Actor Tony Hale is magnificent at playing a certain kind of emotionally stunted, buffoonish man-child dependent on an older woman. On the dark comedy series Arrested Development, he’s Buster Bluth, the mama’s boy who uses a prosthetic hook after a terrible accident involving a seal. On Veep, he’s the excessively devoted personal assistant to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Vice President. (“VP,” his character Gary Walsh says, “stands for very precious.”) If you think you see a pattern, Hale would be the first to agree with you.
Arrested Development was revived this year after a long hiatus — it had been canceled in 2006, after just three seasons — and Hale was unsure if he could recapture Bluth’s particular brand of miserable codependency. Hearing his fictional mother’s hectoring, belittling voice brought it all back. It “was like riding a bike again,” he says. “It was very Pavlovian and terrifying at the same time.”
As a young actor, Hale had dreamed of a role on a sitcom, while spending much of his time in commercials. Yet landing the gig on Arrested Development didn’t satisfy him as he had imagined. He says that his Christian faith helped get him through that period. “If you’re not practicing contentment where you’re at,” he says, “then you’re not going to be content when you get what you want.”