The way Anna Chlumsky sees it, her character on HBO’s Veep — Amy Brookheimer, chief of staff to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ titular vice president — isn’t the kind of “in your face” role that garners Emmy attention. So when nominations were announced Thursday morning, Chlumsky was not expecting to hear her name get called out among the six contenders for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
“No way!” says Chlumsky with a laugh. “I was definitely, definitely hoping for the other nominations that were so fruitfully given out to our show, to Julia. And I was really hoping for Tony Hale too. Everybody on our show deserves recognition, but he hit it out of the park this season. So his nomination thrilled me.”
Chlumsky admits she was lost in “baby oblivion” — she and husband Shaun So welcomed daughter Penelope just last week — and in the midst of an early-morning feeding when her husband brought their laptop into the nursery with the intent of streaming the Emmy nominations ceremony. “I was like, ‘Come on, Veep!’ but something went wrong with the streaming and we just had a blank screen.” That anticlimax turned to joy when Chlumsky’s manager called with news of her nod.
Season 2 fed Chlumsky’s actorly belief that “it’s a really blurred line between drama and comedy” — particularly a moment during which Amy, in the midst of a crisis with the Vice President, gets an emergency call about her father’s health. “Amy doesn’t really think about her personal life that often. So the phone call about her father possibly having a stroke, it evoked that shocked feeling — ‘whoa, this is my personal life and it just hit me like a Mack truck, and I don’t know what to do with it!’ — and it’s a very layered scene to play,” says the actress. “Those are the scenes I enjoy so much, and it’s why Amy is so fun to play as well. She’s constantly layered with things she doesn’t like to show. She does not like to show her heart on her sleeve at all. Yet that doesn’t mean as an actor you can ignore what she’s feeling. You have to go step by step and add on all these different places she’s coming from.”
Chlumsky also got a kick out of the Amy-centric episode “First Response,” where her character explodes with anger and frustration at a TV producer while Vice President Meyer is in the midst of a disastrous interview. “That was a joy,” she explains. “We don’t get to do this all the time with Amy, so it was pretty satisfying as an actor to press the release valve and just let it out.”
It helps, of course, to have a script that tickles her funny bone. “When [Matt Walsh's] Mike comes over and tries to console Amy — and starts singing ‘Dixie’ — I have to tell you, for a week after that episode aired I would wake up with that moment and laugh my butt off,” says Chlumsky. “And even when I was watching the episode, I could feel myself saying [to Amy]: ‘Don’t say that! It makes you look vulnerable!'”
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But what about the copious amounts of profanity that fall off the tongues of almost every character on Veep? “It’s a testament to [executive producer] Arm[ando Ianucci] and our writers that they’re really deft about using foul language well. I always say there’s a difference between saying foul language and using it — and I certainly think we’re in the latter camp,” says Chlumsky, chuckling. “And since they’re talented at it, why not use that talent? It’s only correct to live up to that potential!”
The actress even has a favorite filthy quote — one of Louis-Dreyfus’ zingers from Season 1: That’s like trying to use a croissant as a f****** dildo … It doesn’t do the job, and it makes a f****** mess.
“I’m also partial to the term ‘schaden-boner,'” giggles Chlumsky. “And from Season 2, this isn’t even an insult, but it’s one of my favorite lines. Zach [Woods], who plays Ed, asks Jonah, ‘Are you on meds?’ And Jonah says, ‘Oh, if you mean antibiotics, yeah, sure, just to keep fresh.’ I don’t know why that makes me laugh so much but it really does.”
There is a side-effect to all the dirty dialogue, though. Chlumsky fnds that a lot of that profanity creeps into her home life when she gets home from the set. “It’s very similar to when you’re doing Shakespeare 24-7: You will find yourself speaking in iambic pentameter in your normal life,” she says. “And it’s no different here. My potty mouth definitely comes out when we’re shooting.”
Excited about Chlumsky’s Emmy nomination? Any favorite Amy moments from Veep’s second season? Sound off in the comments!