For actor and advocate Reid Scott, politics is part of his character on and off the set.
Full disclosure—the first time I met Reid Scott, I mistook him for a Hill staffer. We were at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner event, and I asked him who in the administration he worked for. (A part of me also wondered if I had seen him in The Hill’s Most Beautiful List.) I soon realized why he seemed so familiar—he is the man behind the shape-shifting political creature Dan Egan on HBO’s Veep.
Ironically, The Hill’s Most Beautiful List has been used as a plot device on Veep. It’s that merging of satire with Capitol Hill reality that has led the show to its seventh and final season, which is slated to air in spring 2019. The problem is, no matter what crazy ideas the writers conjure up, real life keeps scooping them.
“We’re in the middle of Season 7,” Scott tells me by phone from Los Angeles, “and we’ve had a number of hiatuses so the writers can get more time. We think, ‘OK, we’re so far ahead of the crazy curve.’ Then a week later that same stuff happens. It’s like, oh my god, they’re stealing all of our best material, these clowns.”
Politics has always been part of Scott’s life, who divulged that both his dad and uncle are involved in New York state politics. “We’re a political family. That certainly is one of the reasons why I was so turned on by Veep in the first place. Because this is something that I actually know a bit about,” Scott says.
What began as a satire of Washington elite and political circles became life imitating art and art imitating life. The show’s writers have met with lobbyists and politicians and enlisted Washington insiders as consultants. The results are episodes that are so dead-on that politicos recognize their reflections in the show’s characters.
Scott is used to family discussions about politics, but in the current political climate, he says, “it doesn’t seem like people really want to have constructive conversations with someone from the other side,” adding, “I’m surprised that people aren’t bored of this by now. This fighting, it’s like watching the world’s longest boxing match.”
He appreciates how Veep steers clear of party affiliations. “Both sides always think that it’s them; they always think that we’re making fun of the other people, which is strange,” says Scott. This creates endless scenarios for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer character.
Outside of Veep, Scott, who grew up in Albany, N.Y., definitely takes a political stand, specifically with issues revolving around water and the ocean. He traces that back to his roots. “I grew up believing [that], as long as we’re taking care of the Earth, we are by proxy taking care of each other. Taking care of each other means allowing people to be themselves and to flourish, and to bloom where their seed is planted,” he says.
His love for the ocean also stems from spending summers on the Eastern Seaboard. Now he’s in the desert. “I feel like I’m walking on the moon [in L.A.],” says Scott. “You see people watering their lawns and washing their cars, and it freaks me out. That’s something my wife and I are very conscious of—we have kids, we try to teach them to be very water-wise.”
This time last year, Scott also took part in the Creative Coalition’s #KeepTellingPeople campaign to end sexual harassment and assault. “Nothing, not even the work that I do professionally, is as satisfying as actually effecting some sort of change that you want to happen,” Scott tells me. A few years ago he lobbied Congress on behalf of Oceana to oppose seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic Ocean. “You could put me on stage in front of 10,000 people, it’s not really going to bother me. You put me in a room with 30 people from Congress, and I was shaking in my boots. There’s something real at stake there. That was such a thrill. I definitely got bit by that bug,” he says.
As Veep wraps its final season, he conveys that the divisiveness of modern politics factored in as one of the reasons the show is ending. “There’s no way to talk about politics without talking about this particular brand of politics that we’re all living right now. There’s no way to make that comedy,” he relays.
Coming off his turn as Dr. Dan in the blockbuster superhero film Venom, Scott next trades in his lab coat to play an affable antagonist in Late Night, a comedy that follows a seasoned late-night TV host (Emma Thompson) coming to grips with a fresh new voice (Mindy Kaling). “I’ve always liked playing the bad guy because I try to make them human,” Scott says. “I feel like I’m a good guy in my real life, so you get to exorcise a lot of demons by going to work and flipping on another character.”
A bad guy on TV and good guy in real life? That’s something a lot of real-life politicians can relate to as well.
PHOTOS BY BENJO ARWAS/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES