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'Veep's' Anna Chlumsky on politics and her 'My Girl' fame

By Nicki Gostin, Special to CNN
updated 3:36 PM EDT, Fri April 27, 2012
Anna Chlumsky, shown here attending the
Anna Chlumsky, shown here attending the "Veep" screening in April.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anna Chlumsky plays Amy Brookheimer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus' chief of staff
  • A couple of decades ago she starred in "My Girl" opposite an equally adorable Macaulay Culkin
  • Chlumsky spoke to CNN about the new show, politics and what it was like being a child star

(CNN) -- In the new HBO comedy "Veep," Anna Chlumsky plays the young chief of staff to the Vice President of the United States played by ex-"Seinfeld" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

If the actress looks familiar, it may be because a few decades ago she starred in "My Girl" opposite an equally adorable Macaulay Culkin.

The 31-year-old Chicago native took a break from acting, went to college and even worked as an editorial assistant for a year until she found her way back to her thespian roots. She recently spoke to CNN about the new show, politics and what it was like being a child star.

CNN: Are you interested in politics?

Anna Chlumsky: I'm interested in current affairs and social policy as a whole, but I don't watch politics for sport. I think people can get really wrapped up into it. When I was in college I was much more into it. I was an international studies major.

CNN: What does that mean? That you wanted to become a diplomat?

Chlumsky: It's a liberal arts education. You study things you like to learn, not to necessarily be anything in particular.

CNN: Did "Veep" make your more cynical about politics?

Chlumsky: I find it to be kind of liberating in a way because really the spotlight that is put on people in politics is that they're people. Some people are really good at their jobs, some people are really bad. People have good and bad days. Everyone uses the restroom.

Personally I find that to be liberating because when we mythologize our politicians, we put too many expectations on them, both positive and negative, and we kind of make them supernatural in a way. I think a better way is to think of politics as a pragmatic discipline. The idea that people are trying to work things out and make deals like anybody else kind of takes the scariness out of it.

CNN: You became a big star when you were a kid.

Chlumsky: (Laughs) I wouldn't say star.

CNN: Come on! That movie was huge!

Chlumsky: Yeah the movie was big.

CNN: Was it weird having adults groveling and treating you differently?

Chlumsky: It definitely makes you start to see the world in a different way in the sense you start to weigh who your friends were before and who your friends were after. As far as adults groveling, my mom was really wonderful about that on set. Anytime somebody would ask what I wanted and I didn't ask her first I would get into trouble, and that was absolutely right. She was very sensitive to people treating me differently than anyone else on the crew, and I'm so grateful she made a point of that.

CNN: Still, you're on movie sets.

Chlumsky: I think what affected me the most was being taken out of school for a few months every once in a while. When I say I wasn't a star, the reason why is most of my time was spent in school in Chicago. The movies felt more like a hobby.

CNN: You dropped out for a while.

Chlumsky: It was not my decision at first.

It was me going through puberty and not being cute on screen. I auditioned a lot during my adolescence for things and it just didn't take, so that took its toll because being an adolescent it can be less than fun to be told that someone doesn't like you anymore. So that was pretty much what drove me to the conscious decision to give it a rest.

Also in college you learn you have all these other interests, and you really want to commit to them for the time being so that's what I did. I thought I was not going to be an actress. I moved to New York right after college and you see enough Broadway shows, and I was inspired again to really give it a go for all the right reasons.

CNN: You must have been nervous diving back in that you might not get work.

Chlumsky: Yeah but that's what was so great about coming to the decision as an adult because I kind of know that's a hazard of the job. I had to prepare myself and know that I'm strong enough to persevere through that, and I am rational enough to realize that only one person can get any role, and it doesn't mean it's personal. It doesn't mean you're bad. I came at it from a much healthier point of view.

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