Don't expect Veep to tackle President Donald Trump in its hotly anticipated sixth season — the show will remain firmly rooted in its "alternate political universe," according to star Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
During the show's panel at South by Southwest — moderated by Meet the Press' Chuck Todd — showrunner Dave Mandel admitted that "all of the season was basically written and put together — it was filmed in October — but a lot of the writing came last June, way before he won, Hillary lost ... this is basically what we were going to do."
While Mandel said there's the "occasional joke" that might nod towards the current POTUS, he pointed out, "We're not Saturday Night Live. If we try to make a joke about what Trump did yesterday, it will seem stale by the time the show airs," since Season 6 doesn't premiere until April 16.
Louis-Dreyfus noted that it wouldn't really make sense to make jokes about Trump or Clinton, since that wouldn't jibe with the reality of the show. "I think that we set up this premise for our show — this alternate political universe — we don’t have any real-life celebrities on the show, we don’t have real journalists. And in terms of actual political history, we don’t reference anyone after Reagan."
She added, "We don’t identify party on our show, which has been very useful for a lot of reasons, it’s certainly useful now. When we’ve gone to Washington and talk to people from both sides of the aisle... whoever we’re talking to thinks we’re making fun of the other party."
That doesn't stop viewers from seeing parallels between the show and real life, though. Matt Walsh, who plays press secretary Mike McLintock, said of current Press Sec. Sean Spicer, "Day one, my Twitter feed was filled with 'oh my god, this guy’s worse than McLintock,' and it hasn’t stopped."
Mandel and the cast were tight-lipped on plot specifics for Season 6, but the showrunner gave one hint — that we should look at the activities of former presidents for clues about President Selina Meyer's trajectory.
"Please keep your eyes on Obama," he teased. "What's very exciting for us — and this is not giving away stuff — as you're seeing him sign his book deal for a lot of money, don't be surprised if Selina signs a book deal ... for not as much money. I know the press is Trump Trump Trump... but there's an incredible world out there, Jimmy Carter is doing actual humanitarian work."
Louis-Dreyfus observed that the show has made a habit of reinventing itself every season, and this year is no different: "We have found a way to blow up the premise yet again. We did it after Season 3 when she became president, we did it when she lost, and we've done it again, which has been an incredibly exciting opportunity creatively."
When Todd asked how long the show could go, Louis-Dreyfus quipped, "Easily another 15, 20 years."
"All we want it to be is great," Mandel pointed out. I'm the new guy. If HBO would let us, we'd shoot one scene a day, we'd shoot for 15 hours and do a million takes a day to get every ounce out of it and get it right. This is just about the greatest thing to do in the world."
Here's what else Mandel and the cast would reveal about Season 6:
Gary Cole (a.k.a. senior strategist Kent Davidson) noted that given where Season 5 ended, he was "really dumbfounded as to where they would go with that, and I have to say, what happens to an administration is they scatter... the way that was orchestrated was terrific."
Tony Hale — who plays Meyer's personal aide, Gary Walsh — notes that now the gang's term in the White House is over, "I get her a lot to myself. I get a lot more one-on-one time with Selina."
Dan Egan (Reid Scott) got a job offer from CBS at the end of Season 5, and according to Scott, it seems he might be continuing down that path Season 6: "It was tough, because Dan's off in his own world," he hinted.
"Daylight Savings Time is something that comes up in our season," Mandel admitted wryly, expressing disbelief that the issue of abolishing the practice suddenly came up reality while they were shooting. "This is such an exciting plot point for the season: Daylight Savings and the privatization of prisons — see you there!"
Veep Season 6 premieres April 16 on HBO.