When you consider a thirty-year-old man with a hook for a hand, a disturbing obsession with his own mother, a history of hysterical comas, and a proclivity for grabbing people by the neck, you might not immediately think of the word "hilarious." But through his many talents for delivering comedy, the masterful Tony Hale managed the act of turning the potentially horrifying Buster Bluth into one of Arrested Development's funniest and most beloved characters. Hale proves himself more than capable of delivering the same degree of comedy on HBO's Emmy-nominated Washington D.C. series Veep, where he plays the incessantly devoted, exhaustively put-upon right-hand man to Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). We got a chance to chat with Hale about starring on the political comedy, as well as his iconic Arrested Development role (including what might be in store for Buster on future episodes), and finally, some of his secret cupcake-related ambitions.
Hale delved into all of the oddball characteristics that make Veep's Gary "such a blast to play." On the forefront of Gary's quirks is his fixation on his boss. "Gary worships the ground that Selina walks on. It’s not even about her position — he’s madly in love with her. He would never, ever say it, because that would be bonkers. But inside, she’s a mixture of parental figure, love interest, [and] best friend in his mind. And she just kind of views him as the help."
Of course, it's difficult not to draw similarities between Gary's relationship with Selina and Buster's with his mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter). Hale affirmed, "The emotional codependency has transferred from Arrested Development to Veep." Of course, there are some pretty distinct differences: "All Buster wanted in life was safety. Anything that affected that safety, he would freak out about. His relationship with his mother was really [based in] fear ... But [Gary] deeply respects Selina, and he will step up to the plate if he has to ... I don’t know if Gary would take a bullet for her, but he would find about five bodyguards in five seconds to take that bullet for her."
Just because Gary is fond of Selina, that doesn't mean he holds the same reverence for all of his coworkers. "He can’t stand Dan ... Even though he doesn’t [take part in] the insults, don’t think Gary doesn’t have a lot of fantasies about going off on these people. I think the day is coming where it’s going to be World War III. Gary is going to let loose ... One day, it’s going to explode. It’s not going to be pretty." Actually, some of the Gary-directed insults even get to Hale sometimes: "This one line where Dan goes, 'Listen, cow-eyes!' I was like, 'Oh my God!' [laughs] So sometimes you’re like, 'Wow, that was heavy.'"
But is there more to Gary than just a government gofer? Even portrayer Hale admitted, "I don’t think he has a personal life." Most of Gary's free time, as Hale imagines, is spent preparing for any situation that might face his adored employer: "If I can remember correctly, he had about sixty different Altoid boxes. Just because, God forbid, he did not have Altoids ready for Selina. I think his house, literally, is one big stockpile for his bag that he needs for Selina. He probably takes a trip a week to Costco to stock up, just to make sure. The thought of not having what she needs is just terror. I wouldn’t be surprised if you would go to every corner of his house, and it would just be a pile of what’s in his bag. One corner of his house would have the Altoids. One corner of his house would have the tissues. One corner of his house might have tampons."
Still, the actor gave us his guesses as to how Gary spends his spare time. "He’s got a lot of cats as friends. I think there was a cat gym in his house. I think he goes home to a lot of cats ... I think Gary might do a little bowling. Actually a lot of bowling. I bet he’s got a lot of bowling teams he might be on. He probably has his own bowling ball. That he treasures." Hale's logic behind that: "He carries a bag to work, so he carries a bowling bag for entertainment."
Hale is interested in seeing his character expand in some... unusual ways. "I’m always waiting for Gary to break out into some hip hop," he joked. "I think that might be an interesting bad storyline. He takes hip hop classes at the local dance studio ... And on the opposite side of the street, Jonah is taking ballroom dancing."
The actor also offered speculation about the future of his other famous character, Buster: "So much has happened to him. I hope that he’s had some kind of rest. But if it’s been as chaotic as those two-and-a-half years were, I just hope he’s still alive ... Maybe Buster has been in a coma these past six years. He’s just waking up for the episodes. He’s like, 'Wait a second. Six years have passed?'" Hale does have some other specific hopes for the return of his Arrested Development hero: "I do hope that he is still involved, somewhat, with Lucille 2. Because I would love to see Liza Minelli again ... The whole time that I was on the show, I was consistently surprised. 'Wait, my hand is coming off?' 'I’m dating Liza Minelli?' I enjoyed the shock of it."
As stated above, Gary and Buster do seem to be cut from a similar mold, and this all stems from Hale's affinity for pathetic characters. "With that vulnerability, there’s a lot of opportunities for comedy. One of my favorite idols growing up was Tim Conway from The Carol Burnett Show. He did not have to say anything and I would die laughing. You could just feel the tension and the awkwardness. His desires. You could feel what he wanted to do, what he didn’t want to do. And that’s Gary. With him being a vulnerable character, and being kind of wide-eyed, there’s a lot of opportunity for that awkwardness."
This theme also carries over to why Hale loves Veep on the whole so much: it's a humanization of political figures that are often viewed as larger than life and invincible. "Especially during an election year, all you’re hearing are the pretty sound bites, or the lashing out against somebody else because of whatever. You don’t see them going behind the scenes and having meltdowns and getting insecure. Because they’re human. They’re human beings. We put these people on massive pedestals, but it’s like… everybody’s a mess! For some reason we don’t think that these politicians are allowed to be a mess. They’ve got to be perfect for us to vote them in. It’s like, come on. We’ve all got our stuff. I like taking the curtain away and going, 'What’s behind the scenes? What’s really going on?' ... D.C. is nuts. It’s a lot of people who are kind of putting their best foot forward up front, but behind the scenes are freaking out."
Hale added, "The West Wing was a great show, and I really enjoyed West Wing. But this is just the opposite. It’s not as pretty behind the scenes."
Another thing Hale loves about Veep is its all-encompassing take-down of the world of government. "It’s really about office politics. Relationships with each other. I really do love that about the show. You have no clue what party she’s in. You never see the president. It’s just people being put in these places of power, and being like, I don’t know what I’m doing! And then trying to match this expectation that people are putting on them." So will we ever actually see the president? Hale hopes not. "I love the mystery. He’s kind of like Charlie in Charlie’s Angels. We’re all Charlie’s Angels."
Beyond Charlie's Angels, The West Wing, and Carol Burnett does Hale embody a passion for a certain television show on the Food Network: "One of my goals is to become a guest judge on Cupcake Wars. I genuinely think my six-year-old would have an out of body experience if she saw me on that ... Of course, then she’d be pissed that I didn’t bring any cupcakes home. That’s my short-term goal. To become a guest judge on Cupcake Wars. We watch a lot of Food Network. Love it. And she loves Barefoot Contessa. So, as a family, we’ve gotten into it."
What else does the man behind Buster Bluth enjoy, you might ask? "What makes me laugh the hardest are blooper reels. Specifically the Bridesmaids blooper reel. And any baby laughing hysterically on a video — I’m out." And for a good cry: "Any soldier returning home to his children. I’m done. Put me in a room. I’m bawling crying. Immediately. And of course they put music to it, and the put the ads in slow motion to it. I’m done."
And Hale was not shy about sharing a highly bemoaned pet peeve: "Any kind of whiny, behind-the-scenes [reality show]. A camera following the whiny behavior of a family. That about sends me over the edge. The fact is, I know I’ve been whiny. But I haven’t asked a camera to be there."
Veep will make a run for the Best Comedy Series Emmy Award in September, and then will pick up shooting its second season later in the fall. Watch out for what is yet to come on the HBO program, as well as for any updates about the forthcoming Arrested Development series, which has recently begun production. Whether he's playing the "focused" Gary, the cowardly Buster, or vying for that spot on Cupcake Wars, Hale is worth keeping tabs on.
[Photo Credit: HBO]