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Arrested Development’s Tony Hale on Going Nude and Buster’s Dark Turn

[Spoilers for those who have not watched all fifteen episodes of Arrested Development's fourth season.] Of all the Bluths, Buster has the least amount of screen time in the new Arrested Development — the unfortunate result of Tony Hale’s commitment to his other show, HBO’s Veep. “I would have loved to have been able to do more, but scheduling was a little tough,” Hale said. Fortunately, Buster’s 35-minute chapter (“Off the Hook”) revealed many new sides to the youngest Bluth, who spent time motherless, back in bed with Lucille 2, back in the army, fitted with a big bionic hand, moving on to a new mother, who then became a lover … Vulture spoke with Hale, next appearing opposite Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in The Heat, about Buster’s (too quick!) spiral out of control.

Your nude scene with the sewing machine was very Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. So dark for Buster! How did it come about?
Oh god. Well, we were talking about how Buster begins to lose his mind and he’s making clothes for his dummy mother, and I was talking to [series boss Mitch Hurwitz] and [laughs] … I was like, “You know what? I wanna be naked.” It probably scarred my family’s eyes for the rest of their lives. Of course, the next day, you’re like, Oh god, oh lord, what did I do? But I have such huge respect for Mitch it was like, whatever. I knew it was gonna come out right and funny. I guess I was inspired by the madness of it, the absolute chaos of someone spiraling out of control, like in The Aviator when Leonardo DiCaprio [as Howard Hughes] is in that theater losing his mind. Buster’s already in a detached universe. This just took it a step further.

And then we find out Lucille’s only been away for two days.
Yes! And I probably made 50 martinis in that time. Severe co-dependency at its best. He doesn’t know how to function without her.

Did you improvise the martini song, which I’ve been calling “Olive on Top (And Set It Down for Mother)”?
That was all Mitch. When we were doing the martinis, he said, “What if Buster has a song?” And I was like, “I love it!” You know, he’s probably sung this song since he was 6, making drinks for his mother. And you know she was thinking, If I’m going to get him to do this, it’s gotta be in the form of a nursery rhyme.

He’s really half a step away from becoming a serial killer by the end of that.
I wouldn’t be surprised it there might be stuff hidden that we don’t know about! But for the most part he’s more like a twisted Forrest Gump. He finds himself in these situations, he doesn’t know how he got there, doesn’t know what’s happening. This season, it took a dark turn.

Before the season premiere, you said Buster hadn’t matured at all in the past seven years. But he does answer back to Lucille a little bit, which is new.
Maybe next season there will be even more opportunity for that!

Will it be a season? Or a movie? What do you know?
Here’s the thing: I was in the dark the entire time shooting this. I’ve never been completely understanding of what’s going on. Making it, you have to be like, Let’s go! Just go with it! I remember doing press in London and we were all curious to see each other’s episodes. You’re talking to the guy who, when I went to the L.A. premiere, saw ostriches on the red carpet and said, “What the hell are ostriches doing here?” I’m still figuring out stuff that happens in my episode!

What’s been the biggest surprise for you as you watch the episodes?
I just saw the episode that ends with George Michael and Rebel in bed together. That was shocking. The Fantastic Four musical is amazing. Gob and Tony Wonder! It’s all blowing my mind.

You and Jessica Walter had several physical bits, like the tag-team smoking and Buster tackling her in the penthouse. How do you like to work those out? On the fly? Lots of rehearsal?
The show is so fast. Like, on most shows, you’d shoot four to six pages a day, and we were doing like fifteen a day. It was very, very fast because there was so much material. So we didn’t really have that much time for rehearsal, but having already worked together for so long helped. I mostly tackled her.

Was she around when Buster’s pretending to have conversations with Lucille?
She was not. Hopefully I did her proud. Lucille has such a theater-diva thing going on. I wouldn’t be surprised if she could just break out Shakespeare. That’s what I was thinking about when I was pretending to be her.

Hook hand or big hand?
I prefer the glove. I love the hook, and I had many fun years with the hook. But there’s something about the glove. It’s actually my hand, you know? They took a mold of my hand and they enlarged it, painted it to match. I also liked it because, even though Buster doesn’t have an ounce of masculinity to him, the bionic nature of the hand kind of upped his masculinity a little bit. He took out Herbert Love. And it was intentional — intention and strength? Typically, there’s neither. Light drizzle and thunder [laughs]. Now Buster is the poster child for anti-bullying.

The kicker for Buster’s episode saw him dancing alone to George Michael’s FakeBlock app. What did they tell you to do there?
I think they said, “Dance.” Buster finds music in any beat — and he can’t ignore a beat! He has to fly free! I just let go. Once you’re playing Buster, you’re living in shame. Embarrassment is never a part of it. You’re way past that.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix