Timothy Simons on How 'Veep' Has Become "Aspirational" in Trump's America

The actor, who plays Jonah Ryan on the HBO comedy, talks real and show politics — and weighs in on his new romantic storyline.
Courtesy of Colleen Hayes/HBO
Timothy Simons as Jonah Ryan on 'Veep'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of Veep, "Qatar."]

Congratulations are in order for Jonah Ryan after Sunday's episode of Veep.

After charting his stunning rise in Washington, D.C. last season, Jonah, played by Timothy Simons, is now a Congressman looking for a wife to make himself more powerful — and palatable — in the show's sixth season. After a disastrous attempt at speed-dating, Shawnee Tanz (Mary Holland) walked into Jonah's life with her own agendas, one of them involving Veep's unlikely New Hampshire representative. In the "least romantic proposal ever" during Sunday's episode, Shawnee told Jonah she had a ring on hold at Tiffany's. "Pick it up at six, it’s already paid for,” she said nonchalantly, to Jonah's sheer delight.

"You can be a young, single Congressman for a while but if you want to be taken seriously, you take those next steps. That's part of the Washington game," Veep showrunner David Mandel told The Hollywood Reporter about exploring more of Jonah's personal life this season and giving him a fiancee. "She comes from this very powerful lobbying and politically tied-in family and she’s much more of a professional than he is. But this is a real relationship and it carries forward."

THR caught up with Simons to talk about Jonah's big news, if a wedding is on the horizon and how he feels about all of the HBO political satire's eerie real-life parallels. His take: "Politicians have always managed to out-Veep Veep, but this administration is just doing it faster."

Jonah's season-six haircut is a helpful way to measure how much time has passed since the premiere — has it now been a couple of months?

Yes. In the first episode, it looked like I was wearing a bald cap because I didn’t have the eyebrows and I thought, “I’m not going to get any credit for shaving my head!” I really shaved my head and then we let it slowly grow back the entire year. 

Sunday's episode jumped Jonah's relationship forward very quickly with Shawnee's blunt proposal. Congrats! How happy is he to be engaged?

I love that it comes as a surprise to him. We talked about how you’d imagine that Jonah, for all his bluster, would be a very doting boyfriend and partner. Because it does play into his general attitude, which is to find the strongest person and attach yourself to them. The fact that the engagement comes as a patent surprise to him and he asks the guys, “Did you know about this?” — he thinks it’s a secret that everyone was keeping. Even though it’s the least romantic proposal ever — she says, “There’s a ring that’s paid for, go pick it up” — he’s still just enamored with her. There is a certain sweetness to even her terribleness and how they are in that moment. He is just genuinely happy, almost giddy.

How does it feel to be exploring Jonah’s personal life more this season?

We’ve talked about how Jonah needs a wife to rise in politics. It’s been interesting because whatever conventions you would think would happen with a normal relationship, we get to not do. We’re getting to do a funhouse version of a romantic storyline with Jonah, because he would never do it right. He would never go for someone who is actually a good person. I like the funhouse-of-a-romantic-comedy that guy gets to go through.

Are you hoping for a wedding down the line?

The more time you can spend within an engagement is better. Once you actually get there, it’s like finding out the election results. The journey is the fun part. You’ll be seeing a lot of the journey.

Mandel has spoken about distancing this season from the White House with Selina, but Jonah is still in politics. Are you enjoying these weird parallels with the show and real life, like this week’s abroad episode airing as Trump was making his first presidential trip abroad?

The honest answer is I’m not particularly enjoying anything about the administration. Whatever jokes any of us could get out of it, I would gladly turn back. But I think it is weird that somehow we’ve been put in the position where the people on Veep are actually aspirational characters. We usually try to highlight the worst that you can imagine, so it is a little bit strange that all of a sudden we are an aspirational show. We’re The West Wing. We are good people doing things for the right reason, comparatively.

How do you react when you see stories about White House press secretary Sean Spicer and then-FBI Director James Comey trying to camouflage themselves in what seems like a moment from a Veep episode?

When Spicer hid behind the bushes and is asking reporters to turn off their lights, that’s one of those moments where, if we tried to do that on our show, Dave [Mandel] would come running in from the other room and say, “You can either have him hiding in the bushes or asking him to turn the lights out, but you can’t do both. What are you, idiots?” We would only do one of them. But there Spicer is, in the bushes asking for the lights to go off. It’s insane. 

Have more people approached you since this season has aired to say they know a Jonah?

I haven't been back to D.C. since we started airing, but no matter what your profession is, there’s going to be a guy like Jonah. There’s always some guy who is the serial sexual harasser whose uncle is the boss. There’s one of those guys at the office.

comments powered by Disqus