Since the national convention, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has been riding high with a running mate whom the people love—possibly too much. According to series creator Armando Iannucci, the initial idea behind Hugh Laurie’s Sen. Tom James was to bring in the kind of politician Veep fans aren’t used to seeing. “One character that we’ve never had before is someone who’s actually rather good,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that they’re infallible or that there isn’t another side to them.”
Ahead of the new episode, we asked Iannucci what fans can expect tonight and from the rest of the season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the original idea behind Tom James?
ARMANDO IANNUCCI: We thought, let’s introduce a little vulnerability by having someone who, even though Selina is in the official hot seat, she’s actually rather nervous of being seen alongside him. He has better qualities. I thought that was an interesting dynamic, because I’m not sure we’ve seen that before. Normally you have someone who has failings and flaws and that’s where the comedy comes from, but this is someone who seems to outdo her in his ability. And you get someone like Hugh Laurie playing him, so there’s charisma there, but there’s also a comedy ability as well. It’s something we spent a little bit of time talking to Hugh about, to arrive at something that would spook Selina a bit more.
It wasn’t just a ploy to get Hugh Laurie on the show?
I knew that Hugh was a fan of the show, and I’m a huge fan of Hugh from way, way back with his comedy that he did in the UK. We just connected, really. Each heard that the other was interested, and we just kind of hooked up in London and chatted for hours about it. Hugh met up with the writers as well. We just flung ideas around and arrived at Tom James, this normal but ambitious operator, someone who in his head has told himself that he has higher principles about what politics can do—and see how he copes with his very sudden arrival into a group of people that he doesn’t know that well. How he processes that, I thought it would be funny to see.
What can we expect from Tom going forward?
Tom James has survived because he bowed out of politics for three or four years. He’s almost protected himself from the day-to-day political process. It’s also the beginning of something because he’s vice president. He now has to begin that process of boxing himself in and being compliant and having to learn what not to say. The show is called Veep, and we haven’t forgotten that really. Every episode in this season—in one degree or another—has involved Selina’s relationship with her vice president or her thinking about who her vice president should be. It’s been running through the season like a little background noise. I was very careful to make sure that was the case.
Is he your ideal politician in a way?
I think you’ve got to see the remaining episodes to get a better idea of how Tom works and what his process is. I’m not saying that he’s an evil man, but as with any character, the more you get to know them, the more you realize that there are flaws and faults. There are pluses and minuses.
Dan and Amy are now in the world of lobbying. Was that always something you wanted to explore with the show?
Yes. There are two things. Once someone becomes president, there’s a lot of traffic. People come and go quickly, because suddenly you realize that presidents don’t hang onto people they otherwise feel loyalty to if they feel they’re not right. They get rid of them very quickly, and they bring in people very quickly. We wanted to introduce that element of uncertainty. No one is quite safe. The other is that I was very keen to look into the world of lobbying. There are whole issues that still need looking at, like how the press operates. Super PACs will be another one. The power of money and the power of corporate pressure is something that I think was worth looking at. That’s what we do in much more detail in season 4.
Have we seen the last of Patton Oswalt’s character, Teddy?
The events that Teddy has been at the center of won’t go away, so we’ll see that play out.
Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on HBO.