Tony Hale - The Backlot Podcast - New York Film Academy

Eric: Hi, I’m Eric Conner senior instructor at New York Film Academy. And in this episode, we bring you an Emmy winning actor who’s appeared in two of the greatest comedies of all time, Veep and Arrested Development, not to mention over 100 other credits, including Playing a Suicidal Spork Come to Life, the fabulous Tony Hale.

Tony: Well I was an Army brat? So we moved like seven times before the seventh grade or something like that. And then we settled in Tallahassee, Florida. So most of my childhood was in Florida. And then I was I was not a kid who was into sports. And so my parents just kind of didn’t know what to do with me. And they found this little children’s theater called young actors theater and which I’m incredibly grateful for. Cause I they kind of sign me up for that. And and I’m I’m such an advocate for arts and schools, just because even if you don’t make it a career like I did, certain personalities need that environment to thrive. So even if I didn’t go into it, I just was a kid that needed that environment. So I’m really, really grateful for that. And then after that, I went to college in Alabama.

Anne: And then when I met you was in New York and you just arrived there.

Tony: I had just arrived there. And I studied journalism in college because I didn’t know if I could make a career out of acting. And then after that, I said, you know, I’m a dip my toe into the acting thing. And then in nineteen ninety five moved to New York. And my first show was Shakespeare in the parking lot where I did Taming of the Shrew and I was there for eight years.

Eric: Like many an actor, it was eight years filled with nos until he got the first major yes.

Tony: I moved to New York, didn’t know anybody, and I had so many jobs, so many jobs. I remember I would go through this temp agency and I never could like commit to a full week. So I would always just go day by day because you never knew if something was going to come along. And then in the lobby, they would play these Jim Carrey movies all day long. And it was like a purple room. And I saw that every single day. But I would temp and I would cater waiter and all this kind of stuff. And then I would do this thing called actors connection where you would pay money to meet agents. Sounds sketchy. And I went for like four or five times and I was like, oh, this is bullshit. I don’t know why I’m doing this. And then the fifth time I went and I met this agent with SVM MNM and she saw me as like a David Schwimmer type cause I’m like quirky and not all there. That’s how she described me, which is pretty much my entire career quirky and not all there anyway. So she started sending me out for like these kind of types. And and then the more commercials I got, the less kind of many, many jobs I had to have. That was most of my time in New York.

Eric: When Mr. Hale was first breaking into the industry. Everything was done in person as opposed to now when anyone with a YouTube account or an Instagram following can get noticed.

Tony: When we were starting, it was not the digital age, and so the way you got showcased or the way you got seen was you would do all of these like scene nights. And like we would do a lot of theater because agents would always go to theater to find new talent. And that was kind of the way to get yourself seen. And now, obviously, with YouTube and all this kind of stuff, there’s a lot more places to get seen. But back then, that was it. So it took me seven or eight years to get an agent to represent me for TV and film because they only saw me as a commercial actor. I was always the quirky guy, wide eyed, and they never could see me for TV and film. And this one manager met me and was like alright I’m going to start sending you for other stuff. And I was like, Oh, thank you. I really appreciate it. And then a year later, I think one of the casting directors who had cast me in commercials, Marcia DeBonis this Arrested Development came through and she remembered me and she saw the description and she was like, this sounds like Tony Hale. So I don’t know what that’s saying, but. And then she brought me in and they just kind of. I just remember reading the script and A I was just so grateful to have that audition. Yeah, but just thought it reminded me I was a big Christopher Guest fan. I still am with the kind of Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show and all this kind of stuff. And it reminded me of that kind of style. And so I went in and he was just kind of a manchild. And. And I remember I was in a sketch comedy group called King Baby. And there’s one character I did named singing Billy who had who would be very, very awkward and just walk into random places and just start singing. And I brought a little bit of that into Buster. But I remember with Buster is Mitch Hurwitz, who created the show. He would always tell me that all Buster ever wanted in life was safety. That’s all he wanted. And so he was always in this state of defense. Like his chin would go back his neck and his head would go back and his hands would go back like this. And he was always just like, what’s coming at me? And so he was always in this really defensive state. And that just I kind of always thought about that. with Buster. But just very kind of an innocent. You know, it’s like a seven year old trapped enough at the time, 32 year old body.

Eric: Tony Hale used Buster’s we’ll call it survival instinct as a window into capturing that character. And this process has served him well, even when he’s doing a character that at first glance doesn’t seem like him at all.

Tony: I remember doing this movie in 2006 with Jimmy Fallon, and it was he was really good. It was just not the character I was playing. I didn’t like the guy because he was kind of a player and he was manipulative and he was kind of the town douchebag. And I was just like, oh, god, I know people like this. And it’s like, I just didn’t like this character. And I went to this woman named Diana Castle here in L.A. She’s this place called the unimagined no the Imagined Life the unimagined life the Imagined Life. And I remember her saying to me, Tony, you have to realize that these characteristics are inside of you. And it was so kind of a wake up call. I had known this, but it was so refreshing because it’s that sense of the fact is I would be lying if I didn’t say I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve been manipulative. I’ve had many moments in my life where probably in a douchebag, I’m not proud of the moments I’ve had in my life where I’ve been a bit of a player. You know, it’s like. And the more that you can bring out these traits in yourself with whatever you like, you look at Buster. He deals with anxiety. I’ve dealt with anxiety. He has panic attacks. I’ve had a panic attack in my life. You know, it’s like you have to find those places in them that are inside of you. And yes, you take it to the extreme. But when you find that place in you, not only can you give the most authentic version of that character, but no one else can do that. Like you. And it’s like if I’m playing just an idea of a character, like if somebody comes up to me and says, hey, Tony, we want you to play this I don’t know football coach or whatever. It’s probably never gonna happen. But like, you know, I’m going to play this football coach. And in my head, I have an idea of the guy of Friday Night Lights. You know, that that coach. But then I think a football coach is what he’s motivating. He’s encouraging. He knows the game, whatever. But if I just try to play the idea of a football coach like that guy on Friday Night Lights, there’s a thousand other people who can do that better than me to play that idea. But if I bring out those traits within myself, how I can be encouraging, how I can motivate someone, how I can be interested in the game, let me tell right now, I might not get the job, but nobody else can do that because I’m bringing out of myself and it’s authentic. So I might not get it, but at least I went in there and did something that nobody else can do. And I did my best my best version of that. If that makes sense.

Eric: Well, his best version of Buster Bluth on Arrested Development turned him into a TV star. It was a dream role for any comedic actor. But as Mr. Hale learned, it takes more than achieving one’s dream to actually be happy.

Tony: I will say I’ve learned a lot in this business and I love, love, love talking to other actors and people who are in the business because so when I was in New York and I booked Arrested Development, that was by far my big thing. That was my dream. All I ever wanted was a sitcom. And when I got that sitcom and I was on a lot in the on the Fox lot in 2003, I realized it didn’t satisfy me the way I thought it was going to satisfy me. And it really, really scared me because I got my dream and it didn’t satisfy me. And what I realized is for most of my time in New York, I was constantly looking ahead, whatever I was going through. I was like, OK, OK, OK. But that big thing is coming. That big thing is coming. And the fact is, if you’re not practicing contentment where you are, you’re not going to be content. When you get what you want and I’m not saying it comes easy, I’m saying it’s a discipline. And that’s why I say practicing, cause I was so far in the future all the time when I was in New York, very rarely present. I just gave that big thing, so much weight. And nothing can match that. You can’t match that weight in the since Arrested Development, it really woke me up to beginning the process of trying to be present. And for instance, when I was in school, like you guys are now, I was always, always somewhere else in my head. I was always looking ahead. I can’t even imagine being in this town where you’re surrounded by all this kind of stimulus. And it’s just like it’d be probably very, very difficult to be present here. But the more that you guys can wake yourself up to where you are and try to be present and try to make the most of these resources. It only makes whatever happens, I think, that much more rich. And it’s very, very difficult. It’s very, very difficult. But it’s it’s one of those things that I woke up to, the fact that if I don’t begin the discipline of being present and waking myself up, I’m going to get to the end of my life and I’m going to look back. And every season was just me constantly looking to the next thing, having a great job. I mean, look at Arrested Development, great cast, amazing writing, awesome opportunity. Was still looking to the next thing. What what’s wrong with that equation? And to the point where I wrote that I wrote this children’s book about it called Archibald’s Next Big Thing about a little chicken that gets a card in the mail that says your big thing is here. And he’s like, where he goes on all these great adventures. But every time he’s on an adventure, he’s like, I’ve got to get to my next big thing. And this bee travels around with him and the bee’s like, you’ve got to just be man. You got to just be. And then in the end, he realizes he realizes that his big thing is right here. My big thing is talking to you guys right now. That’s my big thing. And the more that I can get in to that practice of waking myself up to the fact that my big thing is not somewhere else. It’s right here. And I will say this. It’s not that ambition is wrong. It’s not that dreaming is wrong. But if I’m honest with myself, I think when I was dreaming or when I did have ambition, I think subconsciously I was saying I will have value when this happens. Because what this business does very poorly is it says you have value when you get this. You have value in this. That’s bullshit. That is 100 percent bullshit. If you guys win an Oscar a year from now, I’m telling you right now, your personal value is the exact same today as it will be after you get that Oscar. And that’s something that you have to begin to remind yourself about because it’s very, very important. And if anything, I mean, I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunities I’ve been given. And it was so nice to have the recognition. But the fact is, you know, 50 years ago, there were people who were getting Emmys and they thought they were the shit. And it’s cyclical. It’s fleeting. It’s fleeting. So the more that I can wake up to the present and the more that I can wake up to the life around these things that are given so much power. I feel like the more of a richness it is honestly, which is, by the way, again, a discipline that I struggle with. And that I have to practice myself. Like, for instance, I have to whenever I find myself living in the what if I say not now. Right now I’m talking to a wonderful group at the New York Film Academy and that’s where I am right now. Another thing I do is I always feel things around me like I’ll feel the chair, I’ll feel my jeans, I’ll feel my jacket just to ground myself where I am. Because the fact is, most of my life I’ve been checked out somewhere else in my head. And speaking because I know you teach Meisner. One of the big things with Meisner is activities. And I think one of the reasons that’s very important is an activity and the tactile doing an activity or anything grounds you to where you are. It keeps you in that space, you know, because even if I’m talking to somebody in a scene, it’s very easy to kind of even not check out and just kind of get into the lines. but the more I can kind of ground myself there, it really does help.

Eric: Only by being fully invested in the work can an actor completely show what they alone bring to the part.

Tony: I would say I don’t know if anybody else could not play those roles, but I the version that I gave, nobody else can do that because that’s out of me. And it’s like I think that’s when you get to those honest places. And it’s really, you know, a big thing that I always remember in this town is comparison is the thief of joy. Especially with nowadays with Instagram and Twitter and all the social media, when you’re just seeing so many other people’s lives constantly, it’s really hard to not get stuck in this game of comparison. And it steals your joy. And the fact is, many times you can look and say, oh, why didn’t I get this? Why didn’t this happen? And oh, they did that. It’s like you forget your identity and you forget the gifts that you bring to the table, you know, and just to really mine those out of you, rather than that sense of like, I’m not like that. I’m not like that, I’m not like that. It’s like, wait a second. I’m falling into comparison again. And it really is. It’s I mean, not that it cann’t inspire you, but most of the time, if we’re honest comparison many times steals your joy.

Eric: Learning not to compare yourself to others is part of the work life balance that everyone in Hollywood strives for Mr. Hale points to one of his Arrested Development costars as being an inspiration for this balance. The Fonz himself. Henry Winkler.

Tony: Henry Winkler. He’s one of those. I really hope you guys can maybe bring him in one day. You might have already done that. But here when I came to L.A., I’d come from a very strong support system in New York that I really I really loved my friends and I had met some not necessarily on arrested development, but I had met some personalities in L.A. that were jarring to me. I just I was very new and I didn’t know what to expect. And Henry, when I met him, he was so gracious and so humble and so full of love and just kind of kindness. I had this moment where I was like, this guy has been in this business since before Happy Days playing the Fonz. And he can still remain that kind of a character, like having that kind of a character and that kind of integrity. And I was like, OK. I’m not saying I’m not a work in progress, but I’m saying it’s possible to have that longevity in this business and to still have integrity and character. And, you know, you sometimes you meet those people who are not that way. And I was like, damn it, that’s possible. And I’m not damn it. But I was so grateful. It’s a gift that he gave me to be like that. And it really continues to be a gift. I’ve worked with a lot of I mean, Julia’s another one, like on Veep. You know, whoever’s number one on the call sheet, who’s the star of the show, they really set the tone for the show. They set that kind of environment and many. You know, we’ve all heard these stories. Sometimes the star of the show creates kind of a fear based environment where everybody’s kind of walking on eggshells around them. Let me tell you right now, that sucks creative energy out of a space. It sucks it out. Pride, entitlement, self, all that bullshit sucks creative energy out. No need for it. Julie was gracious. She was a team player. She came in knowing the power of an ensemble. Everybody’s ideas were welcome. Her family was her first priority, not this business. And what that did is it just created this loving, trusting space where we all were able just threw ideas out and made. Just wanted to make the best show possible. And it what created that environment. I felt very like free to just be like, I don’t know if this is Gary. And they were like, totally get it.

Eric: Arrested Development also gave Tony Hale the opportunity to perform with another icon and Hollywood, royalty at that. The one and only Liza Minnelli.

Anne: I’m curious what it was like working with Liza Minnelli.

Tony: Oh, guys, she was my girlfriend.

Anne: I know.

Tony: Lucille 2, who is my mother on the show was Lucille and she was Lucille 2. I loved it. I remember the first year of Arrested Development when they came up to me. And by the way, I had never been on a lot. I had never had that much free food in my life working on a show. I was so amazed by that. And then remember somebody coming up to me and saying, okay, so we’re thinking Liza Minnelli is gonna be your girlfriend. And I was like, okay, I just need a second. I need to just digest that for a minute. But she the thing is, when you’re dealing with icons like that, you never know which direction it’s gonna go. They can be really difficult or they could be as gracious as she was. She was so lovely. And all day she would just tell me stories about her growing up and how she, you know, her mom, for those of you who don’t know her. Her mom was Judy Garland, who was Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. And just like she grew up on the MGM lot, she would tell these stories of like being in London with her mom, Judy Garland and Vivien Leigh from Gone With the Wind. And you were just like, what? And her stories never came from a place of ego. They just came from a place of like, listen to my life. Listen to my life. She took my wife and I out to lunch once and she was in the backseat and she was talking about her having just done a concert at Radio City Music Hall. And she’s talking about her music. And I didn’t really know her music. And I said oh what’d you sing? And she said, I sang the song Liza with a Z. By the way, she’s chain-smoking the entire time while telling me this. And I’m like, please, I want everything about this moment. And then she says, she says, You don’t know it. I’ll sing it for you. And she breaks out in song in the backseat of my car. And my wife and I are like, what the hell is happening right now? And the best thing is she had done the song so many times that she could hear the orchestration. So she would go like Liza with a Z. Ba-da-ba-ba-bam! And I was like, I have left my body. And then she took us to the hamburger hamlet and would just keep telling stories. And I was just like, God, this is one of those moments. I really just like, wake yourself up, Tony, to where you are. Yeah. People either thought she was Joyce DeWitt from Three’s Company, my mother, or an impersonator of herself. And I was like, this is great. And she you know, she just like, she’s old Hollywood man. And just so loving, really, really loving and lived a very, very colorful life, obviously. She’s amazing and she would sit on she wouldn’t sit on a director’s chair normally. Not normally. It was her way. She would sit like this, like she was just about to bust out in cabaret.

Anne: A little high kick.

Tony: Just a little kick, and I was. I just wanted her to. I was like, go, go dance. Do what you gotta do.

Eric: Sometimes you don’t know a moments on your bucket list until after it’s happened, just like being serenaded by Liza. Mr. Hale’s time on Arrested Development felt too good to be true. Made all the sweeter because nobody thought the show could possibly last.

Tony: If I’m honest, we were never a hit when we were on air. So we definitely held it lightly. We were always on the bubble. As they say. And we never knew when we were going to get canceled. So every year I kind of expected that we were gonna go away. And then they think I don’t think Fox was very crazy about us. But then we would get an Emmy and they’d be like, I guess we gotta keep it around. You know, so we were very grateful to the critics and the accolades we got. I think that really gave us longevity for those two and half years. But the truth is, Fox didn’t have to keep us around. They really didn’t because our ratings. So I’m very grateful that they did keep us around for what they did. But I always we were always just like we might get canceled tomorrow. And then Netflix brings us back, which was very surreal. So, yeah, I always kind of never knew when we were gonna go away. I was nervous about, you know, getting back into Buster if I was going to kind of match expectations because I had done it so long. But when I heard Jessica Walters, whose plays Lucille, when I heard her voice go Buster.

Clip: Buster.

Tony: It was like it was like this Pavlovian pain where I was like, I’m back. Just this rush of neurosis and anxiety. Well, we’re back.

Eric: Arrested Development’s rapid fire jokes and intricate structure were Tony Hale’s trial by fire. After that, no role could ever throw him for a loop.

Tony: It is intense. I like that. Like I was doing this thing recently and which I admire their process. But I was working with an actor who really, really appreciated getting the script. Many days before. I have never experienced I have I’ve only experience where the script comes that day and well not the script, but like alts are constantly flying to you. And I for something. I kind of like that energy. But like, they were very like it was very, very stressful. And I’m actually incredibly grateful to Veep and arrested because it kind of gets you in the system like almost don’t stick too hard to the script. Now, if you’re doing theater, or if you’re doing a play, I mean, obviously those words are set and all this kind of stuff. But in my experience with TV and film, it is just that page. You hold it very lightly. You have no idea what’s going to change.

Eric: Both Arrested Development and Veep have such a comedic energy, you’d assume they were mostly improved, but as Tony Hale explained, improv would have actually gotten in the way of arrested’s many plants and payoffs. Veep, on the other hand, let the actors go more off leash to hysterical effect.

Tony: Arrested Mitch Hurwitz, who created the show. He had such a comic grid in his head of like how jokes puzzled together. Like, for instance, my favorite joke in the entire series is Tobias’s in the Blue Man Group because he thought it was a support group for depressed men.

Clip: Are you crazy?

Clip: Are you blue?

Clip: Only in color, Michael.

Tony: And there was all of these hidden things of like a blue hand on the wall. And this meant this and this meant this. And so we never really wanted to leave the page because there was always like, for instance, when my when my hand was eaten off by a seal.

Clip: I’m a monster!

Tony: There was all these previous foreshadowing jokes about hand off and like arm off and all this kind of stuff that I at the time was like, these are odd. Why is there a hand chair in my room? I didn’t really understand what was going on, you know, cut to if I had that day been like, I don’t want to pay attention to the hands or I don’t want to say then I would have messed up this kind of puzzle that he had created. So we really stayed true to the page. Whereas on Veep, they had a large rehearsal process of just not necessarily new lines, but really to kind of see if it gelled, if it made sense, because we really wanted that foundation of like this could happen. You know, and so really just kind of sensing if this made sense. And and then the great thing is working with Julia, you know, we would get the lines kind of locked and then we would get on set. And then it was even more joy because we could work out the physicality. So it’s like we get on set to be like, okay, how can we bump up the comedy? And then it was like, okay. So if you drop your coat here, I’m going to catch it here. Where can you possibly hit me or or where can you abuse me more? You know, and it’s that sense that’s just like trying to find those bits to amp up the comedy. And that was there’s this one scene we did. I don’t even remember what season it was where she’s not president anymore and we go to a museum and she’s sitting behind the rope in a president’s desk just to feel like a president again. And we’re doing it in hiding. And then somebody comes and I actually pick her up and then throw her over the rope.

Clip: Hey ma’am, I think somebody is coming.

Clip: Oh. Uh oh, oh. Gary.

Clip: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

Tony: Her head came so close to the floor. Thank God that I didn’t like bash Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s head but it was I was just like it was so timed specifically to get it. Exactly. You know, and stuff like that. I’m really gonna miss. But it was so fun and it was so it looks so chaotic, but it was very choreographed. You know, it was really, really fun.

Eric: Even though he’s now become more comfortable with the form, Tony Hale did not actually have much improv training. Fortunately, the acting students here at New York Film Academy do get that opportunity.

Tony: I’m so glad you’re taking an improv class. I wish I wish I had taken an improv class when I started out because I have learned more about it and I have grown with it, but has been by being thrown in the deep end and trying to figure out, OK, what’s going on. I don’t have many regrets, but if I could go back to those anytime somebody says, oh, I wish I could go back to that time, I have no desire to go back to my early days. But I would take an improv class because there is a real I struggle with being in my head too much. Like I’ll do something and I’ll have already thought. Is it funny? Is it not funny? Is it smart? Is it not smart? And by the way, the moment’s gone, you know, and it’s like, well, I lost my moment because I was so in my head to get into that practice and exercise that muscle. Just to try it, just to put it out there might be stupid. Might be hilarious. Might be whatever. But just try it, you know? And Veep has really been a gift to me because it was a very safe space where you’re able to just throw out ideas and try stuff. And if it sucked, it sucked. If it didn’t. Hey, great. So I’m very thankful for that. But classes in the beginning. That’s the space to just free your mind up. I can’t tell you how much that is going to work for you and how much of a gift that’s gonna be for you. Like, really that’s a really great choice. I would encourage anybody to do it, actually. By the way, I remember when I was cast and I was like, I’m in a show with Matt Walsh, who created UCB. Who’s pretty much is the one of the founders of all that stuff. And I’m like, I don’t know much about improv. I was petrified.

Anne: I bet. Yeah.

Tony: But they just really I don’t know. It’s. The more I’ve done it with doing Veep for eight years, you just see it’s all from that honest space. You know of just like trying not to be funny because with sketch comedy or doing so many comedy in New York, it’s all about finding that joke. It’s all about finding that bit. It’s all about making somebody laugh. It was really just. And Matt Walsh. I have studied him. And you can see many times when he’s improving something and it’s more of just reactionary. Like if somebody says I’m an astronaut and I’m going off into space, like Walsh’s response would be like, wow, that’s a real transition for you. That’s a real like. That must be interesting. You know, it’s like responding naturally how somebody would respond. Yeah. And that’s amazing how that’s always a challenge. You know, of just kind of like, all right, listen, listen. Focus on the other person.

Eric: One of the toughest parts of the entertainment industry is well dealing with the entertainment industry, letting the frustrations get into your head and stop you from doing your best work. Even pros like Tony Hale can feel this pressure. Fortunately for him, he also found a way to deal with it.

Tony: The older I get, I realize that I spent a lot of time frustrated and not that I still don’t. But I spent a lot of time frustrated at my agents and frustrated at my reps. And then when that children’s book kind of came around and I realized how much joy I just got from generating my own stuff, and not that we ever have any real sense of like complete control. But there’s a sense of ownership and the fact like, you know what, I’m just going to do this and try to do like in New York, just like I couldn’t get a theatrical agent. I was super frustrated. I would just do plays and I would go through Backstage magazine. That was like our Bible and we would see what auditions were there. And I’m going to do this. I’m just. And it was the sense of like, how can I be active in this process rather than what I was doing is just getting very frustrated and just kind of sitting and waiting. And it’s very hard. And not that you’re not going to still be waiting for them to kind of maybe have a different opinion. But if you creatively activate yourself in something else, it’s amazing. Like even because like Veep finished in December and the show’s done and then, you know, you kind of now wonder what gigs are gonna come and all this kind of stuff. But during that time, this children’s book is now a children’s series that’s gonna be on Netflix. And it has given me so much joy. And it’s a very simple thing. And I edit these scripts, but it’s something that I’m activating myself creatively. And then whatever happens with, you know, quote, money gigs or whatever like that, just to it happens. But to kind of keep my focus on something like that has really, really helped. It’s almost like when you when I gave it so much power of waiting, it made it worse in my head rather than trying to activate myself creatively, other places, even if it’s like, you know, finding a play and doing a part in that and going to rehearsals and being around other artists. It’s just that sense like, oh, my gosh, my focus is here. And then, yes, it’s not like you’re not going to get frustrated. I could be waiting around, but it’s almost like, okay, well, 40 or 50 percent of that attention was on this creative thing. And now it’s the other half. Is that rather than all of it on the waiting.

Eric: Another potential frustration actress can face is being typecast after Buster Bluth and Veep’s Gary Tony Hale could have just cornered the market on put upon neurotics. But like all good artists, he’s looking to expand.

Tony: That fear of being typecast. I mean, it’s very easy for my work to be seen that way. And it’s like but I kind of don’t mind playing the quirky sidekick. I kind of enjoy it and kind of beaten down guy cause it’s just fun to live in that. Concerning the drama, I love it. And I the more I realize of just like I’ve already done stuff that really comes from a dramatic place. But I’m doing an indie in August that is just the opposite of what I’ve done. And it might not. The gigs that I get in my life might not be the bread and butter for my career like to pay, you know. I don’t know that yet, but it’s nice to do these indies or these side projects where you can kind of branch out a little bit. And that’s I’m looking forward to that. I’m nervous about it. I am nervous about it. Just because it’s there is something about doing a comedy where even doing Veep and arrested even off set everybody’s kind of in this energy of play. And it’s fun. You know, I remember doing this law and order years ago where I was. I was playing a dad whose daughter was kidnaped. Oh, God. And I remember telling my friends, oh I’m going to New York. I’m doing law and order. We can have drinks and it’ll be fun. I got there and I started doing this character and I didn’t want to leave my hotel room. It was so sad because you kind of have to go in the space of like if my I’ve a thirteen year old daughter, if she was kidnaped, I didn’t want to go out. I was just like, oh, God, I’m just going to go to bed because it’s a more intense environment sometimes. And so I think it’s going to be a contrast in that space. But I am looking forward to it.

Eric: And what better way to expand than playing a suicidal spork named Forky in Toy Story 4? Though being in an animated film meant he couldn’t rely on his considerable physical chops.

Tony: I was doing the voice for Forky while I was doing Veep and the interesting about it is my character on Veep is pretty much not allowed to speak. He could only live through his nonverbal. He was even called a bitchy mime on the show, and so he would only use his non-verbal because she was constantly shutting me down. And then at the same time I went to Forky, who didn’t even have any nonverbal because he had no flexibility. He was a spork and he only had these like out of control pipe cleaner arms, his googly eyes didn’t even have control, they were just kind of going all over the place. He could barely walk cause he had popsicle sticks for feet. So he had no physicality, really. And he only had his voice. And so what I did is I would actually the thing with voice acting, the more I do it, the more I realize, man, I act the hell out of that in front of that microphone and just go crazy. I mean, granted, Forky couldn’t. But I did. I was just like all over the map and using my arms because at first it’s very intimidating because you don’t have your physicality more. It’s only the microphone because as a comic actor you get very used to like, oh, I can use my eyebrow to go up. I can do a smirk. All that nonverbal is gone. So I just learned I’m doing the same acting, the same expressions, the same crazy in front of that microphone and just trusting that that’s gonna be channeled into the microphone. I saw this cartoon once that this guy’s in this voice over Booth and the director on the other side goes, okay. Can you sound like you have more hair? And it was just like, you know, just like the worst direction.

Eric: Mr. Hale gave our students considerably more positive direction. He explained that one of the most empowering things a performer can do is turn down a rule they don’t want to do. In other words, sometimes it’s okay to say no.

Tony: A big thing that I learned early on is having been an actor for so many years where you’re so desperate to work and I’m still looking. Always thankful for gigs when they happen. But if a job is presented to you, if you have to say no to it cause you’re uncomfortable with it. That guilt that rushes over your body. How can I say no to this job? Because I’m an actor and I’m so grateful for the gig. I feel guilty about not. The key to remember is the freedom that you can have to say no is because if you say yes to that job, you’re actually doing them a disservice because you’re not going to be 100 percent there. And so if you can think of it like if I say yes, they’re not getting 100 percent for what they’ve paid for. And so you’re actually helping them by saying no, because you’re not going to be in your body if you’re doing something you’re so uncomfortable with. There’s gonna be a resistance that you’re not going to be completely open and they’re not getting 100 percent for what they’ve paid for. So you’re doing them a gift by saying no. And I think that’s a mind frame that’s really good to get into. I’m a huge people pleaser. I like everybody to like me, you know, and it’s very hard to say no. It actually hurts my stomach. But if you if you say no with something that you really feel strongly about. It’s amazing how it gives you that kind of power. It’s a very empowering thing. Yeah, it is.

Eric: And if you don’t believe him, just ask Forky.

Tony: One thing that Forky said in Toy Story that I love, because I do love telling people this is like it’s gonna be OK, because I think we as artists, very emotional. And I’m we’re always kind of like, when’s the shoe going to drop? What’s it’s the uncertainty of it all. But just like I like to be told it’s gonna be OK, because I think it really is. It is. It’s gonna be an emotional rollercoaster like life just coming back to the space of like, it’s all right. It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna unfold in time, whatever happens.

Eric: Some actors get that truly great career defining role once in their life. With Veep and Arrested Development, Mr. Hale pulled it off twice. And he’s got lots more to go. We want to thank him for sharing his story with our students. And thanks, of course, to all of you for listening. Check out the animated series Archibald’s next big thing based on Tony Hale’s book on Netflix. You can also check out our previous episode with Henry Winkler. This episode was based on the Q&A moderated by Anne Moore. To watch the full interview or to see our other Q&As check out our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/NewYorkFilmAcademy. This episode was written by me. Eric Conner. Edited and mixed by Kristian Heydon. Our creative director is David Andrew Nelson, who also produced this episode with Kristian Heydon and Myself executive produced by Jean Sherlock and Dan Mackler. Special thanks to our events department Melissa Enright. Sajja Johnson. And the staff and crew who made this possible. To learn more about our programs, check us out at NYFA.edu. Be sure to subscribe on apple podcasts or wherever you listen. See you next time.

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