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Tony Hale on Veep, Hair Extensions, and Where Arrested Development’s Buster Bluth Is Today

Tony Hale
Tony Hale. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Where would Vice-President Selina Meyer be without her body man? Gary Walsh is more than just an assistant to the Veep on Veep he carries everything she needs, whether it be a fun factoid to greet a guest, or a metal stool to help her reach the proper height at the podium. He is, as he says, her moon. But when Tony Hale, who plays Gary, is not orbiting Julia Louis-Dreyfus, he’s starting to get back into gear to play his equally codependent character Buster Bluth for the fourth season of the resurrected Arrested Development. Gary and Buster have so much in common, Hale was able to share with Vulture some thoughts on how his two worlds might collide. Two words: Liza Minnelli.

How much room for improv do you have on Veep?
We rehearse for five to six weeks before we start shooting, so the script just starts one way, and then you dive in and play with it and help it morph into what it becomes. And we establish the relationships with these characters, so the lines sound organic. Like [in the scene] when we were in the receiving line at a party, and I’m whispering in [Selina’s] ear? Julia and I sat down beforehand to play with some ideas, so we would add things like how Gary is a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine, so he can say, “I love your brother!” to the guy who has a brother in the band. “I love his music.” And of course, Selina thinks that’s ridiculous.

Do you and Matt Walsh ever get confused if someone yells out, “Walsh!”?
Oh! That’s awesome. I’ve never made that connection before, until this very moment. [Laughs.] Is that how slow I am? I wonder if it was intentional to have my character have the same last name as him. But he’s lucky, because I don’t think I’ve ever played a character named Tony, and he’s always getting to play characters named Walsh. I think most of the time, I hear Selina yell, “Gary! Gary!” And then if she’s really pissed off, “Gary Walsh!” You know, like a mother would yell at a son?

Well, Gary and Selina’s relationship has certain echoes of a past mother-son relationship that you’ve played.
I can’t get away from codependent relationships with women! [Laughs.] God, with both Lucille and Selina, I just get all the abuse. But at least it’s different kinds of abuse. Both Buster and Gary just worship the women in their lives, except Buster had this coddling and degrading thing, and with Gary, I think it’s a love-hate thing. Gary should have left that position a long time ago, but he’s so wrapped up in her, he wouldn’t know who he was without her. It would be like taking a piece out of him. And if Buster were in Gary’s situation, he would have a thousand psychotic breaks! [Laughs.] His fallback is complete anxiety. And Selina wouldn’t even notice. She would just destroy Buster with her words, and he would fall apart at one scream. He would disintegrate into a puddle in the corner. And if she couldn’t stand the thought of having a dog with three legs, how would she respond to his hook or fake hand? That would not go over well. But Lucille would love having a Gary around  — and having all her crap in one bag.

What do you think is in that bag for Selina?
Weird things. It’s like a magician’s hat. A Pandora’s Box. All sorts of stuff you don’t expect — I mean, who carries a full metal stool in their bag? Probably some Spanx. A lot of Xanax. Some hair extension options, because you might be at a function where you want to put your hair up, in either a long ponytail or the braid. Or what if she were presenting at the MTV Movie Awards? She might want to put a streak of purple in her hair.

Do you think there’s room for a Veep-Arrested crossover? Or you could lure Julia back to play Maggie the blind lawyer …
I think she’d totally be up for that! How good is she, by the way? She is just effortless as Selina. It’s so fantastic to watch, because when she was on Arrested, we never had any scenes together. I definitely want Liza [Minnelli] to come back. She was so fun, and she’s such a great lady. I would love to see her again.

What do you think Buster’s done with the last six years of his life? And what would you like to see happen to him in the new season of Arrested?
Well, at the time, he was like a 7-year-old trapped in a 32-year-old’s body, so now he’s a 7-year-old trapped in a 38-year-old’s body. I don’t think he’s changed much, emotionally. Here’s the thing: Lucille would have encouraged Buster to get a job, but she doesn’t want him leaving the house, because he needs to zip up her dress. Even when he steps out, like with the army, he’s always running back home. And quite frankly, I don’t know if society’s ready for a Buster out there in the world. Unless he can find other Busters.

I think Buster would be one of those guys who goes to a lot of unique conventions. He studied cartography, so maybe a cartography convention. He’d be good with people who stand around and don’t know how to communicate with each other. I’m actually really excited to step back into his brain, and I’m really excited for the surprises of what’s happened to them. I’m so stoked to hear about that.

You don’t know yet? They’re already writing the episodes.
Yeah, but you have more information than I do! [Laughs.] And that’s probably by choice. I really do want to be surprised. All I know is this summer is the plan for the show. I think not everyone of us is going to be in each episode, to allow for some flexibility. And the movie is just in the ideas stage.  

Any guest appearances you want on Veep?
If we could have Liza Minnelli on Veep, that would be amazing. Maybe she would be part of some big D.C. scandal, like she’s the madam who arranged for all of these powerful men to have these underground affairs. That would be pretty awesome. And then she tries to steal Gary from Selina, because I’m so good at what I do, and I start to live a double life. That would be a story.

Tony Hale Imagines Buster Bluth Today