Gary Cole joined the cast of "Veep" in Season 2 as a White House political strategist, who thought himself superior to the vice presidential team of Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

One of Meyer's aides called Cole's character, Kent Davidson, "the Pol Pot of pie charts." (You tell me what other American TV series would reference Pol Pot?)


This year, Selina's in the White House, and Davidson stands shoulder to shoulder with her other team members in their crazed attempts to stay ahead of the curve -- or, at least, within shouting distance of it.

Like most of the series regulars, Cole has a long and solid resume dating back to Steppenwolf Theatre, network mini-series like "Fatal Vision" and starring roles in such series as "Midnight Caller."

We talked last week about "Veep," HBO's Maryland-made political satire that airs Sunday nights at 10:30 on HBO.

Q. I've talked to Armando and Mike Walsh in recent weeks. But both were before the news that Armando is not coming back to the series he created for Season 5. You are the first interview since Armando left. What's your reaction?

A. When somebody who is that special, that loaded with talent and is the creator and visionary of what the show is wants to take off, it's tough. But those are the circumstances.

The good news for us is this is not Season 1. It's Season 4. So, the tone of the show has been firmly established. We don't know this for a fact, but I'm hoping that we may be retaining a few of the writers that we had, and they're all brilliant.

Q. Oh, wow, you mean Armando's crazed College of Brit writers? I've seen those folks on the set and followed their work. Brilliant crew.

A. Exactly. Again, I don't know that to be true or not. It's rumor. If it's true, that would be great. Either way, I'm fairly confident with Julia running the engine, we can pretty much handle any adaptations we need to deal with.

That's not the circumstances anybody wanted in terms of material, but people are human beings and they gotta do what they gotta do. And so, you just deal with the changes.

Q. I remember you from "Fatal Vision," a huge mini-series hit for NBC in the 1980s about Army Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald and the murder of his wife and two children. So, that's 30 years involved in the making of television and movies. Given all the new technology, how has it changed?

A. Well, it doesn't really affect the day to day execution of filming a television show or a pilot. Other than advances in technology and equipment, making a movie is the same as it was when I started, at least. I don't go back to the silent era.

The differences in my time: There were no monitors on the set that people could watch. The director stood by the camera; he wasn't watching the screen. That's a fairly big difference. And the sound department has all kinds of new bells and whistles.

The way entertainment is consumed is different, but it doesn't actually affect the work. That comes later in terms of how it's viewed, how many people are viewing it, how it's marketed -- all of those terms, which doesn't necessarily affect you when you're on the set, how you're doing it.

Q. Do you know when you are going into production on Season 5?


A. Normally, we go back right after Labor Day. We shoot from Labor Day right up until Christmas. That's the usual schedule.

Q. I talked to Matt Walsh last week, and we had a nice chat about improv and its role in the "Veep" process. What's your take on the process?

A. Well, I had a theater environment [background], which I think helps any time you're doing anything ... But I was not trained as an improviser or a sketch comedian or any of those things. My skill at that is pretty limited. So, it's a little intimidating sometimes ... But it's being used more and more ... The influence of "Saturday Night Live" has really heightened use of that in television and film, because it's a good tool.

Not only it a good tool to have "happy accidents" that happen in front of a camera. But, as is the case on "Veep," it's a great way to get material that later turns into scripted dialog. But it comes out of rehearsal sessions where it's just kind of free form. It's a way to generate new material beyond the writers just sitting down and writing.

The writers on  our staff are very collaborative with that process and they use it really well -- and they really encourage it. And that's why onscreen you see on "Veep" a tone that's very spontaneous. It's designed that way. Improvising is writing on your feet, and we have people like Matt [Walsh] who is one of the kings of that as one of the founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade ... Matt really is a writer on his feet, he's always trying to elaborate what's going on in the moment while seeing if there's another possibility.