"It was like a psych-up thing for when she was going in for treatment," Timothy Simons says

By Michele Corriston
April 04, 2019 11:00 AM
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While Julia Louis-Dreyfus battled breast cancer, her Veep family made sure she kept laughing.

A day after her historic 2017 Emmys victory (with six consecutive wins for playing foul-mouthed politician Selina Meyer, Louis-Dreyfus, 58, set the record for most wins for a performance in the same role for the same series), the actress learned she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Anna Chlumsky, who plays long-suffering aide Amy Brookheimer, remembers feeling helpless when she heard the news.

“I think there’s a bit of navigating what’s appropriate,” Chlumsky, 38, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “I live on the other side of the country so it’s not like you could just get coffee, or — people I know that are going through it here, you can actually make them food and like bring it over to their house. There was this sense of, how do I connect without being invasive?”

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She looked to her father, who fought cancer years ago, for advice.

“I was just like, ‘Dad, I don’t know, what do I say?’ And he’s like, ‘Just be there. Just say something. You couldn’t possibly say the wrong thing. You just want people to talk. You just want people to be there.’ ”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Instagram

As for the Veep cast and crew, “Any kind of bulls— that can come around being in office politics or whatever is out the window,” she says. “It’s just be there, because there’s another human being going through a really hard time. The priorities are all like completely set. … It’s just that thing where it’s just like, well of course nothing else matters. Except for your fellow human being and what she’s going through.”

HBO postponed production on Veep‘s seventh and final season for Louis-Dreyfus’ treatment, and her costars filmed silly videos while she was away — like the clip of Tony Hale and Timothy Simons lip-syncing to Katy Perry‘s “Roar” to celebrate her completing her second round of chemotherapy.

RELATED VIDEO: Julia Louis-Dreyfus Learned She Had Breast Cancer Day After Historic Emmys Win

“It was like a psych-up thing for when she was going in for treatment,” says Simons, 40.

“And when we were all together,” Chlumsky adds.

“But there were sometimes when it was just like, ‘Here’s a dumb thing that I saw that you might think is funny,’ ” Simons says, explaining that the cast would text or email Louis-Dreyfus funny musings or jokes they’d come across.

“It keeps you connected,” Chlumsky says. “And it’s just throwing out your own idea of how useful you are and going, ‘You know what, I might be an idiot right now, but I’m gonna send you this possibly inappropriate text.’ ”

  • For more on Veep, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Paul Costello

After chemotherapy and surgery, Louis-Dreyfus was declared cancer-free — and got straight back to set.

“We got into it right away,” she tells PEOPLE of shooting her first scene. “It was pretty packed with a lot of language and stuff like that, and … I would say it was lovely. It was like getting back up on a horse. ‘Oh, yeah. I remember how to ride this thing.’ “

And seven years after Veep premiered, she says the experience has taught her “the power of friends.”

“That has just been deeply meaningful to me,” she says. “It has impacted me in a big way.”

Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on HBO.