Tony Hale Talks “Veep,” “Arrested Development” & More

He would not vote for Selina Meyer in real life.

Tony Hale is all grown up – and killing it on HBO’s Veep in the role of Gary Walsh, an eager-to-please aide to Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). We spoke to the actor about what’s in store for Gary, whether he’ll reprise his role as Buster Bluth on Arrested Development, and why he’s scared shitless of House of Cards.

Season three off Veep premiered last weekend, and I couldn’t believe that your character Gary Walsh was separated from Vice President Selina Meyer.  

I know, I’m still having withdrawal about it. That was a rough night. He was not in good spirits. And what was sadder was that people were on the phone with Selina and she still didn’t want to talk to Gary. It was coming from all sides. He was not a happy camper.

Poor Gary. Can you give us a sense of what’s coming for him this season?

All he wants to do is please Selina. That is his life goal. In this season he thinks, “I need to exercise some different muscles. I’m in my 40s. I can do more. I can carry more than just a bag.” So he tries some other things out, thinking he can gain some more responsibility. And obviously it fails miserably because he really is gifted at giving her wipes. And that’s about it. He tries and it does not end well.

What is Gary’s end game with this job?

Marriage to Selina! That would probably be the end. But no, even though he does want to exercise different muscles to impress her, he’s surrounded by people in D.C. who are constantly positioning, constantly trying to get ahead. And Gary’s pretty content being in the bosom of Selina. He’s pretty content being by her side. He loves and worships her, really enjoys serving her. I think he was kid, probably, who didn’t have much value in himself and never found what he loved so he attached himself to somebody of importance and that became his identity. He really enjoys being surrounded by that importance because it makes him feel important. As much as he’s seen as a sad and sweet guy, he’s getting a lot out of it.

Do you have much of a backstory in your head about Gary?

I don’t! Other than the fact that I think he’s probably transferring some mother issues on to Selina. Maybe – I was going to bring Arrested Development into it and say maybe Buster’s Lucille issues have transferred onto to Selina. He got this job in his 20s and with the position of a body man, they’re typically in their 20s and they have no life. I imagine he got this job after college, through a relative or something. And he just really latched on to Selina and has continued into his 40s and has not left it. He’s very content. His bag, that he carries around, he treats that bag better than most people treat their dog.

How heavy is the actual bag you use in the show?

In actuality, not heavy at all, because it’s just filled with empty water bottles. In Gary’s world, I think it’s very heavy but he has developed some calluses on his shoulder. He’s altered his body a little bit. He needs to see a chiropractor. He needs to have about five adjustments per day.

I’m disappointed that there’s nothing cooler in the bag than water bottles.

Let me think what’s in that bag. There’s old script pages from weeks’ past. There’s empty water bottles that I clearly need to recycle. There is my phone. That’s probably the only smart thing in there. Gary would be absolutely mortified and have gone to human resources in the White House to have me fired if he knew what was in that bag. California Closets have nothing on Gary’s bag. Nothing only is it color-coded in there, but it’s texturally coded so he can just reach in. It’s a sad, sad situation.

Do you have a sense of how true to life the portrayal of Washington politics is on Veep?

I hope to God Veep is not true! I hope we are only scratching the surface of a greater truth. We are a satire and I pray to God that the leaders we’ve placed in high positions aren’t acting this way and they’re actually motivated by wanting to make a difference and make change rather than just build their resume and look good in public. You know what I hope is not a real reflection of the White House is House of Cards. That show scares the crap out of me! If I ever meet Robin Wright Penn I’m going to have to take a breath and not look her in the eyes. She scares the shit out of me.

So it seems that Selina is going to run for president this season. Would you vote for her?

Absolutely not! Are you kidding? I would not only not vote for her, but I would burn the ballot.

Photo: Paul Schiraldi / HBO

I don’t think Gary would appreciate that answer.

Gary would start crying if he heard me say that. He would go into a ball and start crying. Because what he would do is he would frame that ballot and probably put it in a case. And if anyone goes near it there are probably Mission Impossible lasers that will burn them.

What’s been your favorite Gary moment so far?

I honestly think what defines Gary the best is when he said yes to breaking up with Selina’s boyfriend for her. For somebody to say yes to that is so detached from boundaries and so detached from their own value and health, that’s when you go, “Oh, I get it. He really does not see it. He does not see his own dysfunction.” When they wrote that, it was like, “Aha! He really has denied his own self for her.”

Besides their apparent mother issues, do you see any correlations between Gary and your Arrested Development character Buster Bluth?

I think Gary is much more service-oriented. He really cares for people and he really wants to help. He needs to draw boundaries. He needs someone to come in and teach him healthy boundaries, whereas Buster is so paralyzed and imprisoned by his fear that he can’t even go to the pharmacy. He can’t even get past his front door. Gary can get past his front door, he just needs a real lesson in boundaries.

Photo: F. Scott Schafer / Netflix

Was it weird to come back to a character you thought you’d left behind when you filmed a new season of Arrested Development for Netflix last year?

It was so weird! As an actor when you finish a role, you go through this “That’s a bummer I’m not going to do that again,” especially when it’s a character you’ve played over and over on a show. It’s sad to say goodbye to a character and mourn and move on to other stuff. [I] was done with Buster. Even though there was talk of bringing it back, you still have to put it to rest. And then when they brought it back and I stepped into those pastels and those argyle socks and the hook, it was weird. You revisit something you’ve said goodbye to. There’s a lot of pressure that’s been placed on Arrested Development and you worry, “Am I going to be able to match that?” But once I heard Jessica Walter’s degrading, patronizing, critical voice, it was like riding a bike again. I clicked right back in.

Do you know at this point if there will be more Arrested Development in the future?

I don’t know. I get that question a lot. I, of course, get all my news from the Internet so I find out when everybody else finds out. We all, obviously, just think Mitch Hurwitz is amazing and the surprises he writes are something every actor dreams about. It doesn’t fit any mold. It’s something that’s so unexpected and that’s what you want to do when you’re an actor. You love that rollercoaster. You love not knowing where it’s going to go. If they greenlit anything, everybody would be right back onboard.

Photo: Netflix

Do you have any other projects that are upcoming?

I do. I’m doing a couple of movies I can’t mention yet. But what I’m really excited about is that I’ve got a children’s book coming out in August. It’s called Archibald’s Next Big Thing. It’s built on a big lesson I learned in the business where I was constantly thinking, “What’s next? What’s my next role?” And you can get in this cycle of constantly thinking about what’s next and you’re forgetting what’s around and where you are. My friend once told me that you have to wake yourself up a hundred times a day to where you are. It’s that whole lesson that I want my daughter to know – that it’s wonderful to dream and it’s wonderful to have ambition, but also there’s big and beautiful things around you today, right now. So the book is about a little chicken who’s trying to find his next big thing and he goes on all these adventures, but every time he’s on these adventures he’s like, “I’ve got to get to my next big thing.” In the end, he realizes the big thing is exactly where he is. There’s this little bee who travels around with him and he says, “You have to just be.”

That’s so cute!

Isn’t that sweet? I’m probably going to be reading this book every single day of my life, reminding myself. But I really want my daughter to know this lesson because I think it’s a very very valuable lesson. It’s a lesson I have to remember. We get so wrapped up in what’s next and what ifs. Like, right now I’m having an awesome conversation with you and that’s where I am right now.

Photos by Cullin Tobin / LEAN @ Ignition