Is Julia Louis Dreyfus' Character on Veep Based on Anyone? The Real Story Behind Selina Meyer
Julia Louise-Dreyfus is one of the funniest people on television. JLD's character from Veep , Selina Meyer, would have some wonderfully crass way of saying that, like, "She could squeeze a laugh out of a cat's testicle," or something like that. I don't know, I have no political aspirations whatsoever, which I've found has greatly effected my bad girl vocabulary. It's hard to believe she can put out another performance so iconic, and so radically different than Elaine Benes, but there is not another actress in the world who could have played the first female Vice President of the United States. Well, first fictional female V.P. — we're not quite there yet in the world not written by HBO. So, who is Selina Meyer's real life inspiration?
Veep itself is loosely based on British hit, The Thick of It, from the same creator, Armando Iannucci. The Thick of It, which was also spun into a hit move, In the Loop, was similarly crude, and also political, but it focused on a sometimes sad and often abhorrent, but always hilarious behind-the-scenes look at the bureaucratic disaster going on in the fictional British Prime Minister's office. When transitioning that structure to the United States, self-described politics geek, Iannucci told Think Progress it would be most fun to focus on one of the most limited jobs in politics: the Vice President. So, who did this Scottish-Italian call on for a little American pol-inspiration?
Every Vice President ever
Ultimately, Selina is an exploration of the Vice Presidency itself, and just how little power someone in that position might have. Iannucci was fascinated by the idea of a high power senator or governor — generally one of the most influential out there — going from having complete autonomous control of their position, to having to run everything by they want to do by the President, and often having to back things that they have spoken out against for most of their political career. In that way, Selina is based on every man to ever not quite make it to the Oval Office. Selina is constantly butting up against the fact the she is the most visible "yes man" in the country. In Season 1, Dreyfus spent about a quarter of her screen time asking, "Did the President call?" (Spoiler: He never did.)
Not Sarah Palin
One thing Selina Meyer is not, is based on almost-Vice-President, Sarah Palin. When Dreyfus went on Morning Joe to promote Veep before its first season, many people were wondering if the network that produced Game Change (the political drama based on John McCain's and Palin's run for the White House) was returning to familiar ground. Host Joe Scarborough insisted that it wasn't even close, and Dreyfus confirmed: I have to say it is absolute ... it’s not a parody of any one specific person." And after watching, it's easy to see that Selina's Vice Presidency wields an incompetence all its own.
Vice President Joe Biden
OK, Selina isn't really based on the Vice President of the United States at all, but Joe Biden loves to entertain, so you should watch this video of him rolling with everyone's favorite fake V.P. for a White House Correspondents Dinner sketch, anyway. (Oh, Michelle Obama is there too, challenging people to arm wrestle her.)
Images: Paul Schiraldi/HBO; alissaerin/blogspot