Talking to Tony Hale About ‘Arrested Development’, ‘Veep’ and ‘The Heat’
There’s going to be a lot of Tony Hale going around in the very near future. He can currently be found every Sunday on HBO’s Veep playing Gary, the bumbling but devoted body man to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s vice president. He’ll be seen getting busted with a prostitute in this summer’s action-comedy, The Heat. Most excitingly of course, he’ll be resuming his role as the socially inept, one-handed Buster Bluth when Arrested Development premieres on Netflix in May. Recently, I caught up with over the phone to chat about cast reunions, hidden AD jokes, and how some of his characters might be related.
Obviously Arrested Development is coming back next month, and I feel like we’ve been talking about it non-stop for years. There was so much hype around the show, how did that affect you guys while you making it? You must have been so aware of all the expectations.
Yeah. Coming into it, we knew there were a lot of expectations. And stepping into a character that I haven’t done in seven years, you kind of wonder, can I do it again? Let me tell you, once I heard Jessica Walter’s voice, it was like a Pavlovian response and I just clicked right back in. It’s like her demeaning, abusive, passive aggressive voice, it like clicked right in. And it was just like riding a bike again.
What was the feeling on the set?
I think for me, it was just very surreal. Very surreal. But I’m also just grateful to have this opportunity to do a job that I loved again. That practically never happens. So we were all just kind of grateful that it was happening and we all knew that it would not happen if we did not have the support of the fans and the press, that just kept it alive. We were all very, very grateful to be there, and just very excited. The stories kind of developed as were shooting, and so we were all kind of like, what’s gonna happen? Because so much happened in Buster’s life in those first three years. I just can’t get my head around what was gonna happen, and there’s a lot of fun turns. And we all also had huge faith in Mitch. Even if many times we would read the script and have no clue what’s going on, we just trusted that he had this massive puzzle in his head and it was gonna work out and it was gonna be hilarious.
I’ve read that each character sort of has their own episode in this season. Can you tell us anything about what happens in Buster’s?
Yeah, it’s funny cause we kind of shot it over time and then he’s editing it and piecing it together, so I genuinely don’t know what’s going to be in Buster’s episode. I am as excited to see what’s gonna come out and kind of how it’s going to be mapped out as anybody, cause I have no clue. I know it’s gonna be great, and I know that the way he’s doing it, each character’s gonna be an episode, and if you don’t see where a character’s going in one, you can go to this other episode to see which direction they went. It’s just a really interesting way, because Netflix is releasing it all at once, you can do that. But it’s still a mystery to me, so I’m excited to see it.
I’ve started re-watching the whole series in preparation for the new season, and I had forgotten just how intricate it was, and how far ahead everything was planned out. There were so many references layered in, and you realized he had this grand scheme in his head of how everything was going to lay out.
Absolutely. And I had no clue about that stuff. Now seeing it with fresh eyes, before we shot this new one, I mean, I was clearly in the dark or checked out or something, because there was all these hand signals, many episodes before [Buster lost his hand] I had no idea that was happening. It was so detailed. And people come up to me and they’ll say, “I love this part in the show.” And I’m like “What? What are you talking about?” And so people inform me as to what’s going on. There’s so much stuff I did not catch. I just started reading my daughter this book called I Spy, where you have to find these little things. [AD]’s like one big show of I Spys. It’s just these little gifts you get when you’re watching it.
One of the most consistently popular posts on our site is our “53 Arrested Development Jokes You Probably Missed”.
It’s like you need a book of commentary with the show. Like Lost. When I was watching Lost, I needed someone standing next to me to explain what the hell’s going on. And there’s so many things that you miss. Maybe we need to publish some kind of little pamphlet that you can hold while you’re watching it, to refer to.
That would be amazing.
And the second season of Veep just started. What can expect from Gary this year? I know he’s got a new girlfriend.
Yeah, he’s got a little bit of a love interest. His attention is divided and for Gary, the thought of his attention being divided away from Selena is just a nightmare. I think he gravitates towards dominating women, and doesn’t know anything else, so I think he’s going from just one role to another role that’s pretty similar. But Selena’s not too crazy about the new girlfriend. There might be a little interaction coming up. It might not get too pretty.
Another thing you’ve got coming up is the movie The Heat. It looks like it has an amazing cast and crew.
Yes. It’s with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, but my scenes are mainly with Melissa. I just think Melissa is one of the funniest women in the business today, so that was just an absolute joy. And Paul Feig, who directed the movie, had directed a lot of episodes of Arrested back in the day. And this guy named Dan Bakkedahl is in it as well. He plays this albino cop and he’s also in Veep, he plays Roger Furlong. It’s fun. The more that, thankfully, you get gigs, it’s fun to work with the same people because you know each other and it’s kind of a reunion.
Mitch Hurwitz and Armando Iannucci are, for my money, two of the greatest comedic minds working in television, and you’ve sort of gotten to go back and forth between them. Do they have really different styles? Are they very different in the way that they put together their shows?
I hear that, like how the hell did I get to work with them? [Laughs] What the hell am I doing here? But it is very different. With Veep, we have a script in the beginning, and then we have two or three weeks of rehearsal with improv. Everybody tips in and thinks of ideas and where stuff could go, and writers are jotting ideas down, and it’s just this big think tank. This kind of comic think tank, and it’s really fun.
Whereas with Mitch, when on set, we didn’t even really want to improv. I mean, case and point, some things I might have been saying might be referring to episodes in the future which I have no clue about. You knew that there was a very specific reason that something was given, and so you didn’t really want to deviate from the script because it was very, very specific, and so it was really different. But with both, they were both just very exciting rollercoasters to ride.
Do you think there are similarities? I wonder if there’s some sort of shared genius.
Yeah, I mean, I think they’re comic geniuses. I would say obviously Arrested‘s a little more heightened, but you can also say that Armando’s stuff is very heightened. The situations are heightened, but they both try to ground it to where you feel like these people could exist. Cause so many times when you watch something and you see something that’s taken way to the extreme, you kind of detach because you don’t believe it. Whereas, as crazy as Arrested was, there are people probably out there like Buster. There probably are people like GOB. And he always still tried to ground it. And the same with Armando. Yes these situations are nuts, but who’s to say that’s not happening behind the scenes sometimes in DC?
I was also noticing how important swearing is in both shows — it’s a huge part of the dialogue on Veep, whereas as the bleeps are so key on Arrested. Which reminds me, do you know if the swearing on Arrested will be bleeped on Netflix?
That’s a great question. I have absolutely no clue. I have no clue. It’s like, I can’t wait to see what happens. I have no idea what he’s thinking. He’s in his little mad scientist hut right now, constructing everything. We’re all just waiting for him to bring it out, because we’re excited to see what he produced.
So when you’re on set, you just swear and they bleep it later?
Yeah. And I think, the one time when Buster has to go off on Lucille, and he has to like cuss on and on and on, I remember thinking, I cuss in life but I don’t know that many. I have like four of five choice words that I like to say. [Laughs] So I think in addition I had to kind of throw some alphabet in there, just to extend the rant. Cause Buster would have his rant. He’d have this pent up inside him. He’s just got so much angst. That’s another thing, Buster and Gary, they both have tremendous angst. But at least Gary has kind of focused it into a career, whereas Buster has just channeled it into paralysis.
I bet they would get along.
Totally. They could totally be friends. My friend sent me this link of a Tumblr that somebody did (http://heeeybrothers.tumblr.com), and it’s as though Gary and Buster were long lost brothers. It’s so great, cause you know, there are a lot of similarities. I’d never thought about that, but, yeah, they could be long lost brothers.
They totally could. You’ve obviously got a lot going on, is there anything else we should now about?
If I could just end by saying how we have such an appreciation for, not only support for Veep but also the support for Arrested, because that’s what brought us back. You guys and fans and everything like that, that’s what kept it alive, so we’re all very, very grateful.
Well, we’re all incredibly excited.
As are we.