Never before has a show offered quite so many talented actors as Veep, that even the recurring actors and guest stars sparkle. Even more amazing is that in a cast so jam-packed with bright talent, every person manages to find a way to shine. The plain truth; there isn't a single actor on Veep who isn't Emmy-worthy. That said, it's definitely time for television's highest honor to make sure that Reid Scott gets recognized for his work as Dan Egan.
So brilliant in his performance as the smug, scheming ladder-climber, Scott's character is so grandly complex that he offer's up one of the greatest anti-heroes (or, really, anti-villains) to have ever been on TV- right up there with Don Draper and Walter White. Dan Egan is captivating in his ways of manipulation- and Scott never misses a beat, so much so that in the Veep world of fun, light hearted comedy, a Dan spin-off could surprisingly be perhaps the best drama of all time. The role, so layered like an onion, it is extremely reminiscent of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho- and Scott plays him with a perfected eerie realism that it makes you question people you know...and makes you want to stay away from them or donate them to psychological research for a case study!
Here, the actor talks about his process, what he does to tap into such a dark character and how he brings out the humor in him, what else is in store on Veep and what else he has in the works!
Being that this election year has made people particularly politically mad and Veep is more relevant than ever, how often do you see things that happen in real life and find it bizarre that the show might have lampooned it first?
In the past that has kind of happened- one of our favorite moments was when Tony Hale's character of Gary went crazy with the budget on flowers with the White House decorator. While we were shooting that episode, something similar arose with Michelle Obama, and it became this thing where people were saying that 'in a financial crisis how could they be on such a spending spree'- it was just one example of how many times we would come up with something bizarre and then while we were shooting it, something similar would happen. In this particular election? That's been a lot harder because I don't think anyone could predict how crazy this could be. We always get asked if things will make it in to the show, but Veep has never been one to take things from the headlines- these weird similarities just happen.
Let's talk a little bit about the character of Dan. Even though this is a really light show, Dan is a pretty dark guy. What does it take for you to understand this kind of character? Have you ever met anyone like Dan? Are you basing him off of anyone in particular?
When I first got the script, a very good friend of mine who is a big political guy- I'll do him the honor of remaining nameless- I called him immediately and I sent him the script and he quickly said "oh shit you're playing me." So I sat down with him and picked his brain and asked him what it was like to be this dark operative and he was incredible by filling in a lot of blanks. I based it a little on him and some archetype ego maniacs. At one point, Steve jobs was in the news a lot and he was just crazy Machiavellian. He made all these brilliant business style chess moves and that's Dan. The Emmanuel brothers really lent a hand- one in politics and one in entertainment, and Veep is sort of the seedy underbelly of politics, the same way entourage showed that side of entertainment. Jeremy Piven's character on Entourage was an inspiration- That character that's always hustling with an agenda. Someone who is serving their client but really serving themself.
Dan really exhibits so many traits of textbook co-morbid narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder (the diagnosis for sociopathic behavior)- this is again both written and played flawlessly. Is this conscious, and have you done any research on the disorders?
To tell you the truth, I have done a little bit of research on it. Dan is absolutely a narcissist. When you're an actor, you try and come up with a backstory for your character. Since we never really exposed a backstory for Dan, it led me to discover it on my own and tweak it each season. Dan is a total chameleon and he'll change himself to suit the situation.
One of my favorite lines about Dan was from a deleted scene where Amy's date said he was reminiscent of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho- which is so true because they really are cut from the same chord, their driving force being envy. Is he Dan's role model? Could you ever see yourself in the role if they rebooted it? (There have been a talks for a potential reboot.)
I would love to play Patrick Bateman. I was obsessed with that book in college. And, for sure, I think that Dan is the kind of guy that I think probably saw American Psycho or read it when he was young and was just like, "I don't know why they're talking about this guy as if he's bad. He dresses well, he successful, he's good-looking, sure- he might've killed a few people, but I think he's great!"
Amy and Dan's twisted love-hate relationship is great, and oddly enough, even though these two characters are not really likable, it's hard not to root for them. Is there even a chance they can find happiness?
You know, I get asked that a lot. I think they would be a horrible couple- they would be the couple that you never want to be around that is always fighting and trying to out-do each other. In many ways, they need each other because they're so alike that they know that if one of them can hang, then the other one can also get down with whatever is going on- no matter how sick it might be. It's a great competitive relationship that keeps them going- which is what they really thrive on, and sometimes if you act on that sexual tension you lose the drive. I think both of them like the way things are and they don't want to lose that.
Another thing that's so impressive about Veep is that it has its own mythology that is as thick as like, the Star Wars universe- it created an entire government. It offers amazing side characters that keep popping up like Danny Chung, Congressman Furlong, and the unsung hero, Karen Collins played by the delightful Lennon Parham (Who might....or MIGHT NOT...be the greatest guest star in television history!) Is it hard to remember this universe, let alone all the political jargon you guys learn? You really are all the best in the business and you have to be SMART to work on this show.
I know I'm not alone in this when I say there are dozens of times where myself and other cast members have been like "Wait, who is this? What's going on? why is this happening?" We've had so many great guest stars come in and play such wonderful despicable characters. Even our main cast is one of the largest casts on television and we have so many recurring guest stars and I think that's what gives the show it's level of authenticity. The fact that HBO has given us such a long leash that we can have as many characters as we want at any time helps it feel like a real government and makes our world seem real. It's such a well-rounded universe and a lot of the shows clip their own wings from the production standpoint- they are afraid of payment issues or other costs, and we don't have to worry about that. We're really lucky.
Another thing people might not know about is your rehearsal process. You get your script, rehearse with it and then improv with it and learn an entirely new script based on improvised ideas. This really speaks volumes about the talent here. How long does this process take?
It's different every time. There are scripts that have changed completely where they went and re-wrote an entirely different story. This might have happened because as we were rehearsing the original script, we learn that it just isn't working or maybe the Veep world isn't ready to go in this direction. Sometimes we get a script and we try it and it's like- "don't change a word!" The fact that the writers are so generous with their words and that they trust us to be the true custodians of their scripts is such a gift and this is an incredible collaborative effort that everyone is so grateful for. I don't think anyone has ever been on anything like this that fosters that kind of creativity before. I hope I get to do so again, but I doubt it because it's very unusual. And we're all theater people and improv people- so we really feel gifted. We've definitely had guest stars come in and feel intimidated!
You are also a theater veteran and have starred opposite Jon Hamm in The Three Sisters on stage and directed your own production of The Elephant Man. Do you want to do more theater? Would you like to do more directing- on stage or on the big screen?
I would love to do more theater! LA unfortunately doesn't really have a great theater scene which is why whenever I get the chance I jump at it. And I would absolutely love to direct more. A few friends of mine and I are working on some projects, some shorts. I'm also working on a television project for Paramount where I'll hopefully get to direct- so those wheels are turning!
You are also quite the voice actor. You have an animated film called Nerdland coming out and you were recently nominated for a daytime Emmy for the Netflix animated series Turbo Fast. Talk a little bit about these projects, voice acting and what draws you to it.
Oh man, I love voice acting. To be perfectly honest, it might actually be my favorite form of acting. It's just so freeing. You don't have to worry about the cameras, and the lights, and the make up. It's the closest thing to theater. You get to show up and just really play. My wife sees it too- she says I'm the happiest I ever am when I come home from a voice-over gig. Nerdland is awesome. I was pulled in by my good friend Chris Prynoski, who also pulled me into Turbo. I've been working with him for a long time and to work with other great talents like Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt- who was also on Veep- was such a thrill. Turbo Fast was amazing. We did something like, a hundred episodes in record time. And the Emmy nomination came as a total surprise. The voice acting community is actually really small and tight knit, so to break into this very talented group so soon and be acknowledged like that is a very big honor.
What else do you have on the horizon that people can look forward to?
I just did a film that was written and directed by Demetri Martin called Dean. It just won at The Tribeca film Festival, which is really cool. I have a few other projects that might be too soon to talk about right now... and of course, there's always more Veep for this season.
So, what can you tell us that Dan might have on the horizon for the rest of the season, and where do you see Dan in ten years?
This is a good season for Dan. He's been through a lot. Season one he was sort of making his way up the ropes, season two he's trying to find his way further up the ladder, with season three he finally gets his dream job and in season four he got fired. So, in season five, he sort of gets a resurgence and we see him working his way back up. We really do some excellent stuff with Jonah (Timothy Simmons) and Peter Macnicol- who's an amazing amazing guest star we are so happy to have. So, we really have a lot going on that I can't wait for people to see. I can't say too much, but it's going to be some very funny stuff. As far as where I hope to see Dan in ten years? I just I think it would be really funny if a sniper just took him out...because isn't that really what he deserves?
As long as it happens long after Veep ends, because as despicable as Dan might be, Reid Scott has managed to make him one of the most must-see characters on TV...and a Veep without Dan would never be the same- so much so, that a spin-off dramedy might be just the ticket. Or at the very least, an Emmy.
Veep's season continues, Sunday's at 10:30 PM on HBO.