Arts & Culture

Q&A with Tony Hale

We talk to the Veep and Arrested Development actor.

What can we expect from season four of Veep (premiering April 12)? We know Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina Meyer is President now.
Yeah, the nation is in a bad place. The nation is about to experience serious trauma with her at the head. This is a woman who should never, ever be in this position. She should never have been Vice President so the chaos is going to get crazier and she’s not going to know how to handle it, and she’s got a bunch of Keystone Cops around her who also don’t know what they’re doing. So it is just a complete and utter madhouse, but that’s what makes it fun. It is craaazy. It goes in wacky directions.

What does this mean for your character, Gary?
Gary should be able to step up his game because he is now serving the President. However, he’s not a huge fan of change. He’s been with her for longer than he should have been, and he was pretty content with her being Vice President, second-in-command, helping her with her lipsticks, and whatever else she needs. The fact that now the stakes have gotten higher, his anxiety has gotten higher, if that’s even possible. I think he’s probably increased his therapy intake, however, that doesn’t seem to be helping. I don’t think he’s using any of the tools he’s learning.

Well, realistically, when would he even have time to go to therapy?
Exactly. His entire identity and time is devoted to Selena. So he probably has shame for having therapy. He not only has shame for everything else in his life, he even has shame for even having therapy because he probably feels like . . . the thought of having to talk ill about her or behind her back is just his nightmare. So I think that therapy hour is probably not a fun time for him. However, he probably does phone therapy on his lunch break, if he ever has a lunch break.

On both Arrested Development and Veep, you play men who are under the thumbs of domineering women. What gives?
Well, unfortunately, there’s a codependent theme in my work. I think I do that very well. It is ironic that those are probably the two roles that I’m most known for. There are strong similarities. Buster, however, is a little more . . . I think he’s probably a little more in the severely mentally ill category. Gary potentially needs a 24/7 therapist , but he steps up, whereas, Buster, it takes a lot for him to probably get to the pharmacy. He’s probably rocking in a corner somewhere. I think if something happened to Selena, Gary would definitely take the bullet.

Tell me a little bit about the filming of Veep. It’s a mix of script and improv, right?
The way Armando Iannucci works is he shoots a lot of footage, and it’s a really fun process. We never have a clue how it’s going to be edited. It’s such a treat to see it on screen. It’s a process I’ve never experienced with television. Typically, you get a script, and then you show up that day, and you shoot the script and then you move on. Typically, in theater there’s a lot of rehearsal. This is a process where we have two or three weeks of rehearsal before we shoot, and it’s a time where we get the material. We see if it gels. We find those moments. We come up with bits. The writers create those moments. There’s such a strong, beautiful foundation to begin with, and, what’s so great about these writers is they’re not so precious with the material. They put it out there and allow it to morph and become whatever it’s going to become. It’s such a gift. It’s an environment, which is so open to ideas, everyone’s input. It’s a real gift.

How do you keep a straight face?
Let me tell you how: I don’t. Also, Julia has taught me the skill of digging your fingernails into your hand. I don’t have the nails she has. I’m closest in proximity to Julia, so I hear the little things she does. The fact of the matter, is I just don’t keep it together, and she wants to start a drinking game about the many times that I break. Like, I’ll turn my back to the camera. I’ll look in the bag. And it’s all because I’m laughing. It’s shameless laughing, and I have no self-control. So she taught me this thing that if you just cannot keep it together and you’re tired and it’s late, you just dig your nails into your hand. It’s just a sad, sad, unprofessional actor trick.

Both on this and
Arrested, you’re working across from these people who are incredibly gifted, and it’s not human to be able to give it a straight face because it’s just so frickin’ funny. Even if they do just a glance of the eye or something, it’s like, ‘Whelp, I’m out. I can’t.’ My favorite things to watch—I’m not a person who has watched the episodes over and over—are the gag reels. That’s what I remember. I remember the laughing. I remember not being able to keep it together. I remember messing up. That’s the community that I remember, everybody just cracking up, and that’s what I love to watch over and over.

Hugh Laurie is guest starring in season four. Who is he playing and how was working with him?
He’s got serious comedic chops. He knew all these guys coming into the show, like Armando Iannucci, because he had worked for years before in the comedy realm in the U.K. So it was really fun to see him come and do it. I can’t really give too much information as to what he’s going to be playing, but not only is he super funny, but he’s just a really nice guy. He just has this thing about him that is just—it’s hard to describe without giving too much away—but he’s really fun to watch. It’s just adding to the mix another person who I can’t keep it together with. I can’t keep a straight face. Great, just bring in the problems.

What’s the outlook for more Arrested Development?
Well, it’s one of those things. The whole cast, we’re all huge fans of the show and any time Mitch Hurwitz, who created the show, calls and tells us about any opportunity, we just jump at the chance. What’s so exciting about Arrested is you never know what direction it’s go to go. It was just a show that was built on surprises, like, ‘My hand’s eaten off by a seal!’ or ‘Liza Minelli is my girlfriend!’ So, for an actor, that’s an amazing dream because it doesn’t fit any formula. So I just want to do it again because I’m like, ‘What is this guy going to come up with? What is in his brain?’ We all would jump at the chance. Honestly, it’s just a matter of scheduling. Everyone is doing their own thing and it gets a little crazy.

And what about season five of Veep?
I don’t know. It’s funny. I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years, and I get so used to never knowing. I think I got my first taste of it on Arrested because every year we were like, ‘Are we getting cancelled?’ So when I’m on a job I’m just like, ‘I’m here. I’m so thankful that I’m here.’ If it happens again, that’s great, but I never have any clue. I would hope and love if there was a season five, but I don’t know. I just have no clue what the bigwigs are thinking.

How has it been filming in Baltimore for four seasons?
Oh my god, I
love Baltimore. I’m crazy about Baltimore. It’s nice to come back. The first year you’re adapting, you’re trying to learn the area, and now it’s so fun to go back to the same places and just have the restaurants that I love. I’m still such a fan of Woodberry Kitchen, and there’s even a home store named Trohv in Hampden that I love going to where I get fun gifts. And Golden West, I would go grab lunch. I love Amuse toy store. They did a little book reading when my children’s book came out. It is really fun to create these relationships and friendships that I come back to each year. It feels a lot more like home, which is nice. All of us are away from our families. Most of us have kids, so it’s really tough to be away from them three months out of the year. The blessing of it is that we all really get along and you live this nomadic gypsy lifestyle. You create a community wherever you go. So it’s so nice to have people around like this cast, and, every now and then I’ll just walk into Whole Foods because it’s familiar. So I’ll just kind of walk around because it reminds me of the Whole Foods in LA.

Everyone has their own way of coping with homesickness.
I tend to medicate with grocery shopping.