×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Veep’s’ Timothy Simons Knows You Hate Feeling Bad for Jonah

Veep” actor Timothy Simons has a conundrum: he’s a nice guy who plays one of the most annoying characters on television. Simons plays White House staffer Jonah Ryan on the HBO comedy — a character who is usually the butt of everyone’s jokes, yet also the one who would make an offensive remark about this sentence.

With Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina Meyer in the White House this season, Jonah has been hired by the current vice president (Phil Reeves) to act as a spy for his team. Unfortunately for Jonah, he’s still a pro at putting his foot in his mouth — and the new Veep’s chief of staff Teddy (Patton Oswalt) can’t keep his hands to himself.

Simons talked to Variety about Jonah’s seeming unceasing ability to take abuse.

How is Jonah still ticking?

Well, he is kind of a cockroach in that way. Nothing keeps him down. He is one of those people who was told he was very special at a young age and he believes that. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, he was told that he was going to do great things. That confidence never wavers even in the face of all of his failures and his lack of skill and talent.

I think, also in the back of his head, he knows he’s protected because of his (high-ranking) uncle Jeff. That blind faith in himself is what helps him get through it.

Why do you think he takes all those insults then?

I’ve always justified that in Jonah’s mind … everybody who insults him, they’re just jealous because they see how much power he has, how much influence he has. They’re just trying to tear him down.

Every now and then, you get a few good zingers in, too. Does Jonah consider the other White House staffers his friends?

I don’t think he considers them friends, but I think he mistakes it for mutual respect. If he would talk to someone else about Mike [Matt Walsh] and Dan [Reid Scott], he’d say, “That’s my really good friend.” But I don’t think he actually believes that. He’d only say that to somebody else as a way of aligning himself with their power.

It is kind of sad though, because I don’t think he has any friends. The only people who are nice to him are his mother and [SPOILER: eventually] Sam Richardson, who plays Richard.

This season, he has really disturbing scenes with Patton Oswalt’s Teddy, who touches him inappropriately. 

I feel like it’s one of these situations where you feel like Jonah’s abhorrent behavior makes you question wanting to sympathize with him. He’s such a terrible person, I feel like viewers hate being in a situation where they’re like, “Oh my god, I have to feel bad for him and I don’t f-ing want to.”

I know the writing staff tries to add some authenticity of its portrayal of DC politics. Is that harassment based on any true event?

I don’t think it’s based on any specific thing. However, they did tell me that when that subject came up when they were pitching storylines for this season, it was universally accepted. Every single person was like, yes, write that down, that’s happening.

It’s ended up being a fun thing. I wanted to make sure there was the actual weight and emotion of that sort of workplace harassment. But you never see the correlation between Jonah’s own workplace behavior and this incident. I like to imagine Jonah being like can you believe someone would do this and has no idea that he’s also a serial sexual harasser. He’s just like oh that’s just like having fun. When I talk to women in this awful way, it’s just like having fun.

Do you feel like everyone has had a Jonah in their life, and the writers are finding different ways to torture you to get back at that person?

I feel like the responses that I’ve gotten about the character, no matter what if it’s politics or Hollywood, there’s somebody like that in their workplace. It seems like all of the writers have met somebody like that along the way. I’m sure it’s easy for them to have sense-memory for an a–hole like that.

Have you met someone like that, and you’re just projecting it with Jonah?

It’s like the sucker at the poker table. If you look around and you don’t see the Jonah in your workplace, I think that means you’re him.

Veep airs Sundays on HBO.

More TV

  • Jussie SmollettFOX 'Empire' TV show panel,

    Jussie Smollett Case: Chicago Police Arrest Two Suspects

    Chicago police confirmed on Friday that they have arrested two suspects in the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. The police did not state what charges the men are being held on. Local media have identified the men as two brothers from Nigeria, though law enforcement has not confirmed their identities. Smollett’s representatives have declined [...]

  • Skyline of Doha at night with

    Qatar's beIN Rallies Support From U.S. Companies Against Pirate Broadcaster beoutQ

    Qatari powerhouse beIN Media Group has rallied support from American sports and entertainment entities, including Discovery and Fox, behind its request that the U.S. government place Saudi Arabia on its watch list of top intellectual property offenders. The Doha-based broadcaster, a state-owned spinoff of Al Jazeera news network, accuses the Saudi government of harboring pirate broadcaster [...]

  • NBC Expands Scripted Leadership Team With New Hire, Promotions

    NBC Expands Scripted Leadership Team With New Hire, Promotions

    NBC’s scripted network executive team is getting a little bigger. The company has brought on former Warner Horizon Television exec Lisa Roos as its new senior vice president of drama development. NBC also promoted programming exec Deepak Jesrani to senior VP of drama development and elevated Mike Nunes to senior VP of current programming. “This [...]

  • Johnathan Nieves Jessica Garza

    'Penny Dreadful: City of Angels' Adds Jessica Garza, Johnathan Nieves

    The upcoming Showtime drama “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” has cast both Jessica Garza and Johnathan Nieves in series regular roles, Variety has learned. They join previously announced cast member Daniel Zovatto. Described as a spiritual descendant of the original “Penny Dreadful,” the new series opens in 1938 Los Angeles, a time and place deeply infused with [...]

  • ‘The Desert’ Survival Format Launches as

    ITV, Talpa Present ‘The Desert’ Survival Format as Buyers Converge on U.K. Screenings

    It’s post-Berlin and pre-Cannes and the focus of the international TV business has shifted to London as the major distribution outfits present their new wares to buyers. ITV Studios was up Friday and showed buyers its unscripted lineup. Highlights included “The Desert,” a new desert-based survival format from the Middle East division of “The Voice” [...]

  • Ciarán Hinds as John Franklin, Tobias

    AMC Eyes Moving Channels to Spain Post-Brexit

    AMC is looking at moving its European channel licenses from the U.K. to Spain if Brexit hits hard. Currently, licenses registered with U.K. regulator Ofcom are valid throughout the 28-nation European Union. But if Britain leaves the E.U. next month without a framework for a trade deal – as is increasingly likely, with no agreement in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content