By Dan Snierson
May 13, 2019 at 01:49 AM EDT
Credit: Colleen Hayes/HBO

Warning: This story contains plot details from Sunday’s series finale of Veep.

All season long — and for much of the series — Veep has been exploring the question: How far is ex-VP, former POTUS, and forever egotist Selina Meyer willing to go to become president? On Sunday night, the series finale of HBO’s Emmy-winning, cynical-to-its-corroded-core comedy answered: To hell. And there’s no coming back.

During her desperate, obsessive drive to return to the White House, Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) betrayed her daughter, Catherine (Sarah Sutherland), the fight for LGBTQ equality, a brave war veteran who was supposed to be her running mate, the nation of Tibet, pristine federal lands, the American educational system, and perhaps most damning to viewers entranced by the relationship at the cold-blooded heart of the show: her over-loyal bagman and one-man hype machine Gary (Tony Hale). Yes, unwitting Gary wound up serving as the fall guy for her scandals involving Chinese government election interference and the corrupted Meyer Fund. So much for Labor Day loyalty.

And so Selina Joker-ed her way out of brokered convention and wound up back in the Oval Office, but at great cost: She was now the most powerful person in the world, but also the loneliest, having sold out those nearest to her. (At least Sufe Bradshaw’s Sue was still guarding the Oval Office, doing MVP work to block VP Jonah, played by Timothy Simons, from any executive privilege.) The 45-minute propulsive finale didn’t finish there, though; it jumped 24 years into the future, to Selina’s funeral. Minus the now-deceased Ben (Kevin Dunn), the gang was all there, including two-term President Richard Splett (!, Sam Richardson) and ex-con Gary, who placed the Dubonnet lipstick that they had been saving for a special occasion on her casket. CBS Evening News anchor Mike McLintock (!!, Matt Walsh) was about to deliver a “heartfelt eulogy” about Selina to his viewers, but in the ultimate karmic-cruel joke, he had to cut his report short to cover more important breaking news: the death of Tom Hanks. It was a clever nod to the pilot, in which Mike had posited that the latest Meyer lemon would be overshadowed by even bigger news: “What if Tom Hanks dies?”

We here at EW now continue coverage of the passing of Selina Meyer and the rest of the show’s deficient souls. Let’s start by cutting to an interview with Veep showrunner and finale writer/director David Mandel, who takes you inside Selina’s savage send-off.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We’ve known who Selina was for seven seasons, but this season — and this finale in particular — took it to the next level and showcased just how ruthless and self-serving she is. Catherine, Gary, Tibet, and pristine federal lands are just some of the collateral damage in this mad dash to the Oval Office. At what price victory? Did she get what she deserved, in addition to what she felt she deserved?
DAVID MANDEL: Well, I do think she got what she deserved. She’ll carry forth, but that moment in the White House is the punishment. The coming to terms with what you’ve done and what you did is somewhat horrific. She’ll push it down because she’s Selina, but I think in every moment of silence, that will be back in her life forever. Anytime someone leaves the room, as far as I’m concerned, those ghosts of Christmas past will be there.

In her monomania to become President, she sold out her most loyal servant and the person who loved her the most: Gary. It’s the darkest moment for Selina — and for the show. When did you decide to play that devastating card, and how did you decide that she would stoop that low?
I refer to it in the [writers’] room a little bit as the Fredo moment [from The Godfather Part II], for many reasons, but also just the lovingness and the loyalty of poor Fredo and, of course, of poor Gary… Originally that was not happening. We talked a lot about a more standard ending, if you will, where Selina is right about to become president and then she was going to do some of the same things — offer Jonah the Vice Presidency. Jonah was going to stall and take too long, and along with the demands, in that stall, Tom James [Hugh Laurie] was going to make his move and swoop in and get the nomination, then win the presidency. So again, it would’ve been Jonah’s fault that she didn’t get what she wanted.

And that sat with me over the time of when Julia had cancer. [It was] both a combination of starting to think, “Well, we’ve seen a lot of variations of that before,” and also this sense of: in America people were behaving very, very badly and not being punished. I started to wonder why Selina Meyer was being punished. The truth is, she’d done so many horrible things over the course of [the show], you had to dig deep to make it real. She’s willing to get rid of Jaffar [Usman Ally], arguably the love of her life. What else could she do that would be even worse than breaking up with Jaffar?

That became the jumping-off point, and she had done so many terrible things, that party platform issues were just never going to be enough. Obviously, it affects millions of same-sex couples, and it’s horrific. The same-sex marriage [ban], besides being horrible, unto itself is horrible because it’s Catherine. But it’s still Catherine. And it’s hard to make the audience think that in terms of her behavior to Catherine, this is any worse than anything else she has previously said to Catherine. So what is the worst thing that she could do that is unlike anything she’s ever done? And sadly, very quickly, it just became clear the most horrible thing she could conceivably do would be to the only person who ever cared about her and she ever cared about, which was Gary. It dawned that that would be the price, that that’s the human sacrifice, and we worked backward from that. It is horrific. It was horrific to film…

What you realize in the grand scheme of things is that there’s very little she has genuinely cared about. When push comes to shove, she’s a scorpion. And it’s not easy for her, but it’s not as hard as it probably should be, either.

Julia and Tony said those scenes were difficult to shoot, just knowing the history between the characters and that they as actors were saying goodbye to this onscreen relationship as well, even though Gary didn’t realize it. What resonates with you or haunts you from those few days of filming?
I wouldn’t say it was hard but those were such emotional days. Sometimes you have to stand back and remind everybody that we’re playing a horrific scene, but your characters don’t quite know how horrific it is. What makes it more horrific certainly on Gary’s part is how innocent and Gary-esque he is right until the end.

Everything is so normal that when she starts to try and ask him — like maybe she was going to ask him to just take the fall flat-out and she never finishes the sentence — but, of course, his assumption is: do you need me to run across the street to get some coffee? Do you need me to fly back to New York and get a comb you left there? He was ready to do whatever she asked. In some interesting, weird way, I’m almost curious as to what he would’ve done had she actually asked him. Some part of me almost wondered that had she asked him, he actually might have been willing to do it. In some ways, the lack of her courage to ask him almost makes it worse.

She has to be thinking, “This is bad right now and this is a little bit bad for me,” but I don’t think she can be thinking about how horrific the rest of her life is going to be. That can’t hit her until the White House. So it’s this dance to find the perfect level of horror there.

In the Oval Office after the election, she reflexively calls out for Gary, and when Keith [Andy Daly] reminds her that he’s gone, she gets combative with him. Then when she’s left alone, she starts to tear up as if she’s taking stock of what she has besides this job, and the answer is… nothing. She’s not one to examine her own feelings, but is she sad, angry, and disgusted at herself for turning on Gary — and on everyone and everything else?
The great thing about my job these last four years is, I get to write very simple things or talk to Julia about very simple concepts and go, “Now play that.” Then she does four million things with her face and I get to sit back and revel in it. So, when she first mentioned Gary, there’s just this subtle thing on her face that’s just so wonderful. Like she instinctively yelled out for Gary and then realizes it. Then of course, like all bullies — because she is a bully — the best defense is a good offense. So the second they start to correct her, she shouts them down, “Get those idiots out of the office.”

Initially, when she says the name and he corrects her, we were on Andy Daly a little longer for his explanation. And even though I looked at all the takes, Julia was the one who said, “No, no, no — take a look, I think I reacted when I hear the name.” And I went back and I saw what she did, what she was talking about, so it’s intercut much more so that he says “Ma’am, Gary…” and then you’re back on her so it plays on her face, the realization moment. It’s tiny as f—, it’s miniscule as all hell, but it’s just perfect, seeing this just I don’t know, revulsion. It’s not what comes later when she’s alone but it’s that moment of, it’s like a chill runs down your body because you get the sense that a little chill is running down her.

We should also point out that as she’s kicking these people out of the office, we’re ending in a White House where, yes, Sue is outside, but in her inner circle, there’s nobody there from the old show. I mean, it’s all new people. Keith Quinn has become her hatchet man but she doesn’t have the relationship with him that she had with Ben [Kevin Dunn]. She has a new Amy [in Michelle, played by Rhea Seehorn]. So even when she’s with people, she’s a little bit alone. Then obviously they leave and she’s there alone, and yeah, I think it’s full on anger, it’s full-on recrimination. What have I done? Why am I here? It’s so many things. Regret is a part of it, but at the same time, though, I think almost more horror. Not to keep it Francis Ford Coppola [the director of The Godfather trilogy who also directed Apocalypse Now], but “The horror, the horror.” And the realization of: so alone. Yes, maybe not specifically worrying about where’s Catherine and not specifically worrying about where’s Kent [Gary Cole], but all of that hits her.

Credit: Colleen Hayes/HBO

Selina snaps out of that moment of sad solitude when the Israeli Prime Minister calls, and she’s charmingly back to doing what she does best. For this rotted-out soul, was it all worth it?
This is my honest opinion. I think for the rest of her life she will tell herself it was worth it. In the mornings before they come to get her, she will be up and dressed and waiting to get out of those family quarters and to get back to the Oval and business. The more the phone rings, the more there are things to do, she’s fine. But in those quiet recesses, that is when it will just constantly hit her of how it’s not okay. Despite becoming President, she is paying a price.

It’s revealed that she never visited Gary in prison, yet he shows up at her funeral and gives her the special lipstick. In one way, their bond can never be broken, and he will always have some measure of twisted devotion to her. On the other hand, he seems completely broken, defeated, and a little bitter. What is the feeling in that moment? What is left of Gary 24 years later?
Look, at some point, there is a sickness in the character. That was not a healthy relationship in any way, shape, or form. So why is he there? I guess in some ways he has no choice. He has to be there. But if you watch when he talks about how she would’ve hated the flowers, there’s an anger there. You don’t ever really get to see Gary angry, but Tony is channeling sort of a little bit of a disgust, if you will. There’s an anger there, like, “I’m here but f— you.” Even with the lipstick — I think there’s even still a little bit of that, and then he can’t help himself. In spite of everything she did, you get the sense that if that coffin opened up and she said, “Get me a tea,” he kind of would.

Gary was complicit in this hideous relationship in which he chased affection and validation that was never available. Tony said that he was actually glad that it happened, that Gary needed to be awakened from this destructive co-dependent relationship. He certainly didn’t deserve to go to jail, but what responsibility, if any, does he own for participating in this horrifically lopsided relationship?
Boy, that’s an interesting question. I mean, it wasn’t a healthy relationship and he was certainly complicit in it in the sense of it takes two to tango. That being said, he’s a simple soul. I think there was a mix of, he had blinders to it but there were also sometimes I don’t think he necessarily understood it. So, I guess because of his simplicity, dare I say, I don’t blame him quite as much as I blame her.

Catherine told her mother that she’d never forgive her for agreeing to ban same-sex marriage, and then we saw her watch her funeral at home with Marjorie [Clea DuVall], which indicated estrangement. Yet, Catherine seemed happier for it. Like Gary, she was in this toxic relationship with Selina. Was Catherine’s cutting of ties with Selina the healthiest decision she made?
Her realization that she was interested in members of the same sex and ultimately her happiness with Marjorie and the family they built — I think there’s a three-year story there of her becoming a more and better-fulfilled person. And in some ways, perhaps even some of the postpartum depression was ultimately all really connected to Selina… To me, the day they walked out of that convention, in the cab to the airport, she probably surprised Marjorie by laughing at something. And that was the beginning of her real healing. We even had a [scene], it just didn’t quite exactly work, where she was watching the funeral, sort of laughing. But yeah, I think this has been a three-year journey of her becoming a somewhat more complete person. And I do think in some ways getting away from her mother was the best thing that ever happened to her.

In your mind, was that one of the last times they spoke?
My assumption is, because Selina is Selina, I’m sure she occasionally tried via Little Richard, or they bumped into each other. But I’m guessing it was all very like an angry divorced couple that kind of bumps into each other at the lawyer’s office.

That scarily driven, win-at-all costs side of Selina is a hideous sight to behold, except when it comes to the brutal, satisfying comeuppance of Tom James (Hugh Laurie). But one can’t be surprised by everything horrific and morally bankrupt that she does after seeing her in action like that.
We’re taking advantage of something that I’ve talked a lot about, which is people sometimes say to themselves, “Oh, I want Selina to be president.” And it’s always like, “Well, no. You don’t really want Selina to be president, you kind of want Julia to be president. Selina’s pretty awful.” But I think there’s something wonderful and really wonderfully confusing about watching Selina take down Tom James, especially after these last three years, and just culminating in what he says to her in the hospital, you want to stand up and applaud. I mean, it’s the most vicious thing you’ve ever seen. She just reduces him to a puddle of a man. But it’s that same street fighter that then continues to do all of those other horrible things. And it really plays with your emotions, because you start to realize, “But I was clapping earlier, but now I’m sad that she’s doing this to Gary.” And that is the conundrum of her, and I love that it puts the viewer in knots in a really hopefully good way.

We do like the long con. The takedown of Tom James is three years in the making. A lot of these stories go back to when I and the new writers came into the show. [Mandel took over showrunning duties from creator Armando Iannucci after season 4.] And they have had this just crazy ping-pong back-and-forth relationship, and he has constantly screwed her over. And there have even occasionally been people [who said], “Why does she keep falling for it?” And their relationship is also pretty screwed up. But at the end of the day, she is the winner. She beats him — and beats him badly.

Was one of the messages of the finale, “If you have been rooting for Selina all along, you chose very poorly, and we’re here to not-gently remind you of that”?
That is the wonderful thing. This is the main character of a TV show, and you relish in her horribleness. But maybe there’s a lesson to be learned which is, at the end of the day, horrible is horrible. And yeah, anybody who thought she should be president wasn’t maybe paying attention the way they should have been.

When we learn that Richard Splett [Sam Richardson] becomes a historic two-term president, it feels like some reward and justice in this cold, cruel world. He was the one who believed the most in the purity and potential of government. How did you arrive at that outcome? And was there ever talk of making him Selina’s VP in the present day, as his political career was accelerating super fast in the final season?
It’s funny, I’ve seen both the Richard becomes her VP or somebody’s VP at the convention. And obviously, I understand why — especially in the seven-episode structure, his rise was perhaps even more meteoric than it would have been in the ten-episode structure. So I saw that a bunch, and I even saw people thinking he would [be nominated for] president somehow in this convention, that he would somehow emerge from the morass. And I do think it’s a little hopeful. It’s meant to be. My hope is that while we are in this horrific Selina Meyer morass, that down the line there is hope. We once played with an idea that when you jumped to the future and Richard was president, and he might have asked her to be his vice president in the future — sort of a little bit of a gray-haired, foreign policy expert to his younger, more novice politician. Sort of a Biden to his Obama. But I guess at the end of the day, I’m a cynical son of a bitch. But I guess I have hope. And President Richard Splett is that expression of hope for the future.

Selina has always hated the limited powers of the vice president. But the way she talks about the position in the finale is so warped — it’s declawing, it’s demeaning, it’s worse than death — that she sounds victimized for having to serve in that position, which is the second most powerful person…
One of the many reasons we called the final episode “Veep” is that who is going to be her vice president is such a giant piece of her salvation. And perhaps had she just made peace with Kemi [Toks Olagundoye] early on, a lot of this could have been avoided. But she wouldn’t do that. And then [there’s] the ultimate decision to give it to Jonah, which in some ways is almost as bad as the Gary thing, and I’m putting it, like, a hair less. Of all the people in the world you could pick, that decision to make Jonah vice president again is also part of the reason that’s the title of this episode. The comedy of the episode, her hating of the vice presidency, her not wanting to give to people, to him, to Jonah, when he goes, “No, I don’t want it.” And then says, “I’m going to run in the third party and f— your shit up.” Then everybody is screaming at him, and his line where he goes, “Fine! I’ll be vice president!” almost reluctantly is one of my absolute favorite jokes, and I think in some weird way very true to the spirit of all seven seasons of the original show, a show about the vice presidency. The sidelining of the vice president, that it happened to Selina, is a great end for Jonah, and that he got some of the power he wanted, but had to learn what she learned, which is it wasn’t much of anything.

Timothy Simons as Jonah in VEEP
Credit: Colleen Hayes/HBO

What high — or low crime — was Jonah impeached for? And please confirm that it was as vice president, not president.
He was definitely impeached as vice president. I think there was something very funny to me that somehow you end up with him and Spiro Agnew in the same historical footnote. And my guess is it was a similar sort of financial campaign thing. At the end of the day, just a small-time guy in a big office.

Sufe Bradshaw returned as Sue to the White House, which was a feel-good surprise in a brutal episode. It was very emotional on set when you called a “series wrap” on her after filming; she has said she wasn’t able to participate in season 6 because of illness. How did you get her to return? And did you initially try to get her back for more episodes this season?
I think at some point there was a thought of seeing her back in the Montez [Andrea Savage] days, season 6. That would have been the running joke, that everybody else got s—canned but she’s the only actual competent one. And so in becoming president, Montez would have held on to her, and that there would have been a moment or two when we went back to the Montez White House, or even maybe trying to call Montez and Sue would have answered the phone, some version of that. And that never came to pass. And as we started doing this season, we weren’t trying to be greedy, but I wrote down this idea that we’d end up back in the Oval and Sue would be there. It went on the wish list. We didn’t know if it would happen, and certainly everything would have worked without.

We actually had another scene that we wrote and shot of Jonah in the EEOB that ultimately fell out, of seeing him as vice president in that office. And I think had Sufe not been available, we would have gotten rid of that scene and gone with the other scene…. This cast is so close, they were all together in Baltimore [where the show was filmed for the first four seasons] for so long. So it was just a genuine expression of having missed her, but also having been really glad that she showed up. So yeah, there was just a lot of joy. And then picked up right where we were [laughs], right back to that sort of withering stare. And that scene just plays.

Speaking of emotional moments, Selina had an unconventional father-figure moment with Ben [Kevin Dunn] after his heart attack. It was probably the most heartwarming “You’re my hatchet man” line ever delivered.
We’ve played a lot with the notion of this horrific dad she had, over the past three years. It’s been a process of first when her mom dies, little bits about her father. And then when she was writing the book with Mike, a little bit more about her father. And the realization that this mom and dad is obviously what made this sort of creature, but also that her dad explains a little bit of why she’s with Andrew [David Pasquesi]. And you start to realize she’s just never really had a father figure. And I do think oftentimes in people’s lives they have a father figure but don’t quite realize it’s their father figure until a certain moment comes. I can’t swear to you she was sitting there going, “This is my father figure,” with him, but certainly for the audience, you start to realize, “Oh, this burned-out, alcoholic, political operative is the closest thing she’s ever known to a genuine, at least sort of older man that thought kindly of her.” [Laughs.]

Obviously, Kevin is just wonderful and devastating and so vulnerable and so caring. And maybe the first time we’ve seen Ben’s guard down a little bit too, just in the expression of his emotion. Again, not through emotional words, but just in his support. What he’s really saying to her there is just some version of, “You know how to be horrible enough to do what needs to be done.” He’s sort of saying, “Go on out there little girl and unleash the horrors. It’s time to make everybody pay. We settle all family business.” So it’s such an interesting scene because it’s so emotional, but it is emotional about sending her off to steel herself to do some really bad s—. And in some ways, that’s what makes him her father. [Laughs.]

This is Daddy’s “You’ve had the evil inside you the whole time, it’s time to embrace your dark side” speech.
“You didn’t need these shoes or me. It’s just always been there.”

Credit: Colleen Hayes/HBO

Amy (Anna Chlumsky) is so beyond driven to get Jonah elected, and she’s relishing in her return to power, but then she reverses course. That is a really sharp turn for the character in that day. It just suddenly washed over her what a terrible idea this was, and what she hath wrought?
Yeah. There’s a wonderful moment, Anna just sells the hell out of it. When Kent is basically bellowing at Selina and kind of losing it a little bit, the camera finds Amy there. I think maybe what you were expecting is her almost being dismissive of Kent and ready to jump in. And the camera finds her contemplating it, like struck that it’s happening. Whatever happened earlier in the day where she made the push and obviously it didn’t go, she was all in. But now that’s it’s coming back a second time, it’s this realization of, it’s almost like, “We tried.” But what went through her head was, “We had tried earlier in the day off the Muslim math thing. It didn’t happen. I did what I was supposed to do. Maybe it’s all for the best. Oh my God, he could end up as …” It’s sort of like she had put it to bed and realizes now it could be even realer, and then realizing, “Oh. This shouldn’t be.”

I’m not going to use the K word, which is Kellyanne [Conway]. But I think for Amy, who was all in on Jonah for a variety of reasons — some of which were the decisions she’d made in her life in the sense of she chose work over possibly a family — and then when you make a decision like that, she had to double down with Jonah. Because if she doesn’t go all in on that job, then it makes the decision to perhaps having had the abortion more wrong for her. “I chose my job, and now I’ve been given this opportunity. If I don’t go crazily in, then it invalidates the previous decision.” She was all in. She has been riding that thing, and it’s brought up a lot though obviously her anger at Selena, and all of those things. But at the moment where perhaps it most counted, she does have these regrets.

Let’s also go one step further: at the end there, she could have left any time, but unfortunately, there’s a sickness to her as well, that she doesn’t have to take that chief of staff job. There’s no rule that says she has to, but at the end of the day, that’s who she is. She, more than anyone, could leave and walk away, and doesn’t. Because the others do, and she doesn’t. That’s the interesting flaw of her.

Her ending up with Ericsson [Diedrich Bader] is certainly a curveball, but it also feels like in the Veep world, wouldn’t Dan and Amy wind up happily ever after?
It’s funny. The Dan-Amy shippers — that was never going to happen. I mean, Dan is with who he wants to be. It’s very specific, and it ain’t Amy, and it was never going to be Amy. I think in some ways she found herself a sort of Dan-esque guy. Not exactly Dan, but Dan-esque. So that’s what she did, which is not exactly healthy. The Ericsson thing — it was funny, it was actually Anna’s idea, and I thought it was very enjoyable. And so we planted some seeds early on, about them getting drinks. She just thought that Amy would’ve liked the cut of his jib. He would’ve been her type. Another sleazy scumbag operator a la Dan. Dan 2.0 in a different way. A Dan that’s been to prison.

Whose future outcome amused you the most? And whose was the hardest to settle on?
I most loved Richard being president, and I loved the three-state solution to the [Israeli-Palestinian] crisis, because even I as the writer have no idea what the third state is. And it makes me laugh to no end. I love the idea that he solved it with three states. I really do love Mike becoming the Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America. In terms of looks, I will say that the idea of Dan really not aging is one of my all-time favorite ideas. He’s the same guy … just a little grayer here and there, maybe a little tanner.

I don’t want to say it was hard, but trying to exactly figure out: was it real estate or what for him? We definitely liked the idea of what he went into was interesting. And we went back and forth on a lot of other things. It was a baby challenge to figure out where Dan should be.

The joke of Tom Hanks’s death bumping news of hers is the ultimate karmic payback and a wonderful, wicked callback to the pilot. How long had you been sitting on that idea as the ending?
There was always this idea of jumping ahead to the funeral. And that idea that comes up earlier in the season, which is her having to plan her own funeral — which presidents do — I honestly think we tried to jam that into the finale of season 5 when she was leaving the White House. We then tried to jam that into the last year, season 6, and then finally got it into season 7. And at one point, we even talked about in the episode where you would meet the General and he plans her funeral, the credits of that episode would be the funeral. It wasn’t for the finale; it was just to have been a jump ahead to the funeral, the idea being that they plan the funeral, something gets messed up, and now you’re seeing the funeral, and you’re seeing the things she wanted to not happen. The people she banned are now there.

When none of that came to pass, “let’s do the General thing early in the year and plan her funeral, and then let’s jump ahead to the future and see it” became the idea. We started talking about a very sort of Selina Meyer-esque ending, which is that she gets bumped off the front page by a better funeral. The big one that we were on for probably a lot of the discussion was that never-before-seen President Hughes would die on the same day, and that would sort of steal her thunder.

It was actually Frank Rich, our executive producer, who then jumped to, “What if it’s Tom Hanks?” I had gone back and rewatched everything again, and so, the pilot was definitely fresh in my mind. The second he said it, it was just like, “Oh, my God. That’s perfect.”

Did you reach out to Tom Hanks for his death blessing? And did he have any say on his old-age look?
At some point or another, we found out that he had to approve everything. That it wasn’t just like a movie, that we could license the clips, that it was going to land on his desk. So we were actually in the sound mix of the episode when we were told this. And so, Julia e-mailed him, and then we got back this very quick auto-response, that was like, “I’m traveling. I don’t know when I will respond.”

We sort of got a little freaked out by what that meant, and Julia was in the middle of trying to get through to his agent, or any of those kinds of things, when all of a sudden, the response came back, and he was delighted and gave a big thumbs up. He was a huge fan of the show. He got what we were going for at the end there, and was proud to be a part of it, and it just put a huge smile on Julia’s and my faces. And by the way, on the face of Megan Murphy, [Veep’s co-producer in postproduction]. Because that moment she realized she wasn’t going to have to change it to something else. I don’t believe he could have stopped us from saying his name. It would have just had less of the footage of The Money Pit and whatnot.

Mike says Tom won four Oscars, so was the fourth for Philadelphia 2?
You think so? That’d be great. The idea of winning for both the original and then the sequel, that’s cool…. We, I don’t want to say padded, because my guess is he could end up with more. I’m a huge fan. The idea being, there is at least one more Oscar in the next 24 years, along with the sequel to Philadelphia. I know people have been waiting for it. But I doubt we’re going to get it.

Andrew popped up on the street in Oslo last week and crossed in front of the group at the funeral. Did she ever find out that he was alive, and did he close out any shady deals at her funeral?
I’d like to think at some point, they had contact, or she probably had to give him some more money at some point. And I know some people were thinking, like, “Oh, is he the one that’s going to bring her down, or anything like that?” I guess I enjoyed the idea that the threat was in the air. But when he’s at that funeral — and maybe this a little, I don’t want to say “redemption” for Andrew — he did love her. But if you remember back from the flashbacks, you get the sense there’s a reason she couldn’t completely get him out of her life and vice versa. And I think he honestly was there to pay his respects. He wasn’t there to make some deal. He legitimately was there to say goodbye.

You took over showrunning duties when Armando left after season 4 and kept up the Emmy-winning tradition. What conversations, if any, did you have with him about the ending and wrapping up the show?
We saw each other at the premiere in New York. It was lovely that he came to New York for the premiere, and obviously, he’s busy with [upcoming HBO space comedy Avenue 5]. We had this really nice moment after the screening, just kind of catching up and a little bit of chit-chatting. At some point or another, I think I whispered that she won. Because I believe he wanted to know. And then I told him that there was a callback to the pilot. I didn’t say it was Tom Hanks specifically but I said I hope he digs it because there’s a pretty cool nod to the pilot. I think he gets an odd kick out of watching the show.

A cautionary tale for 2020, this season was simply darker and more brutal than ever. You mentioned that Trump was one of several reasons that you and Julia decided to wrap it up, but the show seemed energized by and turbocharged in mocking the current political climate — from anti-vax to denying facts — and the powers that be with the Meyer Fund and the Chinese election interference. And you showed no mercy with Amy’s abortion storyline. Was the attitude in the writers’ room this season one of “The cruelty, ignorance and hypocrisy in this world needs an equal and opposite force more than ever,” or was it “It’s our last season, so let’s adopt a scorched Earth policy,” or maybe a bit of both?
I go for a little bit of both, and I’ll throw a third thing in. I think the world has gotten very horrible. To me, it wasn’t always about Trump, but it was the symptoms that allowed Trump to exist, and the things that he has wrought. We are in a world now, where this anti-vax stuff is happening, because people just don’t believe science and facts. You can tie that into fake news, just the idea that people used to believe scientists, and doctors, and now they don’t. That’s why we have climate deniers, we have anti-vaxxers, and we are seeing what those things wrought. Maybe, just maybe obviously with all the people from the measles, maybe people will start to go, “Well, wait a second, if they were right about vaccines, maybe they were right about the climate.”

There was a sense of, we are going to shine a comic light on this stuff, and we’re going to do it fast and furiously, so that’s number one. Number two, I think there was a sense of, this is the final season. Let’s just take no prisoners. Connected to that, having ended up taking the year off, our plans for production were going to probably be later, so we might not have aired until the summer, had we shot pre-cancer. Regardless of any of that, having taken the time off we did, I’m not going to lie, I wanted to come out fighting. I wanted to come out and remind people just what Veep was. We’ve been gone a year, and we’re back, and we’re not taking any prisoners.

HBO's Official 2017 Emmy After Party - Inside
Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Early in the season, you gave us a tantalizing and terrifying clue about Labor Day, one in which we learned that it was not a day but a boat, which sends the brain to awful places, along the lines of Natalie Wood or Chappaquiddick. Did you ever consider revealing exactly what happened on Labor Day, or is it one of those things that the answer will never be as satisfying as the speculation and your own imagination?
I love that everyone has a theory. The boat thing was something we had thought a lot about, honestly, when I first got to the show, just the idea that it’s a boat, not the date, I thought that would be a really fun thing. I wish in retrospect, we had managed to put maybe one, or two other clues along the way… But there is no answer. I don’t have the secret answer of what Labor Day was, I just liked the idea of a lot of clues that kept changing what you thought about it. I don’t think an answer would have been satisfying.

The finale had plenty of closure. But In the age of reboots, we must ask: Is there any chance that Veep will come back in any form, down the road?
At least for the moment, I’ve said everything I have to say about these people and this world. I always will leave open the door to a great idea, because a great idea is a great idea. You never know. But it feels pretty definitive.

Given that Mike never winds up giving that heartfelt eulogy for Selina, could you finish the job right now?
I would personally eulogize her as the most wonderfully complicated character I ever got to write. When history looks back on Selina Meyer, I’m not sure anyone will ever have anything great to say about her being vice president or either of the times she was president. But history cannot deny how many times she ran for the presidency and how badly she wanted it.

To read what Louis-Dreyfus and Hale thought of Selina’s betrayal of Gary, head over here.

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Selina Meyer and her staff try to take on the White House in this HBO sitcom.

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