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Matt Walsh's 'Veep' character wouldn't approve of press secretary Sean Spicer's performance

Matt Walsh stars as press secretary Mike McLintock on the HBO series
Matt Walsh stars as press secretary Mike McLintock on the HBO series "Veep."
Matt Walsh stars as press secretary Mike McLintock on the HBO series
Actor Matt Walsh co-stars as Mike McLintock on the HBO comedy series "Veep."
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

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There are actually are two women who ran for President in the last year and lost: Hillary Clinton and Selina Meyer. 

Meyer is the fictional character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the HBO series, “Veep,” which has just returned for its sixth season. But what has been bad political news for Meyer may actually be a good comedy development for her press secretary, Mike McLintock, and the actor who plays him, Matt Walsh. 

Walsh says that the idea of seeing his bumbling press secretary character on HBO while the real presidential spokesman Sean Spicer is on CNN would be a very strange case of life imitating art. 

Now that Meyer has lost the White House, everybody on “Veep” associated with her administration is either looking for a new job or trying to hang on to an old one. 

Walsh stopped by The Frame to talk about developing Mike McLintock, shooting the show during the U.S. Presidential election, and how the meaning of certain jokes changed after President Trump was elected. 

Interview highlights:

On how the show has changed as a result of the new administration:

The show has evolved. I think it's consistent in tone or point of view, I'd say. There's a bunch of buffoons behind the scenes in D.C. I think that holds true and egos are ginormous and fragile. It's not a show that tears from the headlines. They don't necessarily comment on what happened in the news today. It's hopefully the larger truth that maybe has been true for the last hundred years about politicians and the way bills get made and the way deals get made and how things are not necessarily driven by the highest ideals.

On developing the show's character, Mike McLintock:

I grew up in Chicago and my association of politics was the Democratic machine. The Daleys ran Chicago and the way that machine worked is you had to know somebody who knew somebody to get a meeting. There's that [story] where Obama came into Chicago and sat down in an alderman's office and he was like, Who sent you? [Obama says], Nobody. I just want to help. I want to post a flier. He was like, Get out of here! You needed someone's blessing to get anything done. So that was my take on Mike McLintock, because he was old school in the new 24/7 news cycle. It was a much faster-paced world. He came from the trenches where you made these relationships and you kept relations with people and you had to give a blessing and knew how to operate in that world. 

On the partnerships with the show's writers:

It's a very collaborative process and a unique process [compared] to the shows I've been on. I would say that the scripts come in very well-written and very funny. We read them and then we take scenes that perhaps aren't working and put them on their feet, improvise around those scenes, writers take notes and then generate successive drafts from those rehearsals. You always have permission [to make suggestions]. Even from the beginning of each season, you come in and you pitch ideas and they want to hear your takes on the character. It's not like you write your season arc, but they'll hear something and then they'll use it or they'll mutate it or they'll ignore it. It's very collaborative and you are encouraged. Then on the day, when you finally get to the filming of it, it's like 95 percent written. It's pretty tight. You always pitch jokes or try things or you have freedom to paraphrase. As long as you're making all the jokes land in a very simple way, they don't really care about the wording. It's not like if you're on a sitcom and the script supervisor [says], You didn't say "the." It's not like an Aaron Sorkin-type environment.

On how the jokes are never acknowledged by the characters:

You never pause for things to land. It's a very over-lappy show. There's always chaos. It's hard to focus because there's so much movement with the camera. There are never pauses for jokes or there's never like, Oh, you landed a good one. Even the characters don't react to the insults. It's just like, Yeah, yeah, whatever. Let's go get coffee, or whatever happens. The hardest thing on the show is that you have guest actors who come in for a day and, if you're a heavyset actor you're sitting across from the new person and you just start cutting them down for being fat. It's like, Hi, I'm Matt. Okay, ready? We're rolling. "Hey, fatso! What's up, fatso? Why you so fat, fatso?" Cut. We got it. You kind of have to make sure the new people who come through our process don't get their feelings hurt.

On whether the election changed the nature of the show:

Very little. We were actually filming the night the election results were coming in. It was a very somber, depressing evening. And after that, we probably threw an extra week's break into our writing hiatus because everyone was in a terrible mood. They also were questioning, How does this affect us? Ultimately, because they had already mapped out the season and the arcs, we just returned and kept momentum and didn't get off course.

On whether Trump's administration was better for the show than Hillary's would have been:

It's a blessing in a way because we spent a lot of time with Mike McLintock over the years because he is a buffoon and is not good at his job. But we always made sure, when he was at the podium, he was at least plausibly good at his job. He could communicate what the administration wanted. He couldn't be just a total idiot. But now, after seeing day one when Sean Spicer took his job, my Twitter feed was filled with people saying, This guy is so much worse than Mike McLintock. And it hasn't stopped. 

Mike McLintock would [say about Spicer], That guy's terrible! I think Mike McLintock, onstage at the podium in the briefing room, is actually much better than Sean Spicer. He's a buffoon behind the scenes, but if you go through the episodes, I don't think he's done anything as egregious as that guy has done. It is fortunate for "Veep" though, a show that was up and running already, to inherit this sort of brand new interest — for some people — in the political game.

On how some jokes changed meaning after Trump was elected:

There was a joke last year, which was in season five, that Selina had gone on Twitter and was actually directly tweeting to her public, where we handle her Twitter and pass it off to an assistant in the way that Obama did. He occasionally tweeted himself, but generally it was his assistant he would approve. But she was directly tweeting and she thought she was being funny to her boyfriend. We had such tension around that and we were trying to get into the situation room trying to shut that down. Now, if you did that joke about a president tweeting, people would be perplexed like, Why is this interesting? How is this funny? That's pretty tame. The stakes weren't there and it just pulled the rug out on what we thought were high stakes. Now the constant absurdity or recklessness of the administration has changed a lot of that. 

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