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Q&A: ‘Veep’ Showrunner on What’s Next for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Embattled President

Veep Season 5 HBO
Courtesy of HBO

The end of “Veep” season 4 left Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ President Selena Meyer where we often find her — in a state of consternation. Her bid for reelection has ended in a tie, leaving the outcome in constitutional limbo. The final scene is vintage “Veep,” with Selena struggling to put on a happy face, then fuming at her staff when out of public view.

It’s also the series’ final moment under creator and original showrunner Armando Iannucci, who departed after season’s end. Unlike other recent HBO showrunner changes, this one was not driven by creative concerns. “Veep” is one of TV’s most acclaimed shows, having earned nine Primetime Emmy Awards, including last season’s for best comedy series and four straight for Julia Louis-Dreyfus as best actress in a comedy.

Iannucci returned to his native U.K. intent on spending more time with his family. His successor, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” veteran David Mandel, visited Iannucci in London shortly after landing the job to brainstorm ideas. “He’s been nothing but gracious and supportive, that, for lack of a better word, it felt like ‘Veep’ to him,” Mandel said.

With season five – his first at the helm—set to premiere Sunday, Mandel spoke to Variety about Louis-Dreyfus, Selena’s future and maintaining the show’s momentum.

What’s it like to walk into a show that is at the top of its game?

It was a challenge. I wasn’t coming home and hiding in a closet at night cowering. I definitely wasn’t sitting at home saying, “How can I make my life more difficult?” But at the same time, I’m never going to jump out of a plane and I’m never going to climb the Himalayas, but I did this. This is what I do for weird thrills.

Tell me something about Julia Louis-Dreyfus that isn’t something that someone else has already said a million times.

I think it’s things you can see. She’s absolutely fearless and she lacks any sort of vanity. And she welcomes the shit being poured upon her. She truly just wants the laugh – and not a cheap laugh, a good laugh. It’s just admirable. And she can just move her face and play like 14 things at once in a way that I don’t think that any other human being can. I think she has gears we haven’t even seen yet.

How much of this season will be taken up by sorting out the election and how much by what happens after the election is settled?

The season is really about resolving the election and about a sense of what comes after it. But it’s not easy to resolve an election. I’ll leave it at that.

You’ve been picked up for a sixth season. Obviously Selena is going to have a job …

Absolutely, but not necessarily the job she wants, as they say, without trying to be spoilery. But the real truth was that when I sat down with everybody, with Julia, and we started talking about what the show would be, really what was exciting was the notion of not only talking about what this season was, but then what comes after. They never guaranteed us more than one season, but at the same time I felt that if they just had wanted to resolve the story and end it, they probably could have figured out a way for Armando to do that and he probably would have just done it. I don’t want to say to you that we came in with a three-year plan, but there was a little bit of that.

Is there space in the world of the show for Selena to be happy at some point?

There are moments of happiness for her. I think getting the Presidency made her happy. When she became the President, that made her very, very happy. Then once she was the president, other things started to happen and she was unhappy, but I do think it allowed her to at least be in the place she wanted to be for a bit. I do think she can find happiness, but that is a real question, and I think it’s something that a lot of powerful people deal with.

I’m hoping we got into her head a little bit, maybe a little bit more than in past seasons. That’s something for the viewers to decide, but it’s definitely something we were trying to do.

Julia and Larry David were just on “SNL” together. Would we ever see Larry on “Veep”?

Probably not. Obviously everyone involved in the “Seinfeld” world are all just incredibly talented, but I just think it would take you out of it. Sometimes, by the way, some of the supporting characters will get mentioned for something. You’d love it, but at the same it would take you out of the world if all of a sudden Selena was in a scene with the Soup Nazi.

Season five of “Veep” premieres at 10:30 p.m. Sunday on HBO.