On Election Day, as voters were taking to the polls to decide whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would become president, the cast and crew of HBO’s Veep were in Pasadena, filming scenes about an election ... in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. During the episode, which aired Sunday night, former president Selina Meyer was tasked with monitoring the integrity of an election the international community deemed as corrupt, all while being offered increasingly large sums of money for her nascent presidential library in return for using her influence to swing the election result.
Both the timing of the shoot and the episode’s unexpectedly prescient take on the influence of foreign money on presidential figures were unintentional—“a complete fluke,” as Veep’s executive producer, Frank Rich, puts it. But they speak to how Veep, a show that takes pains to exist at a remove from reality, has become in some ways the most accurate portrayal of American politics in culture. “Veep is our greatest political show,” declared Grantland in 2015, long before the idiosyncratic behavior of the Trump administration came to offer so many effortless mashups of the show and real life.
For Rich, the experience of working on Veep over the last few months has been a relief—an alternate reality to the one he analyzes as a writer-at-large for New York magazine. Previously the longtime theater critic and columnist for The New York Times, he is currently working on a new show for HBO titled Succession, about a New York media empire led by Logan Roy (Brian Cox), whose children are battling among each other to take over the family business. Rich talked to me by phone about Veep’s approach to satire, how it stays timely by not trying to be timely at all, and what it’s like to see politics become increasingly Veep-esque. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.