He's the guy getting a lot of ear action.
Tony Hale is back as the vice president's boy Friday in HBO's political comedy "Veep." In the midst of Washington chaos, he's never too far from Selina's (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) ear, ready to whip out hand sanitizer from his beloved man purse or scour her closet for the perfect clutch. If needed, he'll even take a bullet for the veep — or at least a sneeze.
The patsy role is one the actor has made an art. He'll also reprise his role as socially awkward Buster Bluth in the highly anticipated resurrection of "Arrested Development," which will premiere on Netflix in late May.
And later this summer he'll appear opposite Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in the comedy flick "The Heat."
Show Tracker spoke to the actor — and the conversation was anything but normal.
The bag is back!
The. Bag. Is. Back. The Leviathan! It’s funny you brought that up — my wife and I were like, you know what, let’s look it up on Wikipedia and see what leviathan means. Yvonne, it is a sea monster in the Old Testament. That’s what leviathan means. And it was also referenced in "Moby Dick" as a whale. So there’s a lot of power. There’s a very specific reason Gary calls the bag Leviathan, because there’s a lot of power that comes with it.
Did you have any discussion with [creator Armando] Iannucci , like, ‘dude, what is the deal with the bag? What is our back story? What should I be feeling?’
Ha! Before the pilot, they took us to D.C. and we were able to see how things work behind the scenes and meet kind of our counterparts of our characters. And I met a guy who was the right-hand man of a politician back in his 20s. And he carried around a bag, and you have anything that that person needs and you’re just with them 24/7. You have no life. And the thing is, all these guys left a couple of years after because the job is just so exhausting. Gary stayed into his 40s. Gary has not left. Gary will never leave 'cause Gary is attached. And he loves the bag.
Did you feel like you had to develop a relationship with the bag off set — like, "forget hanging with my costars, I need to hang with the bag"?
What do you mean "had to develop?" I have a relationship with the bag. We are very close. He takes better care of that bag than most people do of their pets. I think Gary actually goes home at night and practices his technique in front of the mirror how quickly he can get stuff out of that bag. There are so many pockets sewn into that bag.
Are there actual items in there or is it just stuffing?
Some of it’s a lot of stuffing, some of it is just my water bottles. If Gary saw what Tony Hale puts in that bag, he would be deeply, deeply ashamed. Deeply ashamed.
And the Leviathan’s future with Gary comes into question in an upcoming episode.
Yeah, I don’t know a strong enough word, but I think “jarring” is the way to describe it. That took Gary to another level. It was a life-altering day. It’s pretty much his Superman cape. He never wants to not have that by his side. I wouldn’t be surprised if he vacations with it.
OK, I’m sorry. I know you weren’t expecting to be deluged with questions about a bag. I’ll move on. In the season opener, we learned Gary has a girlfriend.
Yes, Gary has a girlfriend. I’m sure the girlfriend probably comes second to the bag. But, yeah, he has a love interest and that does cause some tension with Selina because his attention is divided. Not only is it causing tension but Gary — he thought this was a good idea, and I mean it is, he likes having a girlfriend, but he’s been 24/7 with Selina for most of his adult life.
Exactly — so when did he find a lady friend?
That’s a good question, because Gary’s not really a go-into-a-bar kind of guy. Maybe he met her at a local cat shelter, or playing putt-putt golf. He tends to gravitate toward dominating women, so I don’t know if this girl would necessarily be playing putt-putt. I don’t know. There are a lot of mommy issues going on. I think there’s a carry-over.
What do you think his pickup line was — does it involve the bag? Or did Dana do the picking up?
Oh, God. Her pickup line might have been "Why the hell are you carrying such a large bag?" And Gary’s response was probably, "Who doesn’t do this?"
I don’t know! I think honestly, if there was a pickup line given, I don’t think it was on Gary’s side.
Well, in Sunday’s episode, we see that this girlfriend uses some bad judgment in telling a friend about the hand gestures Selina uses to signal when she wants out of a conversation — which the friend then shared with a tabloid.
Gary has never experienced the level of anxiety that happened once Selina found out his girlfriend was behind the reveal of her precious signals. His world definitely comes crashing down. He saw her in a faultless light. So when this news comes, there’s a moment where he just needs to take it in. But then again, he’s not going to confront her; I think he’s just going to let it slide. I think the biggest dilemma is now what is he going to do? Because he’s definitely not a confrontational person. He would go back-and-forth with her about the signals, he never imagined that she would talk about this with her girlfriend. I mean, that’s right up there with the FBI.
And we saw Selina, during the end credits, tell Gary that she is very disappointed in him — which just made me want to curl up in a ball and hug myself.
She might as well have just taken a sword and sliced his chest open. Gary got kind of emotional. Mostly what he hears with Selina, even when she’s cursing him out, he just hears poems. That was the one time he heard daggers and it was mind-blowing for him.
How fun is it acting out British comedy versus American comedy?
It’s been a really fun process. We have two or three weeks of rehearsal when the scripts come in. It kind of morphs whatever it morphs into. They’re not very precious with their material. They kind of have an open-hand policy and let it go wherever it goes.
Are there times during table reads where you’re like, "we don’t really talk like that"?
Oh, yeah. There’s been a lot of British-isms. We’ll raise our hands and be like, “I’ve never said this word in my life. I don’t even know what this word means.” We always have to have that American translator, like, oh, OK, this is how we would say it. There’s a lot of that. But they also look at us, at what we say, and they’re like, “you guys are freaks.” We’re just thankful they don’t look at all of us like the Kardashians.
Let’s not go down that road. You’re Selina’s ear guy, have your lips ever accidentally grazed Julia’s neck or ear?
I wouldn’t even say the word accidentally, I would say there was a very strong intention behind the times that it has happened. We like to be as close as possible.
Does she put on extra perfume or take a Q-Tip to her ears before those all-important scenes?
Even if it wasn’t fresh, it doesn’t matter. Her, what’s the word I’m looking for? Her skin — the natural odor of her ears — that can be bottled and sold on Fifth Avenue, in my opinion.
Let's try to get serious. We’re also going to see you on “Arrested Development” very soon. What is it like to go from Buster to Gary? Because I assume you are a very Method actor.
Oh, man. It’s tough. But they are similar. I think they both have issues with women, powerful women. They clearly had dominating mothers that have carried over into their adulthood. I think there’s a huge difference in that Gary steps up to the plate and protects his woman, whereas Buster just hides in the corner. Buster is constantly in defense mode, preparing himself for any attack. Whereas Gary, if something is happening to his woman — I mean, he took a sneeze for Selina, which in his world was like taking a bullet for her. He steps up to the plate.
How strange was it that “Arrested Development” was actually resurrected from its TV grave? I mean, talk of it had been swirling since it went off the air but it always seemed like a pipe dream. When did it finally click for you that it was actually going to happen?
Yeah, there had been talks for years. It really was the fans and press that kept it alive. We would hear all these rumors and I tried not to get too excited about it. I think it definitely hit me the first day I was working, which was a day when everyone was there. It was a scene in the penthouse and we were all dressed in our wardrobe — that’s when it clicked. Because we hadn’t shot an episode for seven years so it was very surreal and exciting and everyone was just kind of wondering what they were going to give us because that is what was so exciting about it, is you never knew what was coming. It was always a surprise. Even when I started, everything was still developing. It was a fun day.
Was it hard to get back in Buster-mode because there had been such a gap, or was it like riding a bike?
Um, you know, I think I had that feeling of "can I match the expectation?" I’ve told others that the minute I heard Jessica Walter’s voice as Lucille — that patronizing voice — it just clicked. It was a Pavlovian response.
What did you think when you heard Netflix was “Arrested’s” saving grace? Were you kind of like, “eesh, what’s this going to be like?” or did it make sense to you? I mean, do you binge-watch anything on there?
We just started watching “House of Cards” — I really enjoy that.
I watch “Wonder Years” on there … and “Say Yes to the Dress.”
I’ve seen that. My brother lives in Atlanta — I think they have an Atlanta version, right? I remember seeing it on TV once and being like, “oh, these fashions bring me right back home.”
My thing is, it was a very interesting concept that I never thought of. But I’ve heard that people watch “Arrested” in bulk so it made sense, and it made sense to release all the new stuff in bulk. It’s a fun, new kind of format.
So do you suggest people binge-watch these new episodes or pace it out?
I don’t know. I know I’ll probably pace it out because I’m pretty old-school. I’m used to an episode a week. I like the anticipation of that. I think I would pace it out. I don’t know, it should be interesting.
What do you make of the sudden afterlife a few cult shows, like “Arrested,” have spurred? I mean, there’s going to be a “Veronica Mars” movie.
I think it’s very cool that that can even be possible. That’s what makes it fun again, you can feel the energy coming at you. That’s what it felt like with “Arrested,” this groundswell of support. It’s nice to have that backing, and it encourages you to want to do it.
What show would you bring back to life?
“The Carol Burnett Show” — I watched it over and over. Tim Conway is a huge icon for me. He just had this ability — he trusted the material and he trusted the situation and he never pushed the comedy. I just loved watching him. He could just move his eyes a little bit and it would just make you laugh immediately. I would definitely resurrect that.
Gary/Leviathan OTP 5EVA!!!!!!!!!!!!