HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Sure, most "Veep" fans were likely a little distraught when you learned that its seventh season was going to be its last. And then there's Anna Chlumsky's reaction.
"When we found out that it was going to be the last season, I was in my car, actually," Chlumsky tells CNN. "I pulled over the car and just had a catharsis cry, full of just profound gratitude -- and also just this unspeakable notion that none of the life I know now would be the way it is without having done 'Veep'...It changed my life completely. Everything."
The actress, who this summer received her sixth consecutive Emmy nomination for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, is still marveling at the road she's traveled since the acclaimed HBO comedy came into her life.
Chlumsky memorably started out in the public eye as a successful child actress ("My Girl") who put her career on pause to pursue her education. Five years after she'd re-embraced acting, "Veep" creator Armando Iannuci -- with whom she'd worked for on the similarly political satire film "In the Loop" -- cast her as the artfully profane Amy Brookheimer, Vice President Selena Meyer's ambitious, fiercely committed chief of staff, public apologist and primary grenade-taker.
She admits that while she felt she'd sharply honed her skills since returning to acting, "Veep" challenged her in ways she'd never anticipated.
"It definitely stretched my A-game," she says. "That's the beauty of life and practice and being thrown challenges: even if you are doing your best in every moment, your best gets better with time, if you're paying attention and if you're trying. It certainly made me better at what I do."
She admits that the bittersweet emotions she felt about bringing the series to a close were made sweeter with the season-long storyline she was given to play: in the thick of ping-ponging in and out of her role as Selena's presidential campaign manager, Amy wrestles with the decision of aborting the child she inadvertently conceived with her toxic lover Dan Egan (Reid Scott).
"It was just a joy to go to work every day because [executive producer and showrunner] Dave Mandel, [writer/producer] Rachel Axler and a lot of our writers really invited me into building Amy this season, really closing out her entire series arcs exactly the way I would have hoped and would have wanted," says Chlumsky. "Professionally it felt so gratifying to show up to work, really care about the story we were telling for her."
"The subject matter with which we were dealing for her, both with her experience with her abortion, and then the sort of Shakti-Machiavellian feminism journey that she takes afterwards, just felt really organic to Amy, like we were serving her," she explains. "That, on a creative level...we were asking worthy questions in this greater fabric that we already had for Amy."
"Of course, because it was our last season, we all knew that we were just going to be balls-to-the-wall and go for it," she says. "It's kind of like the 'no regrets' moment -- like closing night of a play where you just got no regrets. Anything you felt like trying, do it. We all were really there for each other and enjoyed every moment."
That the series -- and its exploration of dysfunctional political absurdity -- would span the wildly diametrically opposed Obama and Trump administrations and have its swansong at a moment where people are staring across one of the widest political divides in modern memory, was a genuine surprise, Chlumsky says.
"Nobody would have wanted to have the assignment of having to explore such a stark difference between political realms -- none of us would have asked for that," she laughs. But the current political zeitgeist -- and its shocking array of Meyers-esque scenarios unfolding in real time in recent years -- was ultimately more of a blessing than a curse. " "We would have liked to have been a lot calmer and be satirizing the subtleties a little more than the extremities, but lo and behold we have the torch at the moment that the extremities became so real, sadly -- and strikingly real."
The show and its characters dealt in naked opportunism and shoot-yourself-in-the-foot gaffes on a bipartisan scale, she points out. "There's no agenda. Let's just explore, let's just explore how absurd this s*** is and how insane human beings can act when put in the same room as one another," Chlumsky says. "In retrospect, now that the show is finished, it's certainly an honor to have been a part of the piece of literature, really, tasked with examining...such a crazy moment in history."
She's still figuring out how her "Veep" experience has set the table for the next phase of her career. I'll probably be able to answer that question better ten years from now," Chlumsky says. "Right now you're kind of in this liminal phase of like, 'What's next?!' I do feel like I'd be remiss to just kind of go back to where I was before it all started, before 'Veep' happened. I would not be paying attention to my life, to the universe, whatever you want to call it, if I was to pretend that I was living paycheck to paycheck again, taking any job out of fear. I really want to give respect to the moment and respect to the growth of my career by being judicious with what I do next."
Until then, she's trying to be present as "Veep" heads for a final roundup at the Emmy Awards, where her category is among the eight trophies the show is nominated for.
"My husband keeps reminding me: 'It's not the last' -- I keep on saying 'This is the last time,' and he's like, 'No," she confesses.' "And this is true: this is the last time for this role, for this project. We don't know the future. We can never say something is the last of anything else, right? I might be invited to the party again someday."
"For now, from what I know now, this is the last time that I'm invited to party with this cast, with these people, for this role, for this project," says Chlumsly. "I don't know how the night will go, but it just feels like we're going to be celebrating so much. Because it's a blast, man, to just be together, and to be proud together."
HBO, the network of "Veep," and CNN share parent company WarnerMedia.