Anna Chlumsky plays the most intense and quietly hilarious character on “Veep”: Amy Brookheimer. The steely-faced, seething right hand woman to Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), powers through each day on Washington with a death stare and a mouth full of zingers, providing comedy in her repressed rage.
But a few things have changed in the world of the HBO political satire, which airs its sixth season on Sunday, April 16. At Season 5’s close, Meyer loses her presidential bid. She and most of her staff depart Washington, pursuing new callings a safe distance from Meyer’s web (except for her personal aides Richard Splett [Sam Richardson], and Gary Walsh [Tony Hale], the latter who has become even more fawning post-campaign, helping Selina fill her newfound downtime with late night games of backgammon).
Our girl Amy gets as far away as she can, heading to Nevada with fiance Buddy Calhoun to run his campaign for governor. But neither the location change, nor the advancing romance do much in the way of mellowing out the wound-up workaholic.
“Her Nevada trip and her Buddy trip are very much a, ‘Wherever you go, there you are,’” says the Chicago native. “She’s still very much herself, with all of her baggage and venom, it’s just channeled differently. I don’t know if the desert is the best place for Amy,” she jokes.
The 36-year-old Bushwick resident chats with us about “Veep” vs. real-world politics, how the show reads differently since the 2016 election, and whether Amy and Selina will find their way back to each other.
Do you see Selina and Amy reconnecting?
Personally, I definitely think Amy’s better off without Selina. [Laughs] They’re certainly enablers of each other’s professional addictions, as it were. We find out pretty quickly that they kind of can’t stay away from each other. Even in the first or second episodes, they’ve kept up this kind of adorable phone relationship.
A lot has happened in the real world of politics since we left off with “Veep.” Does the 2016 election work its way into Season 6 at all?
It doesn’t, just in that, it’s a math problem: our show is not live. Not in the sense that “The Daily Show” or “Saturday Night Live” can see what’s happening in the news and then talk about it that night. We started writing it summer last year and shooting in September; there were maybe two months of shooting post election, but the season was already written.
We satirize politics in its most generality. We like to just explore how ridiculous people behave when faced with power dynamics. That plays out in a political realm and in personal politics and that’s why I think it can be timeless and so relevant and why people can relate to it.
So many “Veep” storylines have ended up being predictive or eerily relevant. Viewers have been trying to compare Selina to Hillary forever, and now, with Selina losing the election and navigating life post-Washington, it seems even harder not to.
That’s certainly the viewer’s prerogative. We had a debacle with state department gifts once, and that certainly was inspired by a Hillary moment. Everything is rife for satire. Sometimes there is a gaffe on “Meet the Press” that shapes policies; sometimes there are hostage crises that you have to keep under wraps; sometimes an administration is dishonest with an intelligence committee! [Laughs]
We have an election episode this year, it was eerie, we were actually shooting it during the 2016 election. The disreputable candidate pulls ahead, and we were like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening!’ If you deal enough in the stories of politics they come back to haunt you. [Laughs]
Not to compare Selina to Trump, but Selina’s incompetence, moral insensitivity, political incorrectness — do you think the humor of that will be read differently now that we have a joke in office?
What’s different now is people can’t help but buy into our cynicism. In the beginning of our series, that was one of the critiques people would have of the show: “People aren’t like that in politics.” And we’d always be like, 'Are you kidding?' American culture was still idealizing its politics when we first began. I think the lid’s been way blown off by what’s happened. I certainly think that our tone is way more accepted at this point. Of course, those in the know and with any brains always accepted our tone. [Laughs] Now everybody’s in on it.
What would you hope for Amy’s future? How can she live her best, most Amy-ful life?
[Laughs] It’s a great question, because she’s just so unhappy. I think her dream would be to be the undisputed boss. She just wants power and for people to stop disputing it. She just wants to be winning all the time. She could be the CEO of a super successful, fast growing company. The problem is she’s addicted to politics, to the game, and I think that’s what clouds her judgment when it comes to Selina. It’s like, just go somewhere else, do something else! I do think it’s an unhealthy addiction for her. Honestly, she was the happiest when we met her — she was a year into being the Chief of Staff [to the Veep], and that was kind of her peak. She’s just been falling since then. [Laughs]
You majored in international relations during undergrad. Did you ever see yourself working in politics in real life?
I did, in the beginning. Back when I was in school it was international relations morning until night. I had the study guide for the foreign services exam on my desk, I was ready to go for the state department. And man, every moment I’d get ready to sit down and study, my body would take me away from it. That began the pre-life crisis for me because you’re just like, 'Oh this is what I thought I was going to do, and I really don’t want to do it!' [Laughs] That was when that dream died.
Do you feel akin to Amy at all?
You can’t be with somebody this long and be completely removed from them. There are certainly parallels all around, as far as what she’s going through as a female in [her] 30s, like, “Where do I belong? Am I on the right path?” Personality-wise, she does not suffer fools easily and that’s something I’ve got, too. [Laughs] I believe everybody has a brain, but when they act like they don’t, I’m just like, “Stop it!” That’s something I’ve always had in common with Amy.