Many of you may know Reid Scott as Laura Linney’s hunky oncologist in Showtime’s The Big C. But his turn as Julia Louise Dreyfuss’ D.C. Deputy of Communications at the White House in HBO’s new series Veep (premiering this Sunday) is the role that will really have you talking! Reid talked to us about why he cherishes the chance to play “such a bastard”. His bad behavior is sure to make him the leading man fans will love to hate!
PPLA: Veep is premiering this weekend on HBO. Tell us about your character and what we can expect from this take on the White House?
REID: I play Danny Egan who is one of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ lead staffers. He’s the Deputy Director of Communications and he’s a total stick in the grass. I’ll come right out and say it – he’s a dick! He’s the jerk that you love to hate, but he gets shit done. He is a total Machiavellian kind of guy who cares only about upward mobility and ladder climbing so he’s a little hungry. I based the character on Ari Emanuel and Steve Jobs. But he’s not an out there guy; he’s actually pretty believable. I mean, I hope he comes across as believable. I did a fair amount of research about people in D.C. who actually had this position. I have a lot of friends who actually had this position for several senators and one of them for Bill Clinton’s campaign. This person really exists. He seems kind of larger than life and you can’t believe he’s this much of a prick. It’s crazy to know he walks the face of the Earth with a position of power.
PPLA: HBO has a stellar cast led by Julia who is reinventing herself again after having success with both Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine. What type of character can we look forward to in her portrayal of the female Vice-President?
REID: She’s incredible. She’s one of the reasons why I jumped on this project in the first place. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if she needs to reinvent herself or if I would call it that, because she’s so malleable as an actor. She’s just so open to character in the first place. She is one of those rare people that she doesn’t have to dig too deep to find a multitude of characters. That’s why she’s such a pro. She comes from such a steep comedy background and is a true performer which is what makes you believe she just has all of this waiting in the wings. Everyone in the business talks so glowingly about her but I guarantee you it’s all genuine. She’s been great, just a treat to work with and the most incredible quarterback you could ever have on a team. Also, Julia’s just cool, she really is. We have these late, late, late Friday nighst on set when we’d got out at 1 or 2 AM and she’d still be like, “Alright, let’s go get de-compressed. Let’s go drink some wine at my place and play ukulele and sing songs.”
PPLA: She plays the ukulele?
REID: Well she doesn’t, no, but one of our producers is an incredible guitar and ukulele player, and Julia has a beautiful voice. So late night drinking, some wine, eating potato chips, and singing old 50’s and 60’s songs, but beyond that what you can expect from her is exactly what you would come to expect from her over the years. She is just one funny chick, and she’s so smart. The subtle nuances that she brings to this character, which is the style of the whole show, they are just so spot on. She’s also a very collaborative person. Often times she’d turn to myself or Matt Walsh or Tim Simons and she’ll say, “Hey, is this funny? How can we make this funny, or what do you think of this?” It’s just been nothing but fun to play with her as part of our job.
PPLA: I know you also come from a directing background and in addition to filming Veep, you are currently directing The Elephant Man, a play running in Los Angeles. It is a collaboration between you and industry friends and you hope the start of a bigger project. Can you tell me about this experience?
Reid: The show has been running for about a month. The actor who plays John Merrick, the older man, is one of my good friends. His name is Babar Peerzada and he and I have been friends for a long time. He’s been a struggling actor in LA and takes a lot of classes with some other fine, fine actors and was encouraged to check out this play. So he dug into it and he immediately connected with this character and started workshopping this piece in several different classes, with several different incredible coaches for about a year-year and a half. During that time, he would always talk to me about it and I would always hear him and hear how passionate he was. I encouraged him to go further with it, because I love hearing from one artist to another when they find that inspiration. About a year and a half later, I came back from shooting Veep and literally decompressed for about three weeks, and he said, “Hey man, I’m going to play John Merrick. I have a few other actors that are interested in playing some of the other parts. It looks like we might have a theater where we can do this thing and it looks like we might be able to scratch together some money. Do you want to come on and direct?” I took about six hours to read the play and think about it, because I knew it was going to be a big commitment, and then I said yes! I knew… I want to do this! The rest of the cast are people I knew fairly well. We put this thing together and it was a total passion project and we rehearsed for the first three weeks in my living room and then moved it onto the stage. We put this thing together with spit and glue, but I think our passion and our love of it became infectious because we have gotten some amazing donations money-wise and a lot of our friends and designers worked on the show for next to nothing. Our costume designer worked for free and put together these amazing, incredible costumes. We knew it was something special, and the response has been wonderful. (Purchase PPLA’s special Goldstar half price tickets to Elephant Man which runs through May 6th)
PPLA: How has the response affected your plans for the future?
REID: The LA Times gave us a really nice review last week. Look, this is a small theater and we have an amazing publicist who reached out to all his contacts. It was incredible that the LA Times showed up opening night and gave us what we thought was a really wonderful review. We’re just excited because the goal was to really start this company and try to take a stab at reinventing the theater scene in Los Angeles, which we all feel has been incredibly lacking. It’s not for lack of trying! We know that there are wonderful smaller theaters out there and little theater companies that really try to put out great work. It’s not that they’re not putting on great shows… it’s that people don’t know to go see it, and we really want to change that. We’re lucky that there are people that are of this mind with us and that they are people with huge careers. We’re hoping that this show gains traction and who knows… I had a little fundraiser at the beginning and I gave a little speech and one of the things I said to the crowd was that there’s no excuse. We have the resources, we have the drive and I know that I want to be the kind of person that wakes up in twenty years and says we made this! This living, breathing piece of art that goes on and that gets handed down to the next generation. I know it sounds sort of cliche, but I’ve always wanted to do something like this and right now is the time because it takes a long time to change people’s views. The culture in the city but Los Angeles is now being injected with architects that want to change the landscape, and they will. It will be amazing, but being it’s Los Angeles, it will take 20 years! But it’s just as well, because it starts with people like us who are proud to take that on.
PPLA: You told me that you went to school intending to direct. How did you fall into the path of acting?
REID: I started out wanting to be a director. I went to Syracuse and studied film and studied theater. I saw the need to combine the two, so I actually graduated with an undergraduate degree in directing and then fancied myself as a director. I moved to NYC and directed roles here and there. Those student films from Syracuse were very instrumental in getting me an agent. Ironically, I got an agent for acting easily too and it was always kind of in the back of my mind, a feeling of “Yeah, I’ll do this while I have time.” So they would call me for auditions and I would say, “Oh thanks, but I am so close to cracking the ax on this play I’m writing, I’ll have to pass.” My friends would say, “What the hell man, you gotta go up and audition! So I started to listen and go, and as it goes, work begets work. So I got a little work and a little more work and before I knew it, ten years had gone by and I was like, “I’m an actor now”. But I love it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Now I can afford to get back to where I started in the first place which is directing, but I could never put acting down.
PPLA: What have been some of your favorite roles?
REID: I’ve had nothing but fun along the way and I know that I’ve been very fortunate and very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I’m very proud of the projects that I have gotten to work on- starting off with American Dreams and That 70’s Show. I did a series called It’s All Relative which the cast and crew were all very proud of. I was very La Cage au Faux where I played the bartending son of a blue collar Irish Family in Boston. I got engaged to a girl who was raised by two gay dads, and we were proud of it. It was a straight up sitcom, but it was really sweet and very intelligent. The producers and writers and creators were very smart, but it didn’t last long. But, I still run into people that say that was such a great show… what happened to that show…and that always feels good. From there, I worked on My Boys on TBS which was a blast. It was probably the most fun you could ever have working on a TV show. I am still friends with those guys. I surf with Kyle Howard whenever I get a chance… I see Mike Bunin all the time…I have lunch with BetsyThomas… I chat constantly with Jordana Spiro. It was just a perfect storm of happiness. That let to The Big C because My Boys was a Sony produced show and I made some friends at Sony and The Big C is a Sony produced show. Lucky for me, they liked what I did and that was an amazing opportunity to get to work with Laura Linney. It was like being in a master class. She’s amazing and so is John Benjamin Hickey who was also in The Big C and actually played one of the two gay dads on the sitcom I just mentioned. So that was nice because I’d known him for 8 years and it’s comforting when you have a familiar face on set. I was so nervous to go into The Big C because of Laura Linney. I hold her in such high regard and all I knew was that I had a friend there on set who knows that I’m okay at what I do, that I’m a decent actor, and the type of guy you want around. It was great and I learned so much from that experience. I think it was because of The Big C that I started to get the attention of HBO and here I am now on Veep. If I have any wisdom to impart, it’s take every job seriously because work does beget work and one job turns into another. The lowly PA’s you work with at the start of your career, eight to ten years from now, they will be the big producers. Anything you do should be important to you, and I try to employ that myself. So far, I’ve just been having a ball and I’m really happy.
PPLA: Outside of acting, what sort of things do you like to do? Any hobbies or charity work that interests you?
REID: I have a lot of hobbies! All I have is hobbies! Surfing, skiing, snowboarding, hiking… I take my dog all over the place! I have some friends who like to go fishing and stuff like that. I paint a little bit. I still try to write when I can. Photography has become a new hobby; I love it! Besides that, I just try to maintain as normal an existence as I possibly can. I’m still the same kid who went to Syracuse who palled around with buddies and went to baseball games and shot the shit about sports. I have a passion for politics too. I try to keep up on that.
PPLA: Well that’s good because isn’t your job to make the Vice President look good to the public in Veep?
REID: For the most part, yes. Walsh’s character is the Director of Communications. I am the Deputy which means I am number two, but I get hired because of my unique skill-set of being a bastard. So it’s my character’s job to come in and gloss things up and smooth things over. I shake the right hands and make the right deals and put our principal in the right position at the right time.
PPLA: How would you compare Veep to all the other political shows on TV, like its predecessor The West Wing or the new D.C.- based Shonda Rhimes show Scandal?
REID: I haven’t seen Scandal yet so I can’t comment but The West Wing was a beautiful show by our Syracuse brethren Aaron Sorkin. You won’t find a better crafted political drama. That being said, that show was a very glossy sort of romantic side of politics. I love how Veep stands in stark contrast to that. Our writers, our creator Armando Iannucci, is the other kind of genius. He’s not crafting flowery speeches; he’s crafting honest to goodness comedy. The thing I love about all the characters is that they all have huge faults, but this is a very honest look while The West Wing sort of looked at politics in this beautiful, charming, almost Camelot-like environment. We show it to be more like The Office. Things are actually run by a bunch of idiots. They are real people with real problems running our government. The few critics and interviews that I’ve given are with people who have seen the pilot and the all say, “Wow, this is actually a real look at politics”…and that’s kind of the point. The politicians in D.C. are not like some super race of humans that are running the country because they’re that much more intelligent and that much better at living life. No, it’s just people with faults and people with problems, like you and me. It’s fun to try to showcase the humorous reality that is Washington D.C.
To learn more or watch the trailer please visit HBO’s Veep.