Leave it to Veep to find the bright side of cancer.
Executive producer David Mandel was joined by Julia Louis Dreyfus via satellite at HBO's portion of the TV Critics' Association winter press tour and revealed a surprising "odd sort of benefit" to having to deal with Dreyfus' breast cancer over the past couple of years. (She announced the diagnosis in September 2017.)
"What I will say is, when we shut down for Julia's cancer, the odd sort of benefit, if you will—and the reason I gave her the cancer— was because that allowed me, last January and February..." Mandel began, to loud laughter led by Dreyfus on screen. He went on to joke that he used "simple radiation poisoning" and "poisoned sushi" to do the deed before getting back to the non-joke.
"It allowed me, especially because I just became aware even more so of how the storm and drag of politics was so changing, I think it was a chance to just sit back and try...to go, what are politics about?" Mandel continued. "We did actually make some changes—not where we got to, but some of the journey and some of the little details at the end, which I'm so happy we did, and that's something I've never really done before, which is deviate from the plan."
Mandel and Dreyfus promised that these final seven installments will be "crazy, jam-packed episodes" that will feel like they crammed more than 10 episodes of content into seven.
After multiple questions about real-life politics, Mandel said there's a bit of a misconception he loves that people have about the show.
"The one ever-so-slight trap that the viewers ever-so-slightly fall into is assuming that somebody is Trump and somebody is Hillary, and that's a good thing for us because it means we get to always surprise you," he said. "It doesn't always go the way you think it went when they ran against each other...I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised in a very hopefully funny way."
Dreyfus couldn't say that her character Selina, who's running for President against Jonah (Timothy Simons), will evolve in this final season, "except to say that she's going to be as true to herself as she could possibly be as the season ends," she said. "I'll leave it for you to determine whether or not that's a good thing, but I'm not sure that evolution is necessarily her game."
"And I would also add that where our show ends up ultimately is a place I'm very happy about," she continued. "And I think it'll surprise viewers."
"Yeah, I think it's the right ending for America," Mandel added.
Dreyfus herself was surprised at how emotional she got while saying goodbye to the show.
"I was so overcome with a joy and grief mashup as this show ended, and it really was very surprising to me," she said. "I'm an emotional person anyway but I will say it really caught me by surprise, and I think that's because this show, frankly, has been my baby for now eight years that I've felt fiercely protective of and proud of...we've been through a lot as a group with illness, and losing people, and it's been an enormous huge journey but ultimately one that has been extremely powerful for us, just personally. To be a part of something this gratifying on a creative level...it's not lost on me that that is not something that comes along with frequency, so saying goodbye to it was very hard to do even though it was our decision ultimately, it was a very sad thing."
Veep returns March 31 on HBO.