Skip to main content

Why Yes, Veep’s Jonah Ryan Is Based on Ted Cruz

Veep’s Jonah Ryan is one of the most repugnant characters on television. As Timothy Simons describes the character he plays, “He’s charmless, and he’s graceless, and he’s narcissistic, and he doesn’t care about anybody but himself.” Who else does that description sound like? Well, it actually sounds like a lot of people, doesn’t it? But the primary inspiration was, no surprise, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Simons appeared on Late Night Tuesday and told Seth Meyers that when he first started playing the role, it was a “smash-together of a bunch of different … D.C. lackeys that all they care about is proximity to power.” As the seasons went on and Jonah launched his congressional campaign, though, “speaking of charmless and graceless and universally disliked, I based a lot of it on Ted Cruz.”

It’s not a secret that no one likes Ted Cruz. His former college roommate once said, “One thing Ted Cruz is really good at: uniting people who otherwise disagree about everything else in a total hatred of Ted Cruz.” Simons paraphrases the only good thing Lindsey Graham has ever said: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” Yet, as Simons says, he has “fallen ass-backwards into some sort of power and until he’s out, everybody just has to deal with it.”

At the end of the last season of Veep, Jonah announces that he’s running for president on the platform of being disliked. Basically, his argument is that if voters are tired of politics, they should make politicians have to deal with the person they hate most: him.

That sounds like Cruz. It also sounds like Donald Trump, who wasn’t in office when Veep premiered but has come to drastically change the context of the show. “Somewhere along the line, we became aspirational,” Simons says. “When we started the show, what counted as a gaffe doesn’t exist anymore. My character is now running for president and things that you would have thought would have torpedoed–you would have never even bought that he could get there, that he could get to run for president. And now you have to actually entertain the fact that he could win.”

Veep really has come to feel as if it’s being written in real time. (Spoilers for the first episode of season 7 ahead) It feels like a direct commentary on our actual political landscape. Between Jonah’s incredibly Trumpian run for president to Selena’s seemingly neverending struggle with the glass ceiling–not to mention the Meyer campaign’s total inability to get anything right, ever, which brings to mind the many leaks of ineptitude coming out of the actual White House–the show sometimes feels too real.

At the end of this season’s premiere, the Bidenesque Tom James entered the presidential race already crowded with white men and it truly was hard to believe this would have been written months and months ago and not in the last few weeks.

(image: Lacey Terell/HBO)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.