt it will be horrific and tragic.
"If I was that baby, I would abort myself."
Where can we expect to see the rest of these people next season?
Mandel: The majority of them, minus Mike, will be working on the Selina campaign. But I do think there will be a new version of that campaign that will be people in new roles. Selina has an idea of how she wants to do it this time, so I think that's going to be different.
I was worried about the Mike-Leon switch -- that wasn't Mike getting written off the show was it?
Mandel: It's funny. I never in a million years saw it that way. Mike is not working for Selina, but Matt Walsh will be on the show and be as important as always. He's one of the few characters I actually have a pretty funny idea for. One of the things we learned this season is that the show can handle multiple storylines and that the other characters can carry scenes and stories of their own.
What about Jaffar?
Mandel: His relationship with Selina is over. But nobody ever leaves Veep, truly. There will need to be some distance at first.
Given everything Selina has been through and had to face, did this season feel meaner to you?
Mandel: If it is, it is. I feel like last year there was a lot of "This season seems meaner." And now there's, "This season seems meaner!" I personally don't see it. These characters are horrible people who have been absolutely horrible from the get-go.
In the storylines over the last two seasons, I think more so than when Selina was the vice president not getting invited to a meeting -- and I'm not dismissing that as a concept -- she has been kicked around on a grander scale. Her reactions to that are commensurate with the abuse she has taken. The stakes are higher. If she seems angrier and meaner, it's because she had the presidency ripped away from her.
I also think you got to see the people as people more. The show has always prided itself on foul language and horribleness. Six years in, there's this effect of how much people love the characters, even though they are such horrible people. I would argue -- and it's not a bad thing -- that people have so fallen in love with these characters that they are then more easily horrified when their beloved Selina says something horrible or does something horrible.
Is that why you opted to show the result of the break-up?
Mandel: It's predicated on this moment of, Oh my gosh, she's heartbroken, but it's a multi-parter: One, this was a good relationship. Two, you want her to be happy, and she seemed like she'd found happiness. That scene was always going to be on an escalator or in a glass elevator. It felt like it needed this punctuation on top of the break-up, to see her reaction after the fact.
One of the things I'm very happy about has been peeling away the layers of Selina Meyer and being allowed to have these moments. I wanted to see the cost of what she did. To me, it makes the comedy that much more satisfying and the jokes that much funnier when the sadness and the tragedy are that much deeper.
I loved the woman who interrupted her crying.
Mandel: And even through that, Selina somehow finds a way to say hi. Even as she's dying on the inside. And five seconds later, she's in Iowa and sort of happy, having put the break-up behind her. The fact that she's able to cry a little bit, maybe is growth in a weird way. At least she knows she's doing something horrible and realizing it.
Was there anything you wanted to do this season that you didn't get to?
Mandel: Perhaps in another version, one of the ideas for one of the characters would have been to have someone teaching somewhere. We ended up with Ben at Uber because we thought that would be a funny culture clash. But we did entertain the concept of Ben as a professor. What if he had said "a chinaman's chance" in front of a roomful of students? What would that outcry have been?
There were a few fun university-related moments though. What made you guys want to tie that stuff in this season?
Mandel: With guys like Clinton and Obama, these are superstars who can raise billions of dollars for their libraries. A lot of these other presidential libraries, however, are connected to universities. We did a bunch of jokes about Yale because Yale turned Selina down and she was angry at Yale. But we always knew that she was going to get her dream library, so we went back to Yale. It was an opportunity -- the same way I saw Dan's morning news show -- to do a mini Veep comment on modern academia, political correctness, and the like. It's also always fun to make fun of Yale.
Do you have an idea yet of those more ancillary things you want to poke fun at next season?
Mandel: One we've been talking casually about among the writers is the notion of how people are not interested in science and medicine so much anymore. John Oliver was priceless on [Sunday] night. It's fascinating to me. I don't quite yet know what we're going to do, but, yeah, there's a spoiler for Season 7. And more Yale jokes, obviously.
What does the rest of next season look like?
Mandel: People have preconceived notions about running for the presidency, but I think there's a real opportunity here to explore the months or even the year leading up to the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses and primaries. I think we're going to surprise people with the fun we can have digging into Iowa the year before the caucuses. The caucuses are so far away, and yet the cities are swarming with sometimes 10, 12 people who want to be president.
Do you think that if Selina becomes president, the series would have to end?
Mandel: I do think that would be an end. I don't want to hedge any bets here. I think if she found her way to the presidency that could be a fine end. I don't think there would then be another season of her back to being the president. I was lucky with Seinfeld: Jerry ended it when he wanted to, and I've never forgotten that. I just want to end it when it's right. [Julia Louis-Dreyfus and I] will figure that out hopefully sooner than later. There are endgame ideas afloat.
This interview has been edited and condensed.