unnamedTony Hale, who played Buster Bluth on Arrested Development and who we talked to in a 2009 interview called “Tony Hale Controls the World!”, sat down with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” last week. They discussed his role as Gary Walsh on HBO’s hit series Veep, which wrapped up its fifth season on Sunday. Here are some highlights.

During the interview, Hale admitted that he has a knack for playing anxious characters. He talked about his personal experience with anxiety, and his experiences with prayer and faith in response to it.

GROSS: You’ve said in the past that you used to be worried at parties that you’d be asked, “So what do you do for a living?” And if you didn’t have a role booked, you wouldn’t know what to say and you wouldn’t know how to present yourself. Can you talk a little bit about the anxieties that that kind of thing creates?

HALE: Yeah, it’s my favorite topic. I mean, there’s a reason I do anxiety — anxious characters. That comes from a lot of personal anxiety…

Aside from anxiety induced by the Law of Career Expectations, Hale says he experienced inexplicable anxiety in his childhood, too. Tracing the common ground between himself and the awkward tensions written for his characters — seeing himself in Buster or Gary — can pull out the most effective humor.

When I was younger, I remember I would get panic attacks… Many times when those thoughts or feelings came in, I would identify with all of them, and I’d be like, oh, my God, this is a lot. You know?… But what the great thing is, having that history, it’s really fun to bring that into the characters ’cause it’s fun to act out an anxiety that was so full of fear when I was younger but to act it out now and play with it, that’s pretty cool…

giphyI think with anxiety, it’s not necessarily always, like, a panic attack, you know?… Many times, it’s that silent prison that you put yourself in where you’re just standing there, and the tension and the awkwardness and the what-ifs in your head and the chaos in your head. And with Gary on “Veep,” he, many times, just sits in that tension, and you can see so much is going on in his head but he can’t say anything…you can tell that something’s about to explode in his head, and I love bringing that…

My two guys that I watched growing up were Tim Conway and Bob Newhart. I loved those guys. And they never ushed the comedy. They would always just sit in that tension. They would sit in that awkwardness. And so — ’cause I think in life, that’s kind of what we do sometimes. Like, if chaos is happening around us sometimes, it’s not always, like, run for the hills. Everybody just kind of gets really quiet and gets really still. But there’s a lot going on in the head. You know?

Is it too much to suggest that this may well be a very “Christian” form of humor–the notion of passivity, of “sitting in the tension”? In a world that wants to “push” the comedy and force itself into the spotlight, Hale’s backseat awkwardness could never not be a breath of fresh air.

Hale goes on to debunk the myth of progressing satisfaction, explaining what many of us suspect to be true but may never really believe until the experience is given to us.

I really learned a massive lesson from “Arrested Development” because here’s a show that was so well-written and so funny and the cast was so great and I really did love being there. But I remember getting it, and it’s all I ever wanted. And I remember it not satisfying the way I thought it was going to satisfy.

And it really freaked me out because it was my dream. It was my dream to be on a sitcom. And I look back, and I think even though New York was great [before “Arrested Development”] and I had a fantastic support system and I did get all these commercial jobs, I don’t think I was very present… Whatever happened I was always like oh, that sitcom’s coming. That sitcom’s coming. And I was so always far ahead.

And then when I got it, and I’d given that thing so much weight and it didn’t satisfy, it really woke me up… And it really gave me an opportunity to kind of assess some things and look back in my life and be like I just have not been very present. And since then, you know, through just kind of walking through that awareness and therapy, just it’s — practicing being present has made things richer for me, honestly. I kind of suck at it. I’m getting better at it. I’m not great at it. But I’m trying to work on it.

When asked if he is now a more secure person, he responds, laughing:

excitedwowhappyarrested-developnettony-halebuster-bluthThat I attribute to therapy. I mean, yes, maybe with certain jobs, I’ve become a lot more comfortable in my craft. But I think, honestly, it relates to also — sorry if I’m, like, going on tangents, but also relates to kind of fame… I think the base of fame is, everybody wants to be known, honestly. And people look at fame as that’s, like, the ultimate being known and whoever’s famous, man – man, they’ve got their crap together. But in actuality, if you’re known by people who love you and you’re known, that’s all the knowing you need. And actually, people who are famous and have – have a lot of people know them, that can actually make you less known, personally, because a lot of factors are involved in that…

I think prayerful meditation, being still in a space, being still with God — I don’t do that enough. And it’s crazy because when I do do it, I always walk away from it going, “Why the hell am I not doing that more?” Because it’s so centering and it just broadens the picture of life, really. I mean you just kind of go, we’re spinning on a planet here, and I’m giving a lot of anxiety and a lot of weight to stuff that just doesn’t matter. And it just so focusing.

And so even having this talk with you, it’s like, man, I need to get back to that. I need to do that a lot more than I’m doing.


In the most explicitly religious portion of the interview, Hale talks about meeting his wife at church:

My friend and I actually had started this group called The Haven where we had met a lot of people who are artists whose faith was important to them, but they maybe weren’t necessarily supported by their church back home or they weren’t maybe supported by the Christian community with what they were doing… And she had come to that. And we met and just kind of hit it off…

I think any time in someone’s faith journey — my faith journey also — you go through doubting. I think you kind of have to go through that, honestly, just to ask the tough questions. And so I think there’s always been some redefining — I don’t know if ‘redefining’ is the right word but just making it more mine rather than maybe something I grew up with, because I was raised in the South. And I was raised in the Baptist church.

And yeah, I mean, it’s everything to me. It’s incredibly — to walk through this — I mean, life is crazy. And to know that, honestly, a loving God is walking through it with me is very comforting for me. But I’ve been through my own times of just, like, what does this mean?… And I’ve thankfully had a lot of people around me who have allowed me to ask those questions. And we’ve talked about it and walked through it together and struggled through it. And, I mean, that’s very, very important. And it’s important to have those people around you you can be honest with.