‘Veep’ star Tony Hale on hit HBO series and more ‘Arrested Development’
As the fourth season of “Veep” begins on Sunday night, the title doesn’t really seem accurate anymore. Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has finally moved from vice president to president of the United States. But she’s brought along her entire support staff, including Gary Walsh, her ever admiring, ever attendant assistant, played with great intensity by Emmy winner Tony Hale.
In anticipation of the show’s fourth premiere, Hale spoke by phone from the Atlanta set of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip,” in which he plays the villain.
This interview was conducted just before the announcement that “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci was leaving “Veep.”
After working on “Veep” for four seasons, have you picked up a lot of insidery Washington knowledge?
There’s a couple of things. Many times writers on the show have gone over to D.C. just to hang out and they picked up lingo that’s been incorporated into the show. Also, you hear the people in D.C. really enjoy it. This might be my assumption, but I think these people see it as a release sometimes. Because the picture that is put out about politics can sometimes be so choreographed or these perfect sound bites. Whereas behind the scenes, I think it’s a little more disorganized and people get insecure and many times they don’t know what the hell is going on. Maybe at times, it’s in shambles. Many times there’s a sense that even though we’re a satire, hopefully there’s a realistic picture somewhere in there.
Have you ever had people tell you they know a Gary in Washington?
Yeah, totally. I’ve had that and I’ve had people say, “I need a Gary in my life.” I’m like, no you don’t. You don’t want that. Not unless you want to hire a therapist to go along with it.
Does the “Veep” crew ever run into the “House of Cards” crew since you both shoot in Baltimore?
We do. We see the actors out sometimes. And the crew. It’s like a little Baltimore bubble. Sometimes, a lot of the crew will come over if they have days off, they’ll work on our show. It’s like one big Baltimore family.
But it’s two different White House sets?
Yes, two different sets. Though I will say, for the “Veep” pilot, we did use the Oval Office from the “House of Cards” set. It was the scene where Selina gets lipstick on the rug.
It’s strange to imagine the characters of “Veep” and “House of Cards” together.
I think Frank Underwood would cause Gary to have an emotional breakdown.
Your mom worked in government?
Yes, she worked for a state representative in Atlanta and she also worked part-time for the state of Florida when we lived in Tallahassee.
So you’ve been around politicians your whole life.
Yeah, my dad also used to work for the State Resource Commission in Florida. And they had friends who were politicians in Florida. My mom also helped out with the campaign of Bob Graham when he was running for governor.
Were your opinions of politicians formed at a young age?
I don’t think I knew what was going on. I was like, “Am I getting a cookie cake for my birthday?” I just remember they were interested and they went to a lot of parties. I was more concerned with who I was taking to the homecoming dance.
Does being on the show now ever prompt your folks to share stories with you?
My dad also worked at the Pentagon. He was a West Point graduate and then he went to the Army and after that he worked at the Pentagon. So I lived in Fairfax, Va., for awhile, so I remember them always having a very positive experience around it. They really thrived on it and enjoyed it. I don’t remember being surrounded by negativity in politics.
Well, of all the characters, Gary seems the most gung-ho about politics. Or at least gung-ho about Selina.
Yeah, I think Gary is one of those guys that, he’s surrounded by people who are incredibly negative and are trying to posture and Gary’s just wide-eyed and happy to be there. He’d be Selina’s lapdog until he dies. The challenging thing about this season is with Selina as president, he doesn’t have as much access to Selina. Gary would rather Selina scream at him than distance herself from him. For Gary, that’s emotional suicide. It’s a tough time for Gary.
Do you think Gary would take a bullet for Selina?
I do. I think there is some really unhealthy idolatry going on. I think in Gary’s eyes, his dream would be they get married. He dreams she would wake up and find he’s the man she’s been looking for. Whereas, I don’t think Selina even knows Gary’s last name.
How is it making the Chipmunks movie?
This has been really fun. I’ve never done a kids’ movie like this and it’s actually the first thing my daughter will be able to see of the work that I’ve done.
Between this and your children’s book, “Archibald’s Next Big Thing,” it must be great to finally share your work with her.
With the children’s book, the sister of the main character’s name is Loy, which is my daughter’s first name. Loy was able to help design the character’s outfit, her hair. She was a big part of the process.
Archibald’s story was informed by your anxiety as an actor, always looking for the next big thing. Did you have that same sense of always looking beyond as an author as well?
It’s a message that I struggle with myself. Being present. Our business is based around always looking for that next gig, so it’s a reminder that I always need just to wake myself up to where I am. It’s something I’m working on. As an author, though, it was just a cathartic process. I wrote it with my buddy, Tony Biaggne and it was just a really fun project. Acting has been my main career for 20 years, but that felt more like a fun hobby.
Are you going to write another?
We do have an idea to do it. I think we’re just trying to find the time to get together and write it. I don’t want to say what it is yet, but it’s another fun message to put out there. We’re just letting it happen when it happens.
Brian Grazer recently revealed that 17 more episodes of “Arrested Development” are coming. Did you know that before it was announced or do you learn about it when we do?
I get all my news from the Internet. I was surprised as everybody else. I don’t really know what the bigwigs are doing. I know there’s a lot of things that have to be pulled together, like the schedule and the writing before it happens. But I know that all of us would absolutely, hands-down jump at the chance to do Mitch Hurwitz’s material again. I love the surprises of the show. An actor lives for that. It doesn’t fit any mold or formula. I never have guessed some of the story lines he gave Buster. To think there would be another series of episodes, that’s an actor’s dream.
Do you sometimes feel like you’ll be asked for the rest of your life if there’s going to be more “Arrested Development”?
The fact is, I hope I do. It’s material I’m crazy about. It’s a great show and great people.
Follow me on Twitter: @patrickkevinday
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