Anna Chlumsky is an American film, stage and television actress who rose to prominence for her role as Vada Sultenfuss in My Girl, as well as in its 1994 sequel. Chlumsky abandoned her acting career in 1999 to study at the University of Chicago, and pursued other work before returning to acting in her late twenties, starring in independent films such as Blood Car and In the Loop. As of 2012, Chlumsky has a starring role in the HBO series Veep, for which she was nominated in 2013 and 2014 for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
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I'm an actor who lives in New York. I play Amy Brookheimer on VEEP, the campaign manager for Selina Meyer. I'm also onstage right now in "Living on Love" (http://www.livingonlovebroadway.com).
And I'm here at reddit NYC to answer some of your questions. So AMA.
Okie Doke, folks. That was really fun! Thanks for tolerating any goofy emoticon usage. If you're in NY, come see us at the Longacre. If you're not, wish you were! Enjoy "Veep in overdrive" on Sundays!
Hi Anna! Years ago I went into a video store on their last day before closing down for good. All movies were a dollar, so I grabbed anything that looked interesting. One of those being Blood Car. I still to this day bring that movie up to friends as one of the craziest movies I've ever seen. What was your experience like working on that? Also, I love you on Veep.
Ha! "Blood Car" was a cuckoo fun movie I filmed with friends I met on another indie film, more than a decade ago. Alex Orr directed and cowrote it, and Hugh Brazelton was camera op. They were my buddies, and asked if I wanted to come to Atlanta to film this satirical horror. The script made me die laughing, so I did it, and we had a blast. I also discovered a weakness for Chick-Fil-A nuggets on that shoot.
Hey Anna! LOVE you in Veep -- your brow-knitting is second to none. I wondered if you'd drawn on any real-life DC personalities, and what (if anything) you'd then incorporated into the role?
Laura Schiller was indispensable to us in preparing for the first season. She's Barbara Boxer's Chief of Staff, and she lent me her time and energy to help me understand the job. I got the "blackberry-arm-attachment" thing from her. Her phone was like an extension of her arm, and I noticed she never put it away. She explained it's both a handcuff to the job and a ticket to be away from the job as well. Double-edged smartphone. So, I decided, Amy would never be without her phone as long as she was Chief of Staff.
How is your chemistry with Julia Louis-Dreyfus on set?
I love her, and I think she likes me okay?
Did you have to work on your bitch face for the role of Amy Brookheimer or does it come naturally?
What's your favorite moment of Veep so far? Mine's when the news producer yelled at you to let someone fuck some sunshine into you!
I almost spit-took at that question. You'll have to ask my husband...HA!
Favorite Veep moment? I love "croissant for a dildo", I love when Selina leaves in the middle of Mike's pitching jokes, I love the nickname-athon from season 1, I love when Mike and Amy can't figure out who's on the phone during the abortion episode, I love Jonah" "fk load of bread" moment, his "this band's not for sale, I need some nuts" moment, his, "joke's on you coz I love fkin' burritos" moment. The debate. And, lastly, I truly believe Julia and Gary's scene when she tells him she's president is one of the most perfectly executed, honestly portrayed, and dramaturgically sound pieces of television to date.
I once walked past you on the U Chicago campus. Would've been 97 or 98. Do you remember me?
No. But it would have been '98.
What was it like working on Hannibal? The gag reels make it look really fun, and who breaks character the most on set?
Hannibal was fast and furious for me, because I worked during rare days off of "Veep". So we squeezed a lot of my stuff into a seemingly impossible schedule. I love filming with Lawrence. He is a blast and knows how to keep his humor among all that darkness that is "Hannibal". Also, as far as breaking? I don't know that I witnessed any, but Raul, (a dear friend), and I certainly clowned around plenty right before I shot him in the face. ;)
Wow. I have been going crazy for this AMA and had a hard time finding it. Time zones are complicated. I just wanna say I love you on Veep and couldn't recognise you at first but you basically killed it at Hannibal. I wonder, are you on season 3 of Hannibal? I would love Miriam's story unfold and would certainly love to see you on the show.
I've been recently binge watching Veep (for the third time) and love the love-hate relationship between you and Dan. Emphasis on hate. I hope things work out for Amy. I also wonder, what was your favourite episode and/or scene from Veep? And are you looking for any future projects?
Thank you soooo much for doing this. You are one of my favourite actresses and currently I am super obsessed with Veep. That's a good thing, right?
Totally a good thing. Thank you. I'm glad you're enjoying. :)
What is your favorite thing about Tim Simons? Fair warning, he might pop in at some point as /u/TimSimons.
My favorite thing about Tim Simons is that he gave me lots of free s**t for my baby when she was born. :)
Also, he's a fantastic, F'ing actor.
The meat sells itself, Lorraine!
Who is most like their character on VEEP?
I'd say Kevin, who plays 'Ben'. I think he'll know that's a compliment.
Thanks for doing this, Anna. It's really cool to have this opportunity, especially considering I've grown up watching you also grow up on the big screen, completely in awe of what someone our age could accomplish.
My wife and I got to see that episode of Law & Order: SVU you did and it was, to put it mildly, harrowing. What inspiration did you draw upon to give such a convincingly emotional performance?
I read about your work on Broadway, how do you like being on stage compared to working in front of the camera? Any other plans we should be on the look out for?
And, finally, what'd you have for lunch? Haven't had mine yet and need some ideas. Again, thanks for being here and hope you enjoy your time with reddit.
Your words are very kind. Thanks so much for enjoying my work. With SVU it was important to me that she was a self-possessed young woman who actually had some ownership of the media-hyped life she was leading. They worked in that twist where she actually didn't write the book, so I needed to really push her intelligence and wherewithal - otherwise we were in danger of flattening her out.
Re: Broadway. I love working on stage, and I'm really proud of the plays I've done this season and in the past. It's a different animal, of course, than tv because you do one store 8 times a week. So, it's more of a marathon than a sprint. Something to keep my skills nice and honed.
re: lunch. Hale and Hearty Yucatan Chx Soup. Dee-lish.
Hi Anna! We were actually at the Sake Bar Hagi at the same time a few months ago after a Broadway show!
What did you order?
Ha! We ended up leaving and going to Yakitori Totto, because it was after a performance of "You Can't Take it With You", and I just didn't feel like needing to talk loudly.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Cross-stitch or needlepoint, practice languages, and hang with my family. (Not in order of importance).
Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA. What made you decide to go back to acting after finishing college? And, how did you end up working in Zagat?
Back to acting: Mercedes Ruehl in "The Goat; or Who Is Sylvia?"
Zagat: I liked to write, I liked to eat, so I thought, what better entry-level position than working at Zagat? Little did I know I would neither write nor eat for that job. Life lessons.
Love Veep and 'In The Loop'. Were you familiar with Armando Ianucci's work before you got the part in In The Loop, particularly 'The Thick Of It', on which both were based?
I was not familiar, but quickly became a fan of "The Thick of It", upon which "In the Loop" was based. Please note: "Veep" is not based on "The Thick of It", (contrary to what many a media-outlet has claimed). Separate show, similar themes.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Mint Chocolate chip from Baskin Robbins (coz they're flakes, not chips. That's important to me).
GoT or Walking Dead?
Game of THRONES!!!
Hi Anna, thank you so much for doing this.
I am a huge fan of Veep, which I think is currently the best comedy on TV, and you are doing a fantastic job portraying Amy. I have a few questions to ask you:
You don't have to answer all of these.
Thanks again for doing this.
— A French fan.
Merci, de rien, and you betcha!
Armando Iannucci is a treasure. I am so grateful to be a member of his merry band of troubadours. He and I met at the audition for "In the Loop" - a film which was one of the greatest joys to work on. Then, blessedly, he kept me in mind for future projects, so when Veep came along, he thought of me for the Amy role. So, as crazy and fantastical as it always is to say, (actor dream), I did not have to audition for "Veep". I'll miss him and our Brits on our show, but I respect his wanting to create more new and awesome things. HBO, (to which you alluded), is a top-notch network to work for, so I have confidence they've chosen a terrific new leader for us who'll bring us great ideas. And I'll continue to adore Armando Ianucci as long as we live and breathe.
Would you do anything in your life differently if you knew then what you know now?
I would've bought a little studio when I first moved to NY, coz I had the savings, but didn't know what a down payment was. Fast forward to Cobble Hill being, well, COBBLE HILL...I could've made a lot of dough.
What's your favorite kind of sandwich? Any advice on how to make it?
Grilled provolone on whole wheat.
What were some of your favorite places to visit and eat at in Chicago ?
Visit: Field Museum, (I interned there and it was HEAVEN); Art Institute; Jackson Park; Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. Eat: Johnny's Italian Beef on North Ave., Café Iberico, Phoenix Restaurant in Chinatown.
Hi Anna, great to see you here. Hannibal and Veep are two of my favorite shows. Just wondering if you have any juicy stories about your "Living on Love" castmembers, like Jerry O'Connell or Trixie the Pomeranian? She seems like she would have some skeletons in her closet.
Trixie's skeleton is named Rocco. He's her understudy, and boy he likes to bark. But he's so cute. Ha! A story, (dunno if it's juicy, but...) Renée's cell phone went off during rehearsal once, and I was going to turn it off for her, but when I picked up the phone, I froze, because Itzhak Perlman was on the caller id. For a split second, I thought, "I could answer this and speak to Itzhak Perlman!" I didn't, though.
Hope you're doing well. My question is about the hiatus you took from acting. What went into the decision to return after your hiatus? Was acting something you knew you wanted to continue with, but just couldn't find the time?
Also, what sorts of acting projects would you like to take on in the future? Any actors you'd love to work with?
Thanks, and have a good rest of your week!
My friend just got coffee so I could respond to this.
Return after hiatus: I was working in a really fun 9-5, and found myself crying on my lunch breaks because I was feeling unfulfilled. Many friends, acquaintances, and even a random psychic suggested I try acting again, but I was terrified. So it wasn't a question of time, it was a question of courage. I didn't think I could handle the rejection again after enduring it throughout adolescence.
Then, I thought, if I want to tell my grandkids one day that they can do anything they want, and that they shouldn't be afraid to pursue their dreams, I'd better back it up with some real-life chops. So, I went for it. And the beauty is, as an adult, I wanted to act for the art of it. The craft of it. So as long as I was acting - be it in a free play, a paid gig, an audition, or just doing a monologue in the shower - there was nothing to be afraid of. (Other than the threat of not making rent nor having insurance for a while - which was SCARY, but that's when your commitment and mettle are tested, nay?) And here I am, loving every second.
I'm gratefully at a point in my career when I can actually be a little pickier with the projects I choose, and therefore I am, (this is, I think, due to a combo of having a daughter I like to hang out with and having people know and trust my work more - Noice!). So, when I look at roles, I want to make sure they are important to the story, and that the story is well told. I am in this job to communicate great text, so it's great text I look for.
You have a good week, too!
Anna: love the show and love your comedic chops!
Are the smartphones/Blackberry's you all use during filming activated? Do you get to goof around with texts and apps?
They are activated, but they rarely end up working the way we'd need them to in a scene, so we just old-fashioned pantomime. I always joke that I should teach a master class on smartphone acting. :)
How does it feel like working with a comedy legend like Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Did I say it right?
You tell me if you said it right. ;)
She's a master class in precision, thoughtfulness, timing, care, and leadership. I'm so blessed.
should i wear shorts or pants to the movies tonight?
Check the weather.
Hi! Veep is my favorite show. Who is the funniest on set? My guess is the guy who plays Jonah. Any good stories about behind the scenes hi-jinks?
(When Frank Rich did his IAmA I was very excited to get a response. I offered to marry his son and he said no. It'd be great TWO Veep-ers to answer my questions!)
Thanks for doing this :)
Sam Richardson is the funniest guy on set. My face hurts around him. p.s. I would have no problem with your marrying either Rich son, were either of them available. Alas, I understand they are spoken for, so you'll have to settle for reading their stuff.
Where do you see your career in 10 years?
AMAZING! (Here's hopin!)