Prior to 2003, Tony Hale was happily living in New York and toiling in the low-profile, but lucrative business of commercial acting. Sure, there were small parts on Dawson’s Creek, Sex and the City and The Sopranos, but nothing that would point to a career beyond bit parts. Then came Arrested Development. His performance as Buster Bluth, the dimwitted youngest son of the immediate Bluth clan, opened the door to increasingly high-profile gigs, in particular his turn Gary Walsh on HBO’s beloved political spoof Veep.
Hale’s portrayal of Selina Meyer’s indefatigably loyal aide has earned the actor five consecutive Emmy nods for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He won twice, first in 2013 and then again in 2015.
In between breaks on the set of the sixth season of Arrested Development, which heads into an improbable sixth season,* and days before he’ll once again stroll down the red carpet at the Primetime Emmy Awards, Hale dropped some hints about what’s going to happen on his upcoming shows—including the final season of *Veep—and which White House personality he’d have no problem playing in a future Trump movie.
Based on the photo you shared on Twitter with Jessica Walter [Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development], it seems like you’ve been pretty busy as of late.
It’s been crazy lately, but it’s all good. I’m just excited that I still have gigs!
Are there similarities that go into playing Buster and Gary?
Well, the scary part is that it comes naturally. I don’t know what a therapist would do with that, but I love it. I love how Buster is so not with us and so detached and is kind of in his own little world all the time. He’s incredibly innocent and wide-eyed. Whereas with Gary, he’s so immersed in Selina’s life and has no identity outside of it. If she went to work at K-Mart after this was all over, he’d be right by her side carrying her purse. It’s fun to have both of those worlds.
Is the whole gang back on-set now for Arrested Development?
We’re all here and it’s getting surreal. We started the show 14 years ago and it’s been reversed a couple of times, and when you do a job and do a character and the show is over, it’s over. They just announced the last season of Veep *and it’s going to be a really sad day when it’s our last day. Not only is it saying goodbye to these friends I made over seven years and working there, but I’ve been in that character too, and to step away from it, it means it’s done. But with *Arrested, it keeps surfacing, and it’s fun to step back into those shoes. It’s weird, man. I always get nervous when I go back. Once I’m in the model home and penthouse and I have my pastels, the Buster glasses, then it comes back. Anytime I hear Jessica Walter say “Buster!” in a very degrading tone, it takes me immediately there.
One of the more memorable aspects of Veep has been the managed chaos of the Meyer administration. It’s almost as if the current administration is taking notes from you all.
Well, isn’t that scary? Armando [Iannucci, the show’s creator], when he created the show, always loved that controlled chaos, and it carried on after he left. But it also had to do with the choreography with the three cameras—and it seemed all over the place. Armando was really inspired because when he was visiting and talking to people in Washington, D.C., he found out behind the scenes it was crazy. People were raging around and the furniture was crap, and it was this odd, behind-the-scenes look, [rather] than what we see. I think he really wanted to mimic that.
Would you be able to see someone like, say, the Mooch fitting in with the characters on the show?
That’s what’s crazy. If the writers had written a character like that, HBO would have been like, “That’s too broad and no one is going to believe that.” It was just too off the wall. Now we’re seeing this on CNN and you’re expecting to hear someone say “Cut!” and it’s a multi-cam political sitcom. Instead, it’s just bizarre. You have someone like Roger Furlong [played by Dan Bakkedahl] who is so crass, and is all about getting ahead and backstabbing to do it. I think some of these characters in real life would definitely fit in like that. The same with Mike McLintock [played by Matt Walsh], her communication director. It’s like, “How did you get this job?!” When I see something he did, it’s the same way they [would have] handled [it] here in the press. That’s what’s been so challenging for the writers, to stay ahead sometimes, because there’s already a political sitcom happening on CNN.
The show has allowed you to get all these Emmy nods and wins. It’s a pretty impressive achievement.
The cool thing is that all of us talk about the show, and it’s so nice when you talk about something you believe in. I think it’s really funny and it’s such a gift to do something that’s so easy to talk about. I’m such a fan of it and I love everyone involved in it. I get to stand next to Julia [Louis-Dreyfus] every single day and I can watch how she does what she does, and I’m such a fan. It’s going to be so sad when it’s done. That Emmys list is one I never thought I’d be on. I’m incredibly honored.
But you still have Arrested.
I saw Jason [Bateman], Will [Arnett] and Jeffrey [Tambor] yesterday and we were just standing around and chatting. It’s been such an incredible journey and it was such a risk. I was doing commercials in New York and loving it. This was my very first big gig and they took a risk on me because I had no TV credits, and I’m very grateful. The whole journey of being on a show with these great people and these characters and always going back to the model home and the penthouse—it’s just fun.
When the movie about the Trump administration is ultimately made, would you be down to play Stephen Miller?
I’m in. I’d love it. Are you kidding? That guy has a stare on him that I want to match. I’ve never met him or anything like that, but there’s something about the way he looks. You can’t really explain it. He has a standing deadpan face that you don’t know what’s going to come at you. It doesn’t ever sound good. He does have a puppet-like quality. I’ve seen it on Twitter that people [are] comparing Buster to him, and I’m like, sure, that would be a blast.