Entertainment

'It takes a lot of energy to be that dumb:' Timothy Simons, Veep's Jonah, reflects on show's final season

Timothy Simons, who plays the very tall and very idiotic Jonah Ryan on Veep, explains the art of taking insults and how the rise of Trump challenged the Emmy-winning comedy's brand of political satire.

The election of Donald Trump changed the hit political satire, says Simons

Veep actor Timothy Simons says there will be no spin-off show starring his hapless character Jonah Ryan. 'It takes a lot of energy to be that dumb.' (HBO)

Timothy Simons is used to taking one for the team.

As the idiotic, egotistical, very tall and extremely funny Jonah Ryan on Veep — which just debuted its seventh and final season — he's been a fall guy for an avalanche of brutal, often-lewd insults on the hit HBO political satire. The Cloud Botherer, the World's Largest Single Cell Organism, Guyscraper, Jonad, Spewbacca — only a few can even be reprinted here.

"We work in a business that kicks us every single day... so the idea of going into work and being kicked is not unfamiliar. But I think we also very early on understood that was the language of the show and so we've never taken it personally," Simons said during a recent visit to Toronto. 

"I think we've put up a fair amount of armour about it," he said, adding however that some slaps at his six-foot-five-inch frame have stung, such as being called "melted Play-Doh stuck to a flagpole." 

Veep in the age of Trump

Veep, which debuted in 2012, stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, a vicious careerist politician who bullies her bungling staff.

Starting out as the nation's vice president, she rises to become president temporarily, only to subsequently lose the office. The series has earned laughs at the expense of politicians, zeroing in on narcissism, unfettered ambition and an appalling lack of ethics or conscience by its political characters.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won six consecutive lead actress in a comedy series Emmys for her role as Selina Meyer in Veep. (HBO)

Despite all that, Simons admitted, the 2016 election of Donald Trump threw the show for a loop.

"So much of our show historically has us been trying to keep it as realistic as we can, which in the language of the show means that there are consequences for some terrible things you'd say," he explained.

"Then [Trump] comes along and blows up the idea of political gaffes," leading creators to make the show "even more cynical."

Simons explains how Trump affected Veep in the video below.

The actor who plays the Emmy-winning satire's frequent punching bag Jonah Ryan says that Trump's real-life antics 'blows up the idea of political gaffes.' 1:24

Simons' character — the hapless Jonah, who was previously elected to Congress to support Selina in a crucial vote, which he then bungled — plays a key role in the current season: he decides to run against her for president.

"He is one person that wakes up every single day and does not doubt his own ability for a second. Despite all available evidence he really thinks he's going to do a good job," Simons said of Jonah.  

The character and Trump have certain qualities in common, the actor noted, including a tendency to say "whatever comes into his mind — however horrible it might be — just to get a political win or just to get a crowd on his side, regardless of the consequences."

Republican senator Ted Cruz, Simons said, served as another inspiration for Jonah, someone who has "no skill and who has failed upward into power."

Life after Veep

"Emotionally, I still have not wrapped my head around [the series ending], but intellectually it makes sense," Simons noted.

Though he appreciates that Veep will conclude on its own terms, with an undisclosed ending the creators found satisfying, Simons said it's hard to give up playing a prominent role on a TV series with such acclaim. 

The series, which airs Sundays on Crave in Canada, has won 17 Emmy Awards (including being named outstanding comedy series from 2015 to 2017) among other accolades. Meanwhile, the current season has already garnered a 96 per cent positive rating on film and TV review site Rotten Tomatoes.

Simons says he is developing a new comedy for HBO about assisted suicide. 'I've always been a fan of dark comedies.' (Keith Whalen/CBC)

While there will be no spin-off series for Jonah Ryan — "It takes a lot of energy to be that dumb" — Simons does have a show of his own in development with HBO: a comedy about assisted suicide. 

"I've always been a fan of dark comedies," he said.

"We all find things to be upset about even though the spectre of death is there. We're all gonna die. And I like the fact that we could be focused on petty things even when that's around. And so I think that could be pretty funny."

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