Tony Hale touches himself dozens of times a day, but not like that.
“Somebody said to me once, ‘You have to wake yourself up 100 times a day to where you are,’” Hale told HuffPost over the phone in a conversation about his recent Emmy nomination, for his role as Gary Walsh on “Veep.” So the actor makes a habit of touching things around him as a reminder to be present.
“Just wherever I am, I’ll touch whatever,” Hale said. “Like I’ll touch the couch I’m on. Or I’ll touch my jeans. Or I’ll touch my forearm, just to stay in the space.”
The actor explained how he struggles with daydreaming and thinking too much about the future. It’s a subject he keeps coming back to. Last year, he told NPR radio host Terry Gross about his earlier days as an actor, “It really woke me up that if you’re not practicing contentment where you are, you’re not going to be content when you get what you want, and it really scared me.” Despite all the success he’s seen since those early days of his career ― he’s already nabbed two Emmys ― Hale still has anxiety over ego, afraid it might creep in and take over his brain.
“I love this kind of discussion. I could talk for literally the rest of the day,” Hale said about keeping himself grounded. “When I find myself ‘what-if-ing’ I say, ‘Not now,’ out loud. So I’ll just be sometimes walking around, just going, ‘Not now, not now.’ Because I’m finding myself living in my head in a ‘what if’ or daydream or something.”
On top of waiting to see whether he’ll take home the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series on Sept. 17, Hale is currently taking on the role of Buster Bluth yet again for “Arrested Development,” which will debut a new season on Netflix in 2018. The show premiered in 2003 on Fox, but grew such a cult following in the wake of its cancellation that Netflix revived the series in 2013. Shortly before our conversation, Hale donned Buster’s costume for a fitting, tweeting a picture of the character’s socks and shoes.
“That picture I tweeted was the first sitting I had for the show,” Hale explained. “It’s weird because, we started the show in 2003. So, it being 2017, the journey of the show has been going on for so long ... that’s always crazy to put those shoes back on ... it’s wild.”
For a person so deeply concerned with staying in the moment off-set, it doesn’t take much for Hale to get back into character when the time comes.
“I remember when we came back for the first time for Netflix, I had a lot of anxiety about stepping back into Buster,” the actor said. “It had been six years. ‘I hope I can match people’s expectations.’ But once I heard Lucille Bluth, Jessica Walters’ voice, say Buster’s name in the degrading, abusive, passive-aggressive way ― it was, like, Pavlovian. I was like, ‘Well, I’m back.’”
Walters has played the Bluth family matriarch from the beginning, and is set to return alongside with the rest of the cast for the upcoming season.
“Maybe I’ll just take Jessica into a room and have her say Buster’s name over and over,” Hale said. Repetition is clearly the system that works.