Tony Hale spoke to The Times on Thursday morning about his Emmy nomination for his portrayal of poor Gary Walsh, the sycophantic, abuse-tolerant, Selina-pleasing aide in HBO’s comedy “Veep.” The series collected nine Emmy nominations overall including one for best comedy series.
How are you feeling?
It’s been a great day. My wife and I, we have our screaming session when it’s announced. My poor daughter, she walks in and she goes, “Hey, Dad, you got to take me to camp.” I forgot! We had to rush her to camp. She doesn’t care about the Emmys, she wants to go do her crafts.
Do you have a ritual each year?
I’m always so excited, A) to have a job that I’m so proud of and love. That’s the cake and this is the icing on top of it is mind-blowing. I don’t even know how to comprehend it. My wife and I were sitting in front of the computer and I’m mainly so excited the show was nominated, and Julia and Anna and Armando.
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It does seem like the show is getting more recognition each season.
It’s always encouraging when people begin to notice what I love about it. Especially with politics, my favorite thing about the show. All we hear are the perfect soundbites and the posturing. Obviously we take it to an extreme and dear God I hope it’s nothing like that. But I love that it shows the humanity of people and does it with humor and satire and we know that the guys behind the scenes must look at each other and say, what the hell, I don’t know what to do. I love that we show that and Julia’s fantastic. I’m crazy about the show.
Playing someone like Gary, who takes so much abuse and is so passive, do you ever just feel the need to be really aggressive in your off-screen life?
Both characters that I played for a long time, Buster and Gary, there’s a certain emasculation that goes on. Sometimes my wife is like, you’re a little hyper-sensitive, let’s just drop that and bring my husband back. I don’t consider myself a Method actor, I have huge admiration for people like Daniel Day-Lewis, who totally immerse themselves, but you can’t ignore the fact that if you’re in a character all day it really can affect you. It takes some time to walk away from it.
So it does get to you?
I think about Timothy Simons, who plays Jonah on the show. The number of insults hurled at him, some incredibly mean stuff. When you think about a positive day, that’s probably not what you would include, having insults hurled about your physical appearance. I think emotionally it can take an effect. But then what’s great about the show is we all get along so much. Even if he’s being insulted or I’m being emasculated, they say cut and we just laugh and medicate our feelings with food.
Do you have to make a conscious effort not to hurt each other’s feelings?
The writers, I’m astonished, they have this vault of insults. Calling Jonah human scaffolding or the world’s largest single-cell organism or ….. Just awful, awful names. They called me Cow Eyes. Then it just becomes fun. We’re amazed at what they come up with. It is funny if something’s thrown out and you go, oh, that touched an insecurity I hadn’t thought about in a while. But most importantly we’re blown away by the creativity. I’ve got probably a good five cuss words in my arsenal, these guys have a vault. We can’t wait to read the scripts and see what they come up with. What’s funny about Gary and Selina is, I would rather Selina verbally abuse me than ignore me. Selina ignoring me, that’s like emotional suicide. He would rather be verbally abused than distance himself from Selina because all he knows is Selina.
Is there any person you draw from for Gary? How’d you come up with the performance?
I always just credit it so much to the writers. You walk in with these ideas of who you think he is. He’s grabbed ahold of somebody powerful because he doesn’t have much of an identity himself. He has rose-colored glasses when it comes to Selina. When you get new scripts and writers bring you information, things are added to it. He goes so far as to break up with a boyfriend for her. Or he digs trash out of her trash can because there’s something in there that can be used against her. He will do whatever it takes to please her. He does these awful dehumanizing things. You see that real character so clearly. It’s that combination of the writing and what I brought to the table.
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Do you have any hopes for Gary?
I think Gary’s only hope is that he never leaves her side. She could be working at Dairy Queen and he would be holding her purse. As long as she keeps awareness that she has to have him around, he’s good. Whatever happens, he’s just praying to God that he never has to leave her side. Which by the way, Selina doesn’t know his last name, practically. Once something happens, he’ll be out. But in his world they’ll stay connected until they’re at a nursing home.
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