Tony Hale Talks CTRL, The Informant!, and Getting to First Base With Liza

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Photo: Courtesy of NBC

Best known as Arrested Development's Buster Bluth, Tony Hale currently stars in CTRL, a web series that follows a guy named Stuart, an introverted office drone who one day spills tea on his keyboard and discovers that it has supernatural powers. The ten-episode series, which concludes today, is based on Rob Kirbyson’s short film CTRL Z, which also starred Hale and screened at Sundance in 2008. Vulture spoke to Hale about the series, his role in next month’s The Informant!, and the Arrested Development movie.

What drew you to the CTRL project?
It was a very simple idea of a guy who was kind of a loner in an office, and it’s just an everyday experience, and then this very supernatural thing of a magical keyboard comes into it. And it didn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. When you think of sci-fi, you think of Battlestar Galactica or really sci-fi things. This was just a simple thing and this magical thing was brought into it. I just kind of liked that.

Have you ever worked in an office?
Yeah. I lived in New York for nine years and when I first moved there, I temped. I temped and cater-waitered and I’d do both and I’d have to go to a new office each day and, oh, man. You’re always the guy that’s brought in if somebody’s sick and if you don’t know anybody you just sort of sit there and everybody’s kind of looking at you like, "Who’s the new kid?" and all you really care about is if they have a good cafeteria and if you get a discount.

What’s the appeal of doing something web-based? What was the greatest challenge?
I was telling somebody just the other day, there’s technically such a hierarchy in this business. You have film, that’s the ideal; then you have TV, and things like web series do not claim as much cred, but the fact is, if the material is solid and I believe and trust in the team that’s involved, I don’t care what format it is. I always admire people who do commercials because they have to put together a beginning, a middle, and an end in 30 seconds. It was definitely shot like any other single-camera show, but we really had to get a lot of story in a very little amount of time. So I think that was probably the biggest challenge.

You're in Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! next month. What can you tell us about your role?
I play Matt Damon’s lawyer in the second half of the movie. It’s just a crazy story of this guy who pulled one over on both the FBI and the company he was working for, Mark Whitacre. And to work with Steven Soderbergh was just a dream. And the story is so crazy that he hired a lot of actors who typically do comedy, not for us to make it funnier but just for us to add our quirky essence. There was one time when were all sitting around a table with Matt Damon, and all these comic actors were there and we were all silent, and Matt made a comment like "Aren’t you guys comic actors? No one’s talking. Why is that?” And Paul F. Tompkins is across the table from him and he goes, "’Cause we’re not supposed to be here." And everybody just goes, "Yeah," like, "We don’t know why we’re here."

Can you give us an update on the Arrested Development movie?
I talked to Mitch [Hurwitz] about a week and a half ago, and he’s in the middle of writing it. Everybody’s onboard and I think right now it’s just a matter of getting everybody’s schedule on the same page. And then just finishing the script.

Well, we can’t wait. It’ll be interesting to see what type of prosthesis you’ll be given. What did you do to prepare for having a hook?
You know, that’s what’s exciting about that show. Every single week you would get the script and you’d be like, "Oh, your hand's coming off and it’s gonna be eaten by a seal," or "Oh, Liza Minelli’s gonna be your love interest." Everything was such a surprise that there really wasn’t a lot time for preparation. You were just kind of thrown in, like, "Here’s your hook, and sometimes you might have a mannequin hand."

Did you ever hurt yourself with it?
No, but I had to be careful. I think it started out really sharp and I was like, "You might want to dull up this hook because God knows who I’m gonna stab." And I remember it had this little pulley system in it where I’d pull and the hook would grab things.

And since you mentioned it, how was it having Liza as a love interest?
Fantastic. She is such a gracious person. One time she took my wife and me out to lunch and told us stories about her life and her mom, who she adored. We got to see her in concert when she came out to L.A. once and she was just amazing.

We bet ...
And I got to kiss her, which was exciting.

How was that?
Great! Please — that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was awesome.