You may not know Tim Simons, who plays Jonah Ryan, the liason between the president and the vice president on Veep. But with the HBO show‘s season two premiere airing on Sunday, April 14th at 10 p.m., it’s time to start paying attention.
Starring Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the svelte and profane fictional vice president of the United States of America, along with Anna Chlumsky (her chief of staff, Anna Brookheimer), Matt Walsh (the director of communication, Mike McLintock), and Tony Hale (Meyers’ personal aide, Gary Walsh); Veep is a hilarious ensemble comedy that seemed to only get better throughout the ten episodes of the show’s first season. “We kind of have the luxury of rehearsal, which a lot of shows don’t,” Simons explained, “We spend a few weeks before we start shooting workshopping scripts: We do a script read and run through scenes to figure out the funny bits.”
And Jonah is one of the characters responsible for the most laughs. We caught up with the unsurprisingly funny Maine-native, who spent a few years performing in the Chicago theater scene before landing this role, over the phone. Keep reading to see how our conversation went off course:
DuJour: Are you in L.A. at this moment?
Tim Simons: I am. I am driving down Melrose. It’s super L.A. of me. I thought about this when I was calling. I thought, “This is going to be the most intense L.A. shit I’ve done this entire day.” Like, “Oh, just got out of an audition, let me call and do an interview while I’m driving.”
Tell me you have Starbucks in your hand, as well.
I’m about to go get my tips frosted. No, actually, totally not. That’s not something that’s happening.
I didn’t believe you.
OK good, I thought maybe for a second I should be reasonably sincere. Otherwise I would be thought of as a private tip froster.
That was going to be the headline…
Celebrity-You-Don’t-Know Frosts Tips
Not that you are unknown, but this is your first major role. Is there someone in the cast you feel has been like a mentor?
It would be hard to choose. I will say that Matt Walsh is incredible at keeping comedy really simple for an actor. There will be plenty of times when I am struggling with a scene and he can usually say, “Hey, just try this.” It’s always a really simple thing that just makes everything make sense.
Your character on the show is kind of this antagonistic little brother. Do you feel like that’s also your role within the cast?
I think that I might have a little bit of that in me, but I don’t know if I am as universally hated of a guy as Jonah is.
I would hope not.
I definitely think there are times where I can have little “Jonah” moments, but I think his are much less in good fun. I do like the idea that Jonah has that “little brother” quality – like if you hated your little brother and absolutely never wanted to talk to him.
Maybe this is just because I have an annoying little brother that I love, but I feel like there’s something endearing about Jonah.
I think there might be something about his lack of self-awareness that might be endearing to someone who is looking in on it. His behavior is generally pretty reprehensible, but I can definitely see someone being like, “This guy just needs someone to talk to him and say, ‘Look man, you don’t need to act like this for people to like you.’” I don’t think he’ll ever have that realization.
Which one of the characters do you think you are most like?
Hopefully people don’t hate me as much, but I draw so much on the bad parts of myself for Jonah that I have to admit it would be him. I’d like to think I’m a Dan Egan [the vice president’s deputy director of communications played by Reid Scott]. I know Jonah would like to think of himself as a Dan – like really smooth, can handle any situation, good looking and kind of suave. I think that both Jonah and myself would like to think that they are like Dan, but that is definitely not the case in either of our lives.
Do you feel like Jonah really is part of your personality?
I tend to err way on the side of being nice, and sometimes to a fault; when you have Midwestern parents and you live in Chicago, it’s just in there. So, in a way some of it is fun. I can go into any situation on set and be like, “What’s the worst thing you could say to someone in this position?” and you just get to say it. If I’m in a room there’s nothing that stops him. He just says and does whatever he likes in hopes that it impresses someone.
I always think that’s what Larry David [the co-creator of Seinfeld] is doing on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
There is something about the Larry David character in Curbed that seems to never learn from his mistakes. No matter what he is going to think that he’s in the right – and it’s always funny. I think it would be a much less funny show if we saw Larry David learn a lesson every week. I try to draw on that: There are times where Jonah’s saying really horrible things and the human element comes in and you have to say, “Jesus, this is really awful what he’s doing.” But, if you have to learn from his behavior it would stop being funny. There’s nothing more unfunny than someone learning a stern lesson about themselves and then changing their behavior because of it.
A lot comedies can fall into that trap as they go on and the characters start to develop. Is that something you as a cast were thinking of for season two?
That’s definitely a challenge; I mean, I hope that we did. I don’t know if it’s something as an ensemble that we ever spoke about, but I know I ended up thinking about it throughout. Last year everything was brand new, we were starting from scratch, so this year it’s about still making the characters believable.
Did you watch the show while it was airing last season, or are you one of those people who can’t watch themselves?
Actually, I do watch it. I am both of those: I hate watching myself, but I also will watch them. One thing I have noticed is that the more I have seen of an episode the less I hate myself. If you can kind of get beyond the hating-yourself-thing, you can focus on what you need to make better. I do happen to enjoy watching it for that reason, to try to learn from it and do better the next time. But I also – and I don’t want this to sound wrong – I really like watching the show. Julia is funny, they are all fucking funny.
Did you always want to be an actor?
I went to college with the intention of studying physics because I was good at physics in high school – and not even advanced physics, just regular physics. If I do say so myself I was really good at medium-hard high-school physics. But, there was a huge difference between being a good high-school physics student and being a physicist. I learned that very quickly, so I started auditioning for short plays and just kind of caught the bug as you do.
So you never wanted to be president.
Maybe at one point when I was younger. I had hippie parents and we would go to Iraq war protests and I thought of myself as politically minded, but I never thought to myself, “Someday I might want to run for office or be president.”
If you could vote for one actor to be president, who would it be?
How about Patrick Stewart? Just because, imagine how good all the speeches would be. Imagine Patrick Stewart giving the State of the Union. That would be awesome. Or, you know what, fuck it, Louis CK. He’d show up in jeans and a black shirt and be like, “Man, come on, you’re being a dick.” They’d be like, “Yeah, I was being a dick. Good, glad we talked about this.” He would just solve things.
Do you think that being on Veep has made you more or less interested in politics?
I would say that in all the research that I’ve done, being on the show has made me less interested in it. We have seen in a very small way behind the curtain a little bit. You just kind of realize it’s not necessarily just the other side of your political views that is the self-serving asshole. Everyone who does this is generally a self-serving asshole. I think I’m attracted to the pomp and circumstance of politics, but actually seeing how the sausage gets made – it’s really awful.
Louis CK would take care of that.