"I haven't really gotten involved in politics. I spend some of my celebrity capital to bring attention to issues that are important to me, like environmental issues. Then hopefully, the spotlight goes to the issue and not to me," says Julia Louis-Dreyfus, an active supporter of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Waterkeeper Alliance, the Environmental Media Association, and Heal the Bay who grew up in a family with "an awareness and a responsibility to the community around us." She's entering the political realm in a fictional capacity, however, playing Vice President Selina Meyer in HBO's profane new comedy "Veep," premiering April 22.

Coincidentally, the series' Earth Day premiere references Meyer's concerns about clean jobs, but concentrates more on the dirty business that is Beltway politics. Louis-Dreyfus is having a blast playing Meyer, who finds out that her new job is not what she expected it to be: she's an accomplished former senator who now finds herself surrounded by incompetence, and unable to get the president on the phone.

"It is a very powerful position, and yet at the same time, I don't think there's a politician out there that you would say that they aspire to be vice president. So it's a strange paradox in that sense," says Louis-Dreyfus, who loves the well meaning but hapless Meyer's "sense of self, which is perhaps not quite in place." Her research included grilling a few ex-vice presidents, whom she won't name, about life behind the scenes. "I was interested in the real nitty gritty, like having private moments become public, with the Secret Service around. 'What was the most humiliating thing you were ever asked to do?' 'What was it like raising children under those circumstances?' How does that work?'" she wanted to know.

Louis-Dreyfus admits that she remains "a little bit cynical" when it comes to real-life politics, but chooses to be hopeful even if it's "tough out there right now. Otherwise I'd collapse into a crying heap, and we wouldn't want that."

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Environmentalist Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays 'Veep'
Julia Louis-Dreyfus returns to TV in new political HBO comedy 'Veep' about Beltway politics.