Tony Hale – Veep (TV)

April 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

As the odd, neurotic and completely attached momma’s boy Buster Bluth in the popular television show, “Arrested Development,” actor Tony Hale embodied a character so weird that it took some time to get back in the swing of auditions after the popular series on Fox was cancelled in 2006. Though still a bit neurotic and eccentric, Hale has moved to HBO where his performance as Vice President Selina Meyer’s trusty bag-man/right-hand-man Gary Walsh earned him an Emmy win last year. In a phone conversation, Hale and I spoke about that Emmy night, his character’s built up aggression, his work on “Arrested Development,” and some directions the show is taking as it enters its third season on Sunday, April 6.

I wanted to start by congratulating you on your Emmy. I know it’s a little late.

I know, it’s crazy. It was a nutty night.

It was so exciting to watch because not only did you have your win, but when (co-star) Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her award, you both went up and accepted in character. Can you talk a little about what it was like to get that win and then have that huge laugh with her speech. You kind of had two moments there.

That night was soooooo fun. And so crazy. It was just like one big ride. The truth is, the simple fact that I was even on that list was overwhelming enough. That was such a highlight to have my name included with all those other guys and be in that category. That was overwhelming. It was one of those things where going into the Emmys I really checked my expectations. In my eyes, just being there was such a gift. When I won, I felt like my mind was exploding. I remember I had to look to my wife for her reaction in order to believe that it actually happened and they called my name. So that was so crazy and awesome and fantastic. And then when Julia won…she had called me that morning and discussed that she wanted to do this bit if she were to have won. It’s one of those things that of course you say yes and I was thrilled, but in the back of your mind you’re like, “Oh crap, this could really bomb.” I could really make an ass out of myself. Even more than I already do in my characters. Once we got up there it was fun. Any time I can work with her and ride that comic wave with her it’s just awesome.

One of the things that I love about “Veep” is how well defined every character is and how the audience is familiar with their qualities so you can find humor in really small things. Can you speak about the character development in “Veep” and being a part of an ensemble of such strong characters?

The whole thing is credited to (creator) Armando Inannuci because he has such a history with “The Thick Of It” and “In The Loop” of political satire. How the writers have developed the characters and storylines and the tightness of the script, that really is a credit to that whole team. To be a part of that team is just awesome. It’s one of those things where the more and more I do Gary, the more I realize that he’s just a mess. He’s in a job that he probably should have left in his 20’s but he’s gone into his 40’s. All he wants to do is be in the bosom of Selina Meyer. He just absolutely worships her. You see a real sweetness in him, too. Where everyone else is kind of positioning for power and trying to get ahead, Gary is very content. I will say that in this season he begins to exercise some other responsibilities. All he ever wants to do is impress her and show off to her. So he is trying to maybe show off a little bit and exercise some other things and obviously that fails miserably. It’s fun, man. What the writers did to Gary, knowing what kind of a character he is, it’s fun to do.

One of the trademarks and best things about the show is this creative cursing that we’ve come to know. It seems like every character except for Gary gets to partake in that. As an actor, does your character not having that tool in your toolbox that your castmates do…does that make it any more of a challenge to find a laugh in different places?

That’s a good question. I haven’t gotten that question before. I like that question. I think with Gary, there’s a lot in the tension of wanting to say something, but he holds back a lot. So just in his civil silence, when he’s being reamed or when he wants to ream somebody else, you can just feel he’s about to explode. I’m tellin’ ya…one of these days Gary is going lose his shit and it is not going to be pretty. It is going to be a hurricane of emotion. He has held a lot in and I think all he wants to do is just absolutely go off on Dan. He’ll never go off on Selina because that’s like going off on the messiah. He’ll never do that. But when it comes to Dan or when it comes to Jonah, one of these days his dreams are going to come true and he is going to lose his mind. And that’s not going to be a pretty day. That’s going to be a day you want to stay home.

I can’t wait to see that.

Me too! Me too.

We didn’t see much of it in Season 2, but there’s an ongoing thing of Gary having a problem with not feeling validated for his job or really even his life. Where do you think that stems from and do we see it come to a head in Season 3 at all?

I don’t know if his father ever comes into the picture, but he’s transferred a lot of his mother issues onto Selina, which seems to be a theme in the characters that I do. There was one line where he said, “My dad wanted a man” or something like that when he was sitting on the bed with Selina last season.

I think it was, “He wanted a man for a son.”

I know! He wanted a man for a son. Such a sad thing. He never acknowledges his own manhood because its never been affirmed enough by his dad. He’s desperately trying to plea through that in a phone conversation in the first season. One of these days I want his dad to show up and you know he’s probably just a detached football coach somewhere. All he ever wanted to do was have his son play sports and all Gary wanted to do was pick out Selina’s wardrobe.

You bring up that episode, which was “Running” and I believe your Emmy submission episode. How fun was it to play that excitement in Gary knowing that it would all come crashing down. That was the one thing he always wanted from that relationship.

Oh yeah. And in show time, it was about a 2-4 hour time where she was saying everything he had ever dreamed of. She wanted to go to his parents 40th wedding anniversary. They were going to dance. She was telling him how much he meant to her. It was the entire emotional bank that he had invested in for the past 15-25 some odd years was manifesting itself before his eyes. And that was his nirvana. He was experiencing his nirvana. And unfortunately it was a drug induced statement because of the St. John’s Wort that he had given her. But in those moments in time, he was on cloud nine. Then it obviously it came crashing down when the drugs wore off and he was back into his deep depression. There was also another moment in Season 2 where they were at Catherine’s party and she made a joke about “if I told you to kiss me, would you kiss me?” She’s joking and Gary took it very seriously and said, “Yeah. Absolutely I would kiss you.” In a perfect world, they’re going to be married, in Gary’s eyes. He’s desperately looking for those moments in time where she can finally wake up to the reality that Gary is all that she needs.

Most of the writers and directors that you work with on “Veep” are British, and yet there is no culture barrier that you find when you watch other British shows. How do you think the writing staff has been so successful in crafting a show that has a British sensibility but everything is in the realm of American politics and culture?

I love it. I mean obviously, because they’re British they’re on the outside looking in to our political system. Whereas we are very used to our political system. So it does bring that perspective. There are a few times when we are reading scripts where we have to say, “Yeah, that’s a Britishism.” Words will come out and we’re like, “We’ve never heard of this word.” We’ve had to replace it with American lingo, but they know a lot more about our political system than I know. Which is sad to say that. They are really in tune. It’s just a perspective that I think brings a uniqueness to the show.

As a diehard fan of “Arrested Development,” actually sitting down and watching the new episodes as they came out after so many years was a completely surreal experience. Was it the same for not only returning but doing press and actually seeing it come out and people talking about it?

It was. It was one of those things where you’re in it, you’re doing press and then you’re just kind of feeling like you’re in a time warp because it had been about seven years since we had finished the show. That’s just weird. You never get a chance to return to something you’ve done. I remember when we were shooting it, which was many months before press, my first day on set was the scene when we were all in the living room. So that was crazy because here I am in costume in my pastel argyle disaster and everybody else is in costume and Portia [de Rossi] has the blonde wig on and you’re kind of looking around going, “I cannot believe it’s been six years since we finished shooting our last episode and here we are.” They completely recreated the penthouse to the tee. It was just odd. It was really odd but fantastic at the same time because you never get that opportunity.

It almost seems like in moments where Gary is mortified or disturbed by what’s going on or looking at his attachment to Selina, there are some Buster Bluth qualities in him. Do you think that they share any of the same character DNA?

Oh yeah. I think there’s definitely some shared DNA. But the thing is, if Buster were in Gary’s environment, he would be rocking in a corner. He would have had about probably 50 panic attacks in the matter of an hour, whereas Gary has gotten very used to the pressure. Obviously he falls apart many times, but he steps up. Selina would never have hired Buster Bluth, but she knows that Gary can handle it at times. There’s been this kind of graduation with characters. Buster was the way he was. Gary is the way he is. Maybe my next character will be a little more into the realm of normality. We’ll see. Or maybe I’ll stick with the dysfunction.

The first non-Buster role I saw you in was in “Happythankyoumoreplease” and I was blown away by how great you were. Partially because you are so great in that movie but I also had you being so ingrained as being Buster Bluth that I was like, “Who is this person?” Do you ever find that people are surprised by your more grounded performances after embodying such an odd character on such an iconic show?

It makes sense to me. It makes sense to me that obviously it’s hard to see beyond Buster because it took some time after “Arrested Development” to kind of get back on the audition trail and showcase what else I can do. It’s not like somebody is going to be casting a movie right after “Arrested Development” was done and have to cast this part for a lawyer and be like, “Oh you know who would be good? The guy who played Buster Bluth.” You have to showcase other stuff and Buster was pretty much animated. He was pretty much a live cartoon. You’re dealing with those kind of extremes. I was so happy to do it, but with playing that kind of dysfunction, that’s always going to be attached to me as an actor. I had such a blast doing it and to be able to do it again. I’d do it again and again and again.

Mae Whitman – Secret of the Wings (DVD)

November 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

Actress Mae Whitman (“Independence Day”) has found time between her live-action film and TV roles to lend her voice to the sassy Walt Disney fairy known as Tinker Bell. Since 2008, Whitman, 24, has brought Tinker Bell to life in a number of straight-to-DVD movies including “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” and “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure.” In the most recent movie of the series, “Secret of the Wings,” Tinker Bell journeys into the Winter Woods to find out the truth behind her sparking fairy wings.

During an interview with me, Whitman, who is known best by fans for her role in the cult TV show “Arrested Development,” talked about what it takes to play a famous fairy and what fans of “Arrested Development” can expect when the show returns exclusively on Netflix this spring.

In the original “Peter Pan” Tinker Bell doesn’t talk. What did you think about her getting a voice and you giving her that voice?

It was amazing. I actually didn’t know what the role was when I was auditioning for it. I think that was for the best because I didn’t try to change my voice to what I thought she would sound like. I was myself and luckily there was something in that they connected with. I definitely have more energy doing Tinker Bell than I usually do, but the voice is all me.

What does it take to play a sassy fairy character?

Not too much. I would say I am a sassy human character in real life. It’s mostly just tapping into my zest for life and trying new things. I think that’s a really big part of Tinker Bell. She has a youthful excitement about life and learning.

Were you into girly things like Tinker Bell when you were a kid?

I think I was more of a tomboy. I liked to play outside a lot. I think for the most part I was into collecting bugs and stuff like that.

You’re shooting the new season of “Arrested Development” now. Was it natural for you to go back on that set again?

Yeah, absolutely. I love everything about that character and story. It didn’t take much to get back into it and have fun doing it. I’m so excited that the show is coming back. I am a total fan girl for the show. I really can’t wait.

The show has been off the air for six years. It must have felt a little surreal, no?

It definitely was. Alia [Shawkat], who plays Maeby on the show, is my best friend in real life. She’s like, “Wow, it’s so crazy we’re all back!” We’re all different, but we’re all the same. I think everyone is really excited that we get to come back and get to keep telling more of this fabulous story.

Was it ever hard for you to be the butt of all the jokes on the show?

You know, it wasn’t. I don’t really take things personally. It’s all about what tells the story. I feel so honored to be part of that story at all. I’ve always been more of a character actor, so I’ve always loved playing roles that are different and interesting as opposed to ones that are pretty. I love to play such an interesting character. Plus, I was wearing a fat suit, so that’s always very funny.

Another of your TV shows I was disappointed to see get cancelled was “In Treatment.” That was such a great show.

I loved it, too. I’m hard-pressed when I try to think of a TV show where people are not talking about their problems. To me it was incredibly smart and deep and wonderful and special. I became friends with Gabriel Byrne on that show. He is an incredible man and amazing actor. I value his friendship very much. I learned so much just being able to work with him. But I mean, nothing gold can stay. Thing pass and move along. But it’s all about what you take from them rather than lamenting on how long they stay around. For me, I learned a lot of monumental lessons from that, so the show is still with me.

What about things you’ve been in that do stay around for a long time like “Independence Day?” I bet that movie is playing on cable right now somewhere. And next year it’s going back to the theater so we can see it in “3-D.” I know you were a little girl when you filmed it, but could you have imagined the incredible staying power of a sci-fi film like that one?

Yeah, it’s crazy. Sometimes a film like that does stick around and it’s very funny and fun. I’m like, “Yes, I was the President’s daughter.” I love that kind of thing. Every project I have done has changed me in some way. “Independence Day” was a huge one for me. I’m so glad it was a big hit. I can’t wait to go see it again at the theater. I’m really excited it’s coming back out and that people still have an appreciation for it.

Since you started so young in this industry, is there something specific you can say you’ve learned about yourself over the years as an actress?

Yeah, I think I do my best work when I’m feeling really good. I’m feeling really good when I’m doing something I believe in. A long time ago I heard Ray Bradbury speak and he said, “Always do it for love and never for money.” I think he’s right. I think you have to do everything out of love. I try to make as many decisions from a place of love. I think that has taken me in the right direction. I feel like I’m in a really good place right now where every single project I have my hand in is something I love and believe in. I think it really makes a difference with who I am as an actor and how happy I am just living my life.

Does the lifestyle of a 24-year-old actress ever get overwhelming for you? I can’t imagine being young and in Hollywood is very easy.

It’s a tough industry, I think, especially for girls. I think that’s why it’s important for me to do projects like these Tinker Bell movies and “Parenthood” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” They all have positive messages that don’t encourage stuff that I don’t believe in. It’s hard because so much of [the Hollywood lifestyle] is about looks and body image, but I also think there is a huge portion of it that’s not. I’ve always tried to just put myself out there and not take any of the mean stuff personally. I just really try to retain my voice through everything. Hopefully, there are people out there who will hear that voice and communicate with it. I’m ultimately trying to communicate with people who might feel like me – someone who kind of doesn’t fit in to the norm. Hopefully I’m able to connect to at least one person like that and let them know everything is going to be OK.

What kinds of movies do you like to watch yourself?

I love watching all different types of genres. I think my favorite is the psychological thriller. I love detective stories and mysteries. Movies like “The Game” with Michael Douglas are such cool and interesting ways to tell a story. Those are the kinds of movies I like the most.

Was that your pitch to David Fincher to give you a call for his next one?

(Laughs) Yes, absolutely. David, I’m here. I always will be.

Judy Greer – Archer (TV)

June 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

TV fans have certainly seen Judy Greer around. From guest spots on live action shows like “Arrested Development,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “Californication” to the her unmistakable voice that is currently displayed in the FX animated show “Archer.” Though film fans might not know her by name, Greer has popped up in a lot of romantic comedies over the years, but more recently has been able to snag some really juicy dramatic roles in movies such as “The Descendants” and “Jeff, Who Lives At Home.”

At the first ever ATX Television Festival, I sat down with Greer to talk about “Archer,” geek out about talking to someone from “Arrested Development,” and to discuss her blossoming film career.

So I looked at everything you’re here for. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty busy weekend planned. Are you excited for the festival?

I’m excited for the festival because I think, not that I know of, there’s no other festivals about television. I think that television is kind of, well I don’t know, isn’t it kind of the most important medium? (Laughs) I mean, it’s kind of true. It’s free, most of it. So that was exciting to me. I love the projects that I’m here to talk about but I also have been, like all of us, watching television and why is there a million movie festivals and film festivals but only one TV festival?

That’s a great question. Regarding “Archer,” the show has really taken off. The ratings are great and it’s found it’s audience. What do you think makes it so successful to hit this audience that it’s now hitting?

I think it’s really smart and I think people are looking for smarter comedies. I think people like how raunchy, but like smart raunchy it is. Because it’s animated, [creator] Adam Reed can do whatever he wants. We can kind of say whatever we want. FX gives us so much leeway and Adam is such a brilliant writer. Then you have these cartoon people saying it and it’s not as horrible.

It’s what “South Park” has gotten away with for years.

Yeah, exactly. I haven’t even thought about that. So, I think it’s successful because of the script and the storylines and the comedy.

Your character in particular gets to push things pretty far. As an actress is it kind of freeing to be able to say whatever you want and FX lets you do whatever you want?

Yeah, I mean the last time I felt that way was on “Arrested Development,” which obviously was live action. But I mean, never has anyone ever let us just go as crazy as they let us. And it’s really fun to be in a room by yourself doing it, because you really can come up with all the craziest things and just go crazy. There’s no one watching you, there’s not a crew full of people that are silently judging you. So it does feel really freeing and really creative. And Adam’s so excited, always for us to come up with something better than what he wrote. And most of the time we don’t, but he’s the No. 1 at saying, “Yeah! Say it! Try it! Whatever!” So that makes it fun.

You just said something about being alone and recording. Obviously the way you make these TV shows are different from live action comedies, you have to record in a booth and everything. Do you find the same kind of chemistry with the cast that you do versus an ensemble live action cast?

No, but not in a bad way. I just literally see them two to three times a year at publicity events. We don’t all live in the same city and we don’t have a real reason to cross paths, except for that we genuinely like each other and when we do have these events and press and stuff that we get together for we’re like, “Ahhh!” but we don’t really get to visit because we’re doing work stuff. I think the chemistry is really great, but it’s not like if we were spending every day together. Although we’d probably hate each other.

That’s actually kind of interesting because to me, so much of the humor in “Archer” is really subtle. There’s a lot of pauses and people talking over each other.

Yeah, people can’t believe we don’t record it in a room together.

Does that kind of timing take a while to develop or did it just kind of come naturally. Or do you have people directing you?

I think its some of everything. I think some of it is natural to us, some of it is direction, and some of it is editing. They can do so much with our voices digitally now. And back to the chemistry thing, I was thinking, one thing that all of us have in common, the main members of the cast, is that we all have a similar sense of humor. And I think that’s why we all blend really well together. Because we all share the same comedy. I don’t know if it would work if one of the cast was really crazy. We all fit into this whole really well.

The show is coming up on Season 4. Is it something where you can make the show fast and cheap and go many seasons beyond or is it something that you think maybe has an end point in sight?

Well, I don’t know the answer to that question. I want to do “Archer” for as long as it’s as awesome as it is. And not to answer for Adam but I feel like he probably would feel the same way. He busts his ass, he writes every single script and he’s toast by the end of the season. So I want what’s best for “Archer.” I never want it to be one of those shows where it’s like, “Oh, it used to be so funny.” It’s so good that I want to preserve the goodness. I feel like Adam can do that and if he can, I want it to go on forever.

The one bad thing about TV is that some things go on way longer than they should.

I know and it’s really a bummer. And because Adam writes every single script, if he can keep doing that, (I want to do it) for as long as he can do it, because he’s brilliant.

I do have to ask…my favorite show of all-time is “Arrested Development.”

(Laughs)

Your character in particular, there’s so much memorability to that character. What was that experience like? I’ve never got to talk to anyone from that show before, so this is really exciting. Did you know while you were making it how important and special and unique it was?

Hmm…I didn’t. But I was only on like 5 or 6 episodes. The more prominent cast members…maybe they did. I don’t know, it was real lightning in a bottle, you know? I think it was a hard show to make because it was so new. Like the concept of it and the humor of it. So many shows that we love now, and I probably shouldn’t say this, I think derivative of that.

Oh yeah.

So I think that when you’re making something like that…oh also, no one was watching it! So like, we’re making this weird show and I don’t mean to lump myself in with the series regular cast because they are the heart and soul of the show. But they were making this show that was totally weird and totally different that people didn’t really support and no one watched. You know what I mean? It’s this crazy phenomenon that really finally caught on. And at the time, it was like the number one TiVo’d show. But that wasn’t giving us the ratings that we needed to make more. So that was a drag.

But there’s a second life though.

Yeah, we’ll see!

Is that something that you would jump at the chance to be a part of?

Dude…yes. Definitely.

That was a stupid question, wasn’t it? (Laughs)

No, not a stupid question but oh my God. In fact I was just at a party last weekend and I saw Portia [de Rossi] and we’re like, “Do you know anything? Do you know anything?” We’re excited if we can do it. I’m hoping I’m a part of it. I think I will be. But I never know until I’m sitting in the theater or watching it on television.

That’s what I’ve been saying for years. I won’t believe it’s back until I’m watching the opening credits.

That’s how I feel, too.

I wanted to just briefly touch on your film career. In the past year you’ve had some really good dramatic roles. “The Descendants” was great and I thought a really underrated performance in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.”

Thank you, I really love that movie so much. I really, really love it.

It’s very good. As an actress, what was it like to be able to tackle these dramatic roles and not only that, but be alongside great performers who are giving great performances.

For me it was awesome because I don’t usually get the opportunity to play parts like that. So it was a huge compliment and then the actors I was working with…I’m always blown away by other actors. Whether it’s someone as famous as George Clooney or Susan Sarandon, down to someone whose name you might not know yet. I love actors and I love working with them. Sometimes it’s nice to work with people you don’t know because you don’t bring anything with you. You can be this whole new person. Not to say that I was approaching it in a method way, but it is fun to create this new Judy as well as creating the character with people. It helps on set because going to work people aren’t like, “Oh, you’re the funny girl, who’s the funny one, be funny!” because they didn’t really know me that way. It was cool. I was really thankful for the opportunity and hopefully it will give me a chance to do more of that. Although I don’t like to think of it as too dramatic because I always think all the comedic roles I have played could have easily had scenes like that. But it was great, and it was great to do it with both Alexander Payne and the Duplass brothers, who I hope to work for for a really long time. The Duplass brothers are a-ma-zing and like here they are gods. So anyway, it was kind of a career high, I have to say, thus far.