Tony Hale is not Buster Bluth. He’s also not Gary Walsh. And that’s a good thing, because his two iconic TV characters are both deeply awkward people.
When Hale arrived to record the second episode of The Last Laugh podcast, he exuded a warmth and ease that is often hard to find in Buster or Gary but seems to come naturally to the 48-year-old actor.
Hale has won two Emmy Awards for playing the ultra-loyal servant to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer on Veep, which just premiered its seventh and final season on HBO this past Sunday. Before taking on that role, he was best known as the youngest Bluth sibling on Arrested Development, which just wrapped up what the actor says is almost certainly its final season on Netflix last month—16 years after it first premiered on Fox.
Our conversation centered on those two shows as well as some upcoming projects, including a pivotal role in Pixar’s Toy Story 4. But more than anything else, Hale told me he is just trying to stay “present” now that this life-changing phase of his career is coming to an end.
“Those first three years of Arrested, I was really overwhelmed because the whole time I was thinking, I should be feeling differently,” Hale told me. “And it’s because I’d just never been very present in my life. And so over the course of a lot of therapy and having the time to dissect that, it’s really woken me up to the many ways of being present.”
Hale even wrote a children’s book about it called Archibald’s Next Big Thing, which he is now adapting into an animated series for Netflix. The actor voices a chicken named Archibald who is always “focusing on the next big thing” while a bee follows him around, saying things like, “Hey, you gotta just be, man.”
On the ‘bittersweet’ end of Veep
“This was bittersweet. Because we, not to kind of gush, but we care about each other so much, we have such a good time together. And knowing this was the last season was like, ‘Ahh, that stings.’ However, it was both bittersweet and incredibly joyous because of what Julia had just walked through with her own health journey. We were all very happy to be back together and also excited to see how Dave Mandel was going to wrap up the show. And it’s pretty satisfying. But each time an episode went by, we were like, ‘Ahh, we got three more, ahh, we got two more and ahh, we got one more and then we all just cried on that last episode.”
On Julia Louis-Dreyfus fighting cancer with comedy
“I think it’s always hard to watch a friend walk through that, but at the same time it was so inspiring to watch her attitude through it. Obviously she’s a fighter, but she does that fighting with humor and always thinking forward. I mean, of course it gets you down, but she always just kept going. Because it’s just tough, man. I mean, she never allowed herself to spiral. When you’re faced with that kind of a challenge, it’s really tough to stay positive. And she made it a daily choice to do that.”
How Gary Walsh would fair in the Trump administration
“I know Gary wouldn’t survive in the Trump administration. I know that with Gary, there are a lot of mother issues going on. So he kind of stays because there is so much pain in him of his own mom so [Selina] has replaced that. So he’s trying to work that out with her. With Trump, I don’t know where that would go. But again, Selina puts up with Gary, because he’s pretty absent-minded. I think Trump, like he does everybody, I think he would fire him after two days.”
On the ‘throughline of anxiety’ between Buster Bluth and Gary Walsh
“I think there’s definitely a throughline of anxiety in their life. Buster is more in a state of paralysis all the time. He just gets paralyzed by fear. And he’s also so overwhelmed. Anything that happens, he’s just constantly overwhelmed. So he’s just looking at life, wondering what’s going to come at him. But then he has these moments of joy. So I remember Mitch [Hurwitz] telling me that all Buster wants in life is safety. He gets freaked out because his safety is threatened. Whereas Gary, all he wants is the love of Selina. So I would always use that in everything I did. And that’s why she would scream at him, but it’s almost so sick, that if she were to hit Gary, to him, it’s like, at least she’s giving me affection. At least she’s touching me. Because he was so desperate for her to see him and for him to feel seen by her. Whereas Buster, he loves his mother, but he would choose safety over his mother.”
On the ‘honor’ of entering the Toy Story universe
“It’s such an honor, man. It’s one of those things, you don’t realize, when they offered it to me and said we’d like you to read this, you’re obviously like, yes, are you kidding? And I’ve seen all the movies. But it doesn’t really hit you until you see the trailer or I see the poster and my character’s on there. And I’m like, oh, I am a part of this.”
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Stand-up comic Ron Funches.