Greg Finley and Tim Simons took two different roads out of Maine, but ended up in the same place — on TV.

Finley has been starring for the past five years as a high school football star on the teen drama “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on the cable channel ABC Family.

Simons just got his big break this year, playing the White House liaison to the vice president in the new HBO comedy “VEEP,” starring former “Seinfeld” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The show began in April, and airs at 10 p.m. Sundays.

Here’s a look at how these two Mainers got to this point in their careers:

GREG FINLEY

At Scarborough High School, Greg Finley’s life plan was to play Division II college basketball and then run a restaurant. But a series of injuries — hip and knee — ended the basketball dream. Depressed about the injuries, he wasn’t doing very well in his first year of a restaurant management program at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.

On top of that, Finley developed a giant abscess in his throat that required emergency treatment and left him weak — he dropped about 60 pounds — and bedridden for a long stretch.

During his recovery, Finley said the only thing that made him happy, that took his mind off his troubles, was watching movies. So he decided to become an actor.

He had never acted in school. Had never even thought about it before. But something in his brain clicked.

“I told my parents, ‘When I heal up, I’m going to Hollywood to become an actor,’ ” said Finley, 27. “My mom and dad were like, ‘What?’ “

So at the age of 19, Finley drove to Hollywood and lived in hotels, hostels and in his car. He was out there for a year or more with no luck when his break came.

And it came in a parking garage, while Finley was on the phone to his brother complaining about Los Angeles.

“I was saying how much I hated L.A., hated the people, and the whole time this woman in the garage is staring at me,” said Finley. “She came up to me and said, ‘I never do this, but‘ and told me she was a casting agent, and that she wanted me to read for a part in a movie with Ben Stiller’s wife (Christine Taylor).”

He didn’t get that part, but the audition and the connection led to more auditions and more connections. He got a guest spot on the CBS show “Cold Case” before snagging the role of Jack Pappas, a high school quarterback (he’s now out of high school) on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” The teen drama draws big ratings for a cable show — about 5 million viewers per episode.

Finley’s character is a jock and a devout Christian who is also dating a hot cheerleader, so he struggles with his morals.

“There’s a lot about him I can relate to, playing sports and all,” said Finley.

Finley said the show has been a “blessing” for him, and he enjoys his co-stars and co-workers.

While working on TV, Finley has also kept his basketball dreams alive, in a way: He’s part of a group of Hollywood actors who play exhibition basketball games for charity. And he plays in the more competitive NBA Entertainment League, or E-League. In that league, the players take the game seriously, and the audience only includes invited guests.

“Dean Cain (who played Superman on the TV show ‘Lois & Clark’) is on my team, and it’s a very competitive league,” said Finley. “I was rookie of the year last year.”

Finley got a thrill earlier this spring when he did a guest shot on “House” on Fox, playing a hockey player with a rare blood disease. In one scene, he’s on the ice fighting with another man, a former American Hockey League player who now works on TV productions.

Finley found out that his fighting partner, while playing in the AHL, had actually fought one of Finley’s favorite players: Former Portland Pirate Kevin “Killer” Kaminski.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I’m fighting a guy who fought Killer Kaminski,’ ” said Finley.

TIM SIMONS

Simons, 33, didn’t know he wanted to be an actor either while growing up in Readfield.

After graduating from Maranacook High School, he went to the University of Maine in Orono and ended up living in a dorm next to the football field. Because he wasn’t “a jock,” he felt the need to be involved in “something,” so he got involved in theater productions.

He quickly fell in love with theater, and decided to try to work in the field after graduation.

Simons got a job at a children’s theater in Kentucky and did some work at the Theater at Monmouth here in Maine. Then, because he had some friends working in theater in Chicago, he moved there.

“I had a certain amount of impatience. I wanted to get working, and Chicago’s theater scene had a certain roll-up-your-sleeves attitude,” said Simons. “A lot of people were creating their own plays and theater groups.”

In Chicago, Simons and a friend created a show that was, in his words, “the world’s smallest stadium rock concert.” He played the roadie.

After a few years in Chicago, Simons moved to Los Angeles and began supporting himself with commercials. He did about nine last year, including one very high-profile one: He played Abe Lincoln in a grainy, black-and-white spot for Geico insurance, which is known for quirky ads.

In the spot, the narrator asks if Geico can save you money on your car insurance, and answers himself by asking if Abe Lincoln was honest. Then Lincoln’s portly wife asks if she looks fat in her dress. Lincoln mumbles, and hesitates just enough to let you know he’s thinking of telling the awful truth.

That small but memorable part led to Simons’ first big TV role, on the new HBO comedy “VEEP” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

“Someone I knew showed that commercial to the casting director,” said Simons. “I didn’t think I had much of shot, because I didn’t have many credits.”

But the casting folks saw something, and Simons got the role of Jonah, the White House liaison to the vice president’s office. The rest of the cast basically works for the V.P., so Simons’ character is often an antagonist.

“My job is to deliver messages from the president and keep the vice president’s staff on task and on message,” he said.

Simons and his fellow cast members took a trip to Washington, D.C., to soak up atmosphere and talk to White House staffers. He was not able to meet anyone who had the exact job his character has, however.

“We were having drinks with staffers, and I think that if there was someone in real life like my character, he’s not the sort others would invite for drinks,” said Simons.

So far, “VEEP” has received good reviews, and HBO has already picked it up for another season.

Simons finished filming the first season late last year, and returned home to Los Angeles just 12 hours before his wife gave birth to twins — who came almost two months early.

“They’re both healthy and perfect, but it was quite scary for a time,” said Simons. “It’s been a busy year.”

 Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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Twitter: Ray Routhier