‘Veep’ Star Tony Hale: “There’s a reason why I do anxious characters — it comes from a lot of personal anxiety!”

Tony Hale Veep

“In your head, actors can be like, I want to have something coming up or having just done something, to have something to talk about, which is a really unfortunate way of thinking.” – Tony Hale

Actor Tony Hale appeared on over a dozen television series — from Dawson’s Creek to The Sopranos to ER — though he has gained the most fame from his regular role on Arrested Development, and later his prominent role on Chuck. He’s continued his television success on Veep as the Vice President’s “bag-man” and personal aide. The role has brought him two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Speaking with NPR, Hale talked about portraying his Veep character, how he landed his breakthrough role on Arrested Development, and why most of his characters have an anxious air about them.

One aspect of Gary that Hale highlights is Gary’s odd ability to produce often-unhelpful facts that he passes along to Vice President Selina Meyer. He points out, “The thing about Gary that’s fun to play is he knows nothing about politics, doesn’t care to know about politics, but he knows these random factoids about people. So he’ll just whisper in her ear, ‘His daughter’s in rehab,’ or ‘He likes eclairs,’ or ‘He’s a fan of Britney Spears,’ or something just random, so she can have these conversation pieces, which are probably not good conversation pieces to have, but he thinks so.”

Of course, Gary isn’t much different from Hale’s character of Buster Bluth on Arrested Development — “I guess I just do emasculated and meek very well,” Hale admits. He spoke about how he landed the part on the cult-favorite series:

I was living in New York … and towards the end of my time there I had been doing commercials and theater, and this audition came my way, and I was a big fan of Christopher Guest movies, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show and stuff, and this script reminded me of that. … I had just been doing commercials and had done very little television, so I was thinking, This is such a longshot, but I’ll go in and put myself on tape. And they called me out to LA for a callback, which was crazy, that’s crazy. I remember telling my then-fiancée, ‘What’s happening?!’

So I flew out to LA and went to the audition and got the part, which is nuts. … I think I had to stay out there, we were going to go right into shooting and I remember I didn’t have any underwear, so I had to go to Old Navy to get underwear, and I was just so overwhelmed by the experience.

I loved [creator] Mitch Hurwitz, and I loved the writing, and the character and it was quite crazy. I moved back to New York and I was done and then 10 days before I married my wife the show got picked up and I was like, ‘Sweetie, we’re moving to LA,’ and she kindly followed me.

As fans of Arrested Development know, the show was always on the verge of cancellation — and it was cancelled before its revival on Netflix. Hale confesses that part of his anxious persona is a reflection of his real-life anxiety when it comes to landing roles. He says:

There’s a reason why I do anxious characters — it comes from a lot of personal anxiety! I remember being in New York and thinking, I want to have something in my back pocket to be able to talk about, and if like three or four months had gone by since doing the job, I’m like, Ugh, that’s too much time to bring that up in conversations. So you wanted to have something relevant. …

I think in this business you get the question of like, ‘What’s next for you? What’s next for you? What’s next for you?’ … You don’t go up to a dentist and say, ‘What’s next for you?’ ‘Oh, I’m doing this molar and I might do a cavity.’ Since we’re freelancers, people are curious, which I think is great, but you kind of always want to have something in your arsenal. … I don’t think it’s right, but in your head, actors can be like, I want to have something coming up or having just done something, to have something to talk about, which is a really unfortunate way of thinking.

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