Was Ted Cruz Really the Inspiration for Jonah Ryan on ‘Veep’?

If you watch Veep on HBO, you’re going to notice similarities between the characters and real-life politicians. In some cases, the references to Amy Klobuchar and the Clintons are explicit. (There was a lot of material there for the writers to work with over the years.)

Since much of the show revolves around Selina Meyer and her team behind the scenes, it’s harder to match other Veep figures to real-life counterparts. However, Timothy Simons, who plays Congressman Jonah Ryan, did get inspiration for his obnoxious character from a U.S. politician.

In fact, on an April 2 visit with Seth Meyers, Simons revealed that the “charmless” and “universally disliked” person is currently serving in Congress. He’s Ted Cruz, the junior Senator from Texas.

Once Simons explains how Cruz helped him with Jonah, it makes a lot of sense.

Jonah could also be shot on the floor of Congress without turning up any witnesses.


Back when Jonah was just an obnoxious White House staffer scaring off members of opposite sex, Simons said he was an amalgam of various D.C. lackeys with a thirst for power. But things changed when Jonah made his run for Congress.

At that point, Jonah needed an even more unlikable persona. So Simons turned to Cruz for inspiration. Simons referenced a crack Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made about Cruz a few years back to describe his colleague’s popularity in the Senate.

“If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” Graham said. That just about summed up what Simons needed to embody in the also-“graceless” Jonah.

“Ted Cruz, he has fallen ass-backwards into some sort of power, and until he’s out, everyone has to deal with him,” Simons explained. “That very much is Jonah’s vibe. That’s his thing.”

Jonah as the thorn in Selina’s side as she runs for president

Actors Sam Richardson, Timothy Simons and Reid Scott speak onstage during the “VEEP” FYC panel at Paramount Studios on May 9, 2016. | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

While Simons didn’t mention it on his Late Night appearance, Jonah also has a similar role in presidential campaigns. Though he has no chance of ever being president (gulp), he’s running against his old boss Selina in the final season of Veep.

That sounds an awful lot like Cruz’s 2016 campaign for president. In one of the most hilariously obnoxious tickets in memory, Cruz added Carly Fiorina to his ticket as he burrowed his way through the campaign as an alternative to Trump.

Cruz later made a speech at the RNC saying voters should vote their conscience. (In other words, not voting for Trump was fine.) He heard loud booing ring throughout the auditorium, which should remind Veep fans of Jonah’s appearances on the trail.

Considering there’s a long run ahead for Jonah and Selina in the remaining episodes of Veep, viewers may get a similar moment before the show ends. As with Jonah’s real-life counterpart, no one needs any more reason to hate the man. But we imagine we’ll get some more anyhow.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!