“What a treat to meet …” she starts to say to Palmer, when he adds, “Welcome to Camden Yards.”
“So, Jim, you’re a Hall of Famer,” she says, trying to sound like she knows what she’s talking about.
“Well, they let me in there,” he says self-deprecatingly.
“Oh, and that is a wonderful thing to be in the Hall of Fame — for sure, for sure,” she adds trying to stretch the biographical fact whispered into her ear into something that approximates an actual conversation.
“It was fun, because I was a huge ‘Seinfeld’ fan, and Julia was such a huge part of that,” Palmer said in a telephone interview last week. “My wife and I, we watch ‘VEEP’ every week, because Julia’s terrific. I mean, the whole show is really well done. And I’m glad to see that it’s, at least I assume, it’s doing very well.”
Well enough to be renewed for another season, which is the name of the prime-time game.
Palmer said the filming of the scene started at 8 a.m. on a chilly day in November, and there were “many, many takes” before they wrapped.
“I think the end result is kind of like when you pitch and you have a nice game, and everybody forgets how much work you did to prepare yourself for doing that,” he says. “TV’s no different.”
Palmer said he was prepared for a day of many takes after working on “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Story!” in 1988 with producers David and Jerry Zucker.
“The Zucker brothers just kept doing it over and over and over, so I had an idea of how long it takes to do these things well,” Palmer said.
“My wife asked me today, ‘What exactly were your speaking lines?’” he added. “And I said, ‘Well, first, I’m old, and it was a long time ago. And number two, you never know what they cut. But I think I said, “Yeah, somehow they let me in there,” after she mentioned the Hall of Fame, and we kind of improvised that.’”
Having spent time on the Columbia soundstage with “VEEP” while it was filming last year, it is fascinating to get this glimpse inside the making of this little scene, which really is kind of a throwaway moment. In context, it plays off a much bigger moment involving a very private announcement that Meyer makes while standing in the public space of home plate at Camden Yards.
But even in the case of this little scene, with all the multiple takes that Iannucci and his team had to work with, they chose one in which Palmer improvises and he and Louis-Dreyfus speak over each others’ lines a bit.
Why? Because, as I learned on the soundstage and from interviews with Iannucci, for all his obsessive precision, he also highly values a sense of the messiness of real human interaction and conversation. Each scene in “VEEP” starts with a script, but then, improvisation is encouraged take after take until he and his team are satisfied that the dialogue feels real. And that feeling is one of the ways that viewers come to believe in the “reality” of the characters and the world of the sitcom.
The more I watch this series, the more convinced I am that Baltimore is very lucky to have it being made here. And not just because of the jobs it provides or how inviting it makes a place like Camden Yards look this week.