POWER BEHIND DRESS
Actress, comedian and producer Julia Louis-Dreyfus, of Seinfeld fame, enjoys playing the American President in political parody Veep
It was the closest thing to an Elaine Benes’ “get out” moment, starring the
Seinfeld actor herself. Talking about the fashion choices of female politicians and the scrutiny which follows them with television’s newly-elected “President” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the Veep star is gobsmacked when we offer anecdotes from the time of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. For those who’ve forgot, our leader was attacked over everything from the silhouette of her suits to the size of her earlobes.
The latter leaves Louis-Dreyfus wide-eyed with intrigue and astonishment, responding in that trademark Elaine way, “No waaay”.
It all seems so ridiculous now, but it’s mining the political landscape for absurd, acutely-observed details like this which has provided such comedy gold for the other Julia and the acclaimed Veep writing team, lead by The Thick Of It’s Armando Iannucci, on the hit HBO comedy.
The fact Iannucci and most of the writers on the US series are British goes to the universality of this political parody, or perhaps just how prevalent government dysfunction is the world over.
What began as a hilarious poke around the sidelined office of the US Vice-President – for so long the butt of latenight talk show jokes – will this season move into the Oval Office, after Selina Meyer’s unlikely ascent to the top job.
Or as Louis-Dreyfus sums up her character’s story arc, “Now she’s President, watch her f--- that up!”
Her bungling team of advisers and personal staff are all attempting to make the transition to the West Wing – without any of the nobility or competence of the same world imagined for TV by Aaron Sorkin in The West Wing.
For President Meyer, looking the part was both a good place to start and her first mistake.
“For any woman in politics, she just has to do her hair differently and it sets off a firestorm of articles and comment,” Louis-Dreyfus says.
“And all of a sudden people are talking about her hair rather than the legislation she’s trying to put through.”
For the record, the actor hates her hair short too, but admits it was a case of doing anything for a laugh.
“At the time I didn’t know what it was going to look like,” she says. “I just said, ‘Let’s get a wig and we’ll cut it short and if it looks good, great and if it doesn’t look good, great, we can use it either way.’
“And it didn’t look good, I don’t think, but there was plenty of comedy to be had for the bad look of the wig, which was great.”
A regular on best-dressed lists, Louis-Dreyfus had fun pulling together Selina’s new wardrobe. While the fashion is all latest couture, it says more than just marking what’s making the pages of Vogue.
In one scene where the President hosts a state dinner after successfully holding peace talks with leaders from the Middle East, Selina sashays, OK more like shuffles, centre stage in a sexy, strapless Zac Posen power red evening gown.
“I love wearing those clothes. They’re not always very comfortable but they’re appropriately constraining.
“I wear a wig, my head is bound, my body is bound, my feet are bound in these crazy high heels. It’s all good fuel,” she says.
Also providing fuel is the reaction that Veep is having from the politicians whose offices they mercilessly skewer.
Former Vice-President Al Gore and incumbent Joe Biden have both endorsed Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer.
But will her new role as President get the seal of approval from Barack Obama?
“I have met him (and) I know he likes the show,” Louis-Dreyfus says.
“I don’t know if he’s seen this new direction.
“He lives and breathes (politics), so I’m not sure he needs to watch it too. He probably thinks, ‘Uh uh, I’d rather watch anything other than a show about the Oval Office.’ That would be my guess.”
... LOOKING THE PART WAS BOTH A GOOD PLACE TO START AND HER FIRST MISTAKE
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in political comedy
which she becomes US President.