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Julia Louis-Dreyfus Talks Trump, Cancer, And Saying Farewell To 'Veep'

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in the final season of Veep. (Colleen Hayes/HBO)
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By Andrea Gutierrez with John Horn & Julia Paskin

Julia Louis-Dreyfus knows that Selina Meyer is a horrible human being.

"But when you play her," she said, "you have to [ask], Well, why?"

Louis-Dreyfus told KPCC's The Frame that she tries to humanize her Veep character's horribleness, playing it with empathy. "And even though I'm not necessarily asking the viewer to be empathetic, I just want the viewer to laugh."

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The seventh and final season of the show premiered last month. The nearly two-year hiatus that preceded it was, to put it lightly, eventful for Louis-Dreyfus.

A few weeks after making history with her sixth Emmy in a row for best actress in a comedy, Louis-Dreyfus announced that she had breast cancer. Shortly after, Veep went on hiatus so that she could undergo treatment.

"This is gonna sound so Pollyanna-ish," Louis-Dreyfus said, "but coming back to work to try to make people laugh is a really good goal."

The writers room stayed open during her treatment, with table reads every three weeks or so when she was feeling well enough.

"And that was pretty buoying to me. The preciousness of life -- specifically my life, and what I do in my life -- came into crystal-clear focus," Louis-Dreyfus said.

She returned to work shortly after her recovery. "And I've been working non-stop ever since, so I'm still kind of digesting this whole cancer romp."

The timing of the seventh season presented a particular challenge. Though the sixth season was in production at the time of the 2016 presidential election, little was changed before filming wrapped.

Since then, so much that has happened under the Trump Administration has been almost too outrageous to satirize, according to Louis-Dreyfus.

"I would say the Trump White House might even be writing a better episode of [Veep]. Except it ain't funny," Louis-Dreyfus said.

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She thinks the show reflects that this season -- the show is more extreme. "The episodes we're doing this season would have been an outrage four seasons ago. An outrage. It would have been like we'd gone off the rails completely."

But does Veep have a political agenda?

"The agenda going in is talking about the culture of politics," Louis-Dreyfus said. "In so doing, you are going to be dealing with issues like gun control, abortion rights, racism. We tackle #MeToo this season. Certain areas are unavoidable, and they're ripe for the taking."

Louis-Dreyfus takes pride in knowing that Veep has fans on both sides of the aisle in Washington. She even learned that she has admirers on the Supreme Court.

"I had the good fortune to meet Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan once, and she told me that she got together with Justice Scalia every week when Veep was on the air to discuss the past week's episode, because they were both fans. Imagine that," Louis-Dreyfus said. "I would do anything to have heard those conversations."

In October 2018, in the midst of production on the final season, Louis-Dreyfus accepted the Mark Twain Prize at the Kennedy Center.

Her co-star Tony Hale said then about Veep ending, "It's a job. I'll be fine. My identity is not based on this show. That's ridiculous," he said. "My identity is based on Julia."

What will Louis-Dreyfus miss most about Veep?

"My friends," she said, voice quivering. "I love those guys."

"I'm well aware of the fact that that thing doesn't come around all the time. So I miss the endeavor. I miss linking arms with my friends to make the best possible thing we could do. And that's a lovely thing."

Listen to the full interview on KPCC's The Frame podcast.