On Veep, HBO’s Emmy-winning comedy about a narcissistic vice president and her inner circle of enablers, Timothy Simons plays Jonah Ryan, a blundering White House staffer turned loutish congressman. Simons’s portrayal of a shameless political climber resonated in Washington — after the show premiered in 2012, Beltway types would jokingly wonder how many “Jonahs” might show up to a party. Now, in Veep’s seventh and final season, Jonah is running for president.
Simons grew up in Maine, and his character hails from New Hampshire. The show’s writers give New England some ribbing. (“Every town up here is just two dirty piles of snow connected by a covered bridge,” one character quips.) “At some point, they made me make fun of Maine in a campaign speech,” Simons says. “I voiced my displeasure.”
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His parents moved to Maine after honeymooning at his great-grandmother’s camp on Cochnewagon Lake, in Monmouth. His dad and grandfather built the house he grew up in, in Readfield. “I would eat breakfast and there’d be a deer or moose in the backyard sometimes,” Simons says. “After school, we would just walk really far out into the woods and build forts or pretend we were going to build BMX bike tracks.”
As a teen, he worked in a video-rental shop and went to Maranacook High School. In 2001, he graduated from UMaine with a theater degree, then bounced between gigs around the country, including a summer stint at the Theater at Monmouth. Maybe it says something about the current season that his big break came as Abe Lincoln, in a Geico commercial that caught the eye of a Veep casting director.
Now, Simons, his wife, and their 7-year-old twins travel from LA for a Maine camp week every summer. And in the winter, they stay in Rockland, home of Hello Hello Books, his sister Lacy’s small, bright shop tucked in back of Rock City Cafe. The family likes to bundle up, walk into town, and grab a bite there. “Then, you can post up and look at books,” Simons says. “Sometimes I’ll just sit behind the register with my sister, and we’ll talk as customers come in.”
“Somebody might read this and think, ‘Shameless plug,’” he admits. But this year, he points out, Publishers Weekly named Hello Hello a finalist for its national Bookstore of the Year honors — the shop does quite all right without him plugging. “I just love it there,” he says, “and Lacy doesn’t need it.”