When HBO’s “Veep” went on hiatus, actor Matt Walsh had a chance to swap his role as communications director to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Vice President Selina Meyer to play a rumpled romantic lead in a rom-com filmed in France.
So off he went.
The seventh and final season of “Veep” arrives this spring, having wrapped up shooting in December just before the film “Under The Eiffel Tower” arrived in theaters and digital services this month.
“The ride has been tremendous,” Walsh said of the time he’s spent on the HBO show that twice earned him Emmy nominations for best supporting actor in a comedy series. “I always say I’ve done good quality shows before, but nothing with the same penetration and appreciation that ‘Veep’ has.
“You never know if an audience is going to connect with something,” he says. “You just try and make it good and funny, so the reception and the sort of relevance and passion people have for the show is just remarkable.”
“Under The Eiffel Tower” finds Walsh in the role of Stuart, a just-fired bourbon salesman who gets invited by a friend on a family trip to France. He befriends dopey Scottish footballer Liam, played by Reid Scott, who “Veep” viewers know as Dan Egan, the cutthroat deputy press secretary to Selina Meyer.
They meet Louise, a lovely French vineyard owner, on a train, and follow her like lost puppies to her chateau where they compete to woo her despite the presence of Gerard, a man of initially unknown significance in Louise’s life, played by Gary Cole, another veteran of “Veep” who played Kent Davison, the president’s top strategist.
Director Archie Borders, who co-wrote the film with David Henry, sent Walsh the screenplay a few years ago, and Walsh says after reading the script and liking it he basically took the gig based on the answer to a single question.
“I said, ‘Can I bring my family?’” Walsh says. “He said, ‘Of course,’ and I said, ‘All right, I’ll do it.’”
Then nothing happened and he thought it had died as so many projects do, until one night out with friends he met the French actress Judith Godrèche, who told him she was looking forward to working with him soon, a statement that puzzled Walsh until Godrèche explained that “Under The Eiffel Tower” was greenlit.
Nothing against Walsh, but Godrèche’s character could do much better, at least based on the superficial aspects of attraction, but then she’s unhappy with where her life has led her – stuck in a beautiful chateau at a gorgeous vineyard apparently isn’t everyone’s glass of Burgundy – and Walsh’s Stuart comes along to eventually rescue her.
“I think our story is a retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ where Judith is the Beast and she’s stuck in this small French town, in this beautiful chateau, windows drawn, nothing to do,” he says by way of an analogy that seems at least partly tongue-in-cheek. “And then I trip into her life. I’m the Beauty and she now has a reason to live. She opens the windows and starts having a passion for life.
“So that’s kind of like our take on the romantic comedy,” Walsh says. “I think I’m sort of the everyman. I’m like a more approachable leading man, perhaps.”
The entire shoot sounds like a lovely time as Walsh describes it. The owner of a 300-year-old vineyard let the indie project use his location for three weeks for free. In addition to his “Veep” buddies Scott and Cole, the cast included other friends such as David Wain and Michaela Watkins, who play the married couple who invite his character to France. Walsh’s real-life wife, actress Morgan Walsh, even plays the boss at the bourbon company who fires him.
But leaving behind “Veep,” where Walsh is one of just six actors to appear in every episode, involves a work family of a whole different magnitude.
“Everyone is aces; there’s no jerks,” he says. “Julia’s amazing, everyone’s amazing. So it is like moving on from a family as such.”
At the end of the final shoots in December, there were lots of tears and farewell dinners and gifts exchanged, Walsh says. He wrote a card to everyone to share his feelings about the time they’d spent together.
“I personally made a point of connecting to it, as a passing,” he says. “Sometimes you go through things that are slightly – traumatic, let’s say. You don’t necessarily connect them until two months later, and then all of a sudden you’re sad. Like, ‘Oh my god, I’m really missing this.’
“I made a point of connecting to the journey.”
He still sees many castmates socially, so the void isn’t complete. And “Veep” got to go out on its own terms, too: Still popular with viewers, the team still happy to see each other at work each day.
“Very few shows get to do that,” Walsh says. “This is just part of the business.
“They all end.”
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