“In truth, I always felt like an ensemble member,” Matt Walsh tells ET about playing dimwitted communications director Mike McLintock on HBO’s Veep, which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the titular second in command-turned-president, Selina Meyer. A reliable supporting player in a long list of TV shows and films, Walsh is enjoying some well-deserved attention for the HBO comedy and a much-talked-about role in this summer’s Ghostbusters.
Veep’s fifth season, which concluded in June, earned Walsh his first Emmy nomination (for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series) alongside co-stars Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale and Anna Chlumsky, who are all repeat nominees this year.
“One thing I've noticed: As each season has gone on, we all have been allowed to swim outside of Selina's wake,” the 51-year-old actor continues. “On the first season, I felt like we were just skiing behind Selina and running through hallways in D.C. As the seasons have gone on, we're all spun off.”
For McLintock, that means buying a boat, getting married to his onscreen wife, Kathy Najimy, and in season five, exploring life as a family man while trying to adopt. “I do have the luxury [of Mike] having a personal life, where some of the other characters, you never witness anyone in their life outside of D.C.,” Walsh says. “Him getting married was a discovery, like, ‘Oh, he can actually find happiness outside of work where a lot of these guys can't.’”
That personal life all comes to a head in the season’s penultimate episode, “Kissing Your Sister,” which delivers the punchlines to several season-long jokes through the perspective of Catherine Meyer’s (Selina’s put-upon daughter, played by Sarah Sutherland) documentary. In McLintock’s case, it’s seeing his adoption saga unfold as he readies (and un-readies) a basement room while his colleagues -- Meyer included -- secretly determine how to rid him from her staff.
“That has been incrementally added up through the seasons,” Walsh says.
The process of filming “Kissing Your Sister” also proved to be a nice alternative from the usual process. Directed by David Mandel, who took over as showrunner this season after creator Armando Iannucci left the series, he asked the cast questions off-camera during the documentary’s confessionals. “It was fun to have Dave paint you into a corner and ask difficult questions. I always liked that freedom to have a free take or just go off and ramble,” Walsh says of his “keep-it-rolling vibe.”
The addition of Mandel also meant a new team of writers. “There were some nerves,” Walsh says, “but ultimately they were awesome and they kept the tone of the show intact.”
“The transition was really seamless,” Hale says of the staff changes. “I am hugely thankful for that because it doesn't always work out that way.” When it comes to Walsh’s nomination, Hale couldn’t be more excited for his co-star. “I love that man,” he says. “He is incredibly talented.”
With both co-stars nominated alongside Louis-Dreyfus, it’s safe to assume that the three will do a bit on the Emmy stage, if Louis-Dreyfus should accept the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for a fifth consecutive time.
“I’m sure I’ll get a call from Julia two or three days before going, ‘What if we win? We have to come up with a bit,’” Walsh says, adding that there’s usually a brainstorm over text message before they convene the morning of the awards. “We don’t literally rehearse, but we do go through bullet points, like what we do on the show. Like, keep it loose, but this is what we’re going to do.”
But aside from all the gags, Walsh is basking in his own glory, even if just for a moment.
“I’m super proud to be on Veep. It’s a blessing to have a show each fall and a character that you’ve been able to do for five seasons,” Walsh says. “I’ve been one-and-done on so many shows, which were funny, but they don’t come back. Then on top of that, to get recognition from your friends and peers is tremendous. The hoopla around the Emmys is fun too.”