Tony Hale: 'Embrace Where You're At'
Tony Hale made a name for himself on the short-lived but now celebrated cult comedy Arrested Development. Playing the beloved and oft-quoted Buster Bluth—his "hey brother" particularly situated itself into the pop lexicon—Hale managed to carve out a place in the pantheon of singular sitcom characters.
When Arrested Development went off the air in 2006, Hale stayed busy with parts on various network sitcoms (Chuck, Andy Barker, P.I.) and film projects (most notably Stranger than Fiction alongside Will Ferrell and Steven Soderbergh's underrated The Informant!).
Though Hale found himself back in his role as Buster earlier this year when Netflix revived Arrested Development for another season, it's his part on HBO's hit comedy Veep that has recently garnered him much acclaim. On Veep, he plays Gary, a personal assistant to the Vice President of the United States, played by comic stalwart Julia Louis-Dreyfus. While there are shades of Buster in Gary, the chemistry with Louis-Dreyfus has Mr. Hale working in a more nuanced mode—one for which he's recently been awarded an Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy series.
Mr. Hale describes himself as someone whose "faith is everything" as he navigates both career and family life. He recently spoke to CT about life after the Emmys, the importance of local theater, and Tim Conway.
CT: How's life post Emmy win? Any change in your day-to-day life?
TH: I now have the Emmy around my neck, and my wife's Emmy we put on the hood of the car. [Mr. Hale's wife, Martel Thompson, won an Emmy in 2003 for work she did as a make-up artist.]
No, when they called my name, it was such an out-of-body experience. Next to my daughter being born and the day of my wedding, it was definitely one of the most exciting moments of my life. It was just so crazy.
So now, I'm just getting back to normal, taking my daughter to school and stuff. We start shooting again on Sunday, so I go back to Baltimore.
The truth is I'm incredibly thankful to have a gig, to be working—to actually win an Emmy for it blows my mind. It's just something I never, ever could have imagined happening.
Was it some sort of validation?
I don't know if validation was the right word, because if you grow up wanting to be an actor, you have thought about that moment your entire life. You've thought about giving that speech. In my speech I was able to thank Young Actors Theater in Tallahassee, Florida, a theater I grew up in that made a big difference in my life. To be able to thank them publicly was on my bucket list. High school and middle school are tough years and they're filled with a lot of insecurity and craziness, and that theater was a real safe place for me. It allowed me to explore, to be ridiculous, to act on stage, kind of figure out what I love to do, with a group of people that allowed me to be who I am and not judge me.
You have a certain sort of comedic persona that plays a role in both Buster and Gary. How would you describe that persona, and is that a persona that you cultivated?
The scary part about Buster is how naturally it came. I don't know what that says about me. Buster could use a live-in therapist. When I was first doing Arrested Development, Mitch Hurwitz (who created the show) told me that all Buster wanted in life was safety. So that just became the through-line with Buster. He could barely go to the pharmacy and not have a panic attack. Everything was a threat to his safety, and obviously when his mother left him he would spin out of control. He was the extreme version of severe fear and brokenness.