Best known for his role as the neurotic “motherboy,” Byron “Buster” Bluth, on the hit television show Arrested Development, Tony Hale first got his start playing guest roles in popular series like Dawson’s Creek and The Sopranos. He is now reliving the role of Buster in the highly anticipated upcoming fourth season of Arrested Development which will be premiering on Netflix sometime in 2013. Hale has also been playing a co-star role as Gary Walsh in the HBO series Veep starring Seinfeld‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Tony Hale took some time to speak with Prefix as he dicussed his role on Veep, went in depth about the Buster Bluth character and gives us some information about what’s in store for the forthcoming season of Arrested Development. Read on and get the scoop in this exclusive interview with Tony Hale himself!
In Veep, you play Gary Walsh, the vice president’s personal aid, and you get kind of walked all over by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character. How would you describe the experience of playing this character compared to the other roles you’ve taken on?
Pretty much with Gary, like for instance, compared to Buster, all Buster wanted in life was safety so anything that wasn’t safe for him would just send him into a spiral and he wouldn’t really step up to the plate that much whereas Gary steps up to the plate. He worships Selina, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character. He’d do everything for her. He just loves her, his identity is pretty much based on her. Pretty much he should have left his job in his 20s but he’s so enmeshed in her that he’s just stayed in there because his identity is pretty much her, so the thought of leaving the job would just be like emotional suicide. He’s a really good guy. He’s a sweet guy and he’s probably the one who has emotions in that office.
Do you know any details regarding the second season of Veep yet?
I don’t. We’re actually starting rehearsals next week so I’m excited to see what’s going on. I haven’t really seen any scripts yet so I’m very interested to hear what’s coming.
Besides Veep, you’ve done some movies and a lot of television since the original run of Arrested Development, but is Buster Bluth one of those characters that kind of eclipse the rest of your career as far as fan recognition and such?
Yeah, it’s probably the one that I get the most recognized for and Buster’s just so fun to play. It’s been weird kind of stepping back into his shoes after 8 years. It’s been 8 years since we’ve been shooting it because the final season aired in 2006 and we didn’t shoot it until 2005. So it’s been awhile and it’s really wild to step back into his shoes, and he’s just one of those characters that’s almost a caricature; he’s almost an animated figure. He’s just so… he’s really lovable and he’s just out of his mind a little bit. He lives in a different reality and I think he hears things differently, when people say stuff, he hears it totally different. He’s very, very colorful. Also, he’s placed in some scenarios that are just wacky. I mean, even if Buster wasn’t as crazy as he is, the situations that he’s placed in are fun enough to do.
How much is Buster Bluth a departure from your actual self?
Hopefully a hundred percent. Buster, hopefully he’s a complete departure. He’s definitely the most emasculated character I’ve ever played. I will say that when I was first doing him, you know you’re playing the character for so long during the day, I remember coming home and my wife would many times say like, “Yeah, you’re a little hypersensitive. You need to kind of detox Buster a little bit,” [laughs].
Have you ever found yourself in real life unintentionally speaking or acting like Buster?
Um, let me think…
No, he kind of changes range and his voice goes a little higher. I’m sure coming from work though, I’ve worn my emotions welcome on my sleeve because Buster is pretty much like a 6-year-old. I have a 6-year-old daughter and her emotions are like completely accessible. Like anything can trigger tears or laughter, I mean it’s just so right there, whereas the older you get you’re a little more reserved, so Buster’s back to where he’s 6 [laughs], his emotions are right there all the time.
What is your personal favorite Buster moment or plot point?
I’d say I love the relationship with Jessica Walter, my mother on the show. I love that scene when he kind of goes off on her when he goes on that cussing rant that was bleeped in one of the earlier episodes. I think he loves his mother but he has a lot of pent up angst and now and then it just comes out and he’s like furious, raging and screaming. Then I loved when they told me Liza Minnelli was gonna be my girlfriend. That’s a laugh, and she’s back! She’s back doing this second go around so that’s really fun. I mean, the whole thing is like a massive playground. I remember the days when they said, “Your hand’s going to be bitten off,” and “Liza Minnelli’s gonna be your girlfriend.”
You’re just not expecting it and that’s what makes it so fun; it’s just one surprise after the next where you’re just waiting like, “What’s gonna happen next?! What are they gonna tell me I’m gonna do next?” It’s fun, really fun that way.
Definitely. I think my favorite Buster moment is in one of the “Next time on Arrested Development” sequences where Buster gets a hold of Franklin and goes off on his mom; “I don’t want no part of your tight-ass country club ya freak bitch!”
[laughing] That’s an example of like, where does this side of Buster come from?! These outbursts out of nowhere. It’s like, “What more is coming?” There’s a lot of layers in Buster.
Were you hesitant at all about getting involved again when the fourth season of Arrested Development was being pitched and discussed?
Hesitant? Not really. I mean, you never get the opportunity to, or rarely do you get the opportunity to recreate a character that you’ve done so if anything it was more of just kind of surreal and disbelief. You know, ’cause that just never happens so I was very excited, and it’s still very surreal. Like we were sitting in the set that’s the penthouse, my mother’s penthouse on the show, and we’re all just sitting there and we’re all in costume and looking around and we’re like, “Wait a minute. This is not supposed to happen,” ya know? I think it was Portia [de Rossi] who said it kind of felt like a time warp. The whole thing is just still very surreal and probably after we finish is when I’ll look back and say, “Wait, did that just happen? Were we there?”
Do you feel like the cast still mesh as well as you all did with the original run of the show or does it feel different at all?
This time around each episode is kind of centered on a character, then there’s a lot of other people brought in, so there’s a lot of stuff we do together, then there’s a lot of stuff we do separately, but the time we have had together, yeah, it’s kind of like riding a bike again. I remember the first time we all got together was in the penthouse and half of your body is like, “What?!” and then half of your body is doing it so I’m finally getting to a place where I’m like one hundred percent doing it ’cause there was still a portion of myself looking at me going, “What are you- wait, why are you here again? Why are you doing Buster?” Just because it felt very surreal.
So I know that Jason [Bateman] kind of blew it on revealing Adam DeVine’s cameo but can you reveal any other cameos or plot points or anything from the new season?
The thing is that I kind of don’t want to just because it’s, you know, it’s really cool how Mitchell [Hurwitz] has done it and I want people to- and I also wanna be surprised because I think there’s gonna be a lot of puzzle pieces that are gonna come together once it airs. I want people to have that experience. I want people to have that experience of when it happens, just that excitement when it happens of seeing it. So I kind of don’t wanna share anything because I think it’s cool for them to see how it all comes together.
Yeah, it would take away from that experience and I want everybody to have that.
So what about the Arrested Development movie? It’s been in talks for quite some time. Anything you can tell us about it?
Well right now I think we have so much work. Mitch and the writers, Dean Lorey and Jim Vallely and all these guys put so much into these episodes that I think probably right now they’re just getting through this, kind of making this happen and doing the next step if this movie happens or not. So right now I think there’s so much more focus on the episodes and we’re gonna see what happens later.
I’ve read things about how some cast members may have been iffy about doing a film version of Arrested Development. Was there anyone in particular that wasn’t up for it originally or was everyone more or less on board?
What I’ve experienced is that everybody’s on board because we all have just crazy respect for the writing and for the experience and the show. I mean, everyone that I’ve talked to, we’re all thrilled. I haven’t really heard anything other than that.
What has ultimately been your favorite thing about being a part of the Arrested Development phenomenon?
I think just the things that Buster’s been put into. Just the crazy situations, to be able to react off of what they give us, what they’ve written. That’s just fun. It’s just fun to be able to play in this world that is really, really chaotic and really dysfunctional. It’s hard to put into words, to be able to be placed in that world that is just complete and utter craziness [laughs], and then just to kind of see what happens, you know, and to react off of it, live in it and then go home and live your life. It’s fun to step in and out of that. That’s definitely by far been the coolest – and of course to wear Buster’s crazy clothes. His argyle and pastels. Buster would look at me today and be like, “Wow, you’re boring. All your Earth tones are exhausting.”
So I take it you don’t dress like that at all?
[Laughing] No, no.
I love those pink pants. Just phenomenal.
Right?! Buster’s got some balls to wear that stuff. I don’t know if I have the balls to wear it.
So between working on this new season of Arrested Development and the second season of Veep, is it leaving you room to work on anything else?
Really, that’s it. I’m about to go to Baltimore for about 4 months to shoot Veep so that’s really the focal point right now and then finishing up Arrested so that’s kind of been our world since August so, you know, as an actor you’re just always thankful for the gig [laughs]. Just gonna see what happens next, ya know?
Is working on both shows clashing at all as far as your scheduling?
Not really. I’m really thankful for how the schedules have worked out because I was able to shoot Arrested before Veep and I was even able to do a movie over the Summer; this movie called The Heat with Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig. Just like a small part. It’s just so nice when jobs like that can work out because sometimes they kind of clash and you’re not able to, and as an actor, many times you’re always looking for gigs so when two gigs come at the same time you’re like, “Ahh, crap!” So really it’s always a gift when it works out.