Before Timothy Simons, 39, was a main cast member on an acclaimed TV comedy, he was a kid from Readfield, Maine, just starting to test the waters of acting as a freshman at the University of Maine. After six seasons on HBO’s multiple Emmy-winning political satire series “Veep” as the insufferable (and yet strangely lovable) Jonah Ryan, he’s forged a highly successful path as a comedic actor — though he’s also appeared in movies as diverse as Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” and Seth Rogan’s “The Interview.” Simons, whose extended family still lives in Maine, talked to Bangor Metro about his roots, his next career moves, and how reality is stranger than fiction.
Bangor Metro: Can you share a particular memory from growing up in Maine that perhaps helped to set you on the path towards acting as a career? A job? A play?
Timothy Simons: I actually started at UMaine. I didn’t have much of a social scene. I was the odd man out in my dorm. It was all football players. Anyway, I just auditioned for this 10 minute play, and it was pretty interesting, so the second semester I auditioned for the Underdogs and Upperdogs, which are these student-directed short plays. And then I met this grad student, Claude Giroux, who had an eye for interesting, out-of-the-box theater. I was used to regular run-of-the-mill theater, and he showed me that you can swear in it. I did a monologue from an Eric Bogosian show, and that was what did it. And I just got the bug after that.
At what point in the filming of VEEP did you start to realize that reality was starting to catch up and eventually overtake the show? What kind of a realization was that?
I think it kept leapfrogging with what we could come up with. When Trump was running, you could make the argument that nothing had changed, because everyone assumed he would lose. I don’t think it was until he won that it really changed. We had to recalibrate everything, because none of it matters anymore. There are no more gaffes. The President tweeting is completely normal now. We have to totally change our approach.
As Jonah Ryan, you are continually peppered with exceptionally vulgar insults that reach near-Shakespearean levels of intricacy. Has there ever been a point where your family is like “Really, Tim? Really?”
I don’t think there’s anything that’s really rocked anybody. It’s part and parcel of the show. I remember one of the harshest insults wasn’t even directed at me. It was said by another character, to another character. I think, at this point, they have come to expect the insults. I think they look forward to them. They love it.
What do you have coming out in 2018? What new projects are you excited to work on?
We have pushed filming out a little bit, after Julia’s cancer diagnosis [Louis-Dreyfus was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2017]. We’re in a holding pattern. Also, this is our last season, so we’re all kind of figuring out life post-“Veep.” That’s really daunting, because it’s been an amazing job for nearly eight years. I’ve been really lucky to do a bunch of movies and some other little things in the off-time, and right now I’m doing a lot of writing with other people and on my own. It’s all very nebulous. In a fun kind of way.