Tony Hale

The Exclaim! Questionnaire

Photo: Robyn Von Swank

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jul 8, 2019

On screen, Tony Hale specializes in playing loyal, lovable weirdoes: he played naïve mama's boy Buster Bluth on Arrested Developed, and won two Emmys as the devoted aide Gary Walsh on Veep. Now, he's voicing the adorably innocent Forky in Toy Story 4, playing a spork that suddenly transforms into a sentient toy after being used for a kindergarten craft project. It's a perfect fit for Hale, who brings the warmth and eccentricity required to transform Forky from a crudely designed figurine into an empathetic character. The result is yet another triumph for Pixar — as well as a personal highlight for Hale, who has been a fan of Toy Story since the first movie came out in 1995. "I was very overwhelmed that they even asked me," the actor reflects. "Like Forky, I feel like I'm asking, 'How the hell did I get here?'"
What are you up to?
I did a children's book, years ago, called Archibald's Next Big Thing. When I booked Arrested Development, I was on a great gig, but I found myself still looking to the next thing — and if you're looking to your next thing, you're going to miss where you are. So the book is about a chicken who learns about being present. Now it's become a series that's going to be on Netflix in the fall. That's very exciting. He's a chicken that makes the most of the moment and sees the best in people and situations. It's just a joy.
What are your current fixations?
I'm pretty boring, man. I always love a good mall. If there's a good mall in Toronto, I'm in it. My go-to is always going down a YouTube rabbit hole. To laugh, I'll always watch when Ellen takes people through haunted houses, or to cry, when soldiers are coming home. When you have a kid, whatever they're into is what you're into. It's cool because my daughter is really into performance right now, so she does a lot of shows with her friends at school, and she's a part of this other theatre. So we get into her theatre world.
Why do you live where you do?
Well, you can't beat the weather in L.A. We've been there 16 years, because Arrested Development brought me out from New York, and then we've been there since that started. It became home. We live in Studio City. We're surrounded by sushi restaurants and dog spas, that tends to be the theme of our neighbourhood. California is one of those places — you go an hour upstate and it feels like you're in a totally different place. It's mountains and beaches, and we love it.
What's something you consider a mind-altering work of art?
Not because I'm in it, but I genuinely think the voice actors get a lot of attention, when most of the attention should be on the artistry of Toy Story. It is visually stunning, and there's a tremendous amount of art that's put into that movie. I saw it Tuesday night, I guess that's why it's so fresh in my mind, but it's eye candy. It's so stunning. It's a piece of art.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Kindness. I've been able to do a lot of gigs up in Vancouver, and this is my first time in Toronto. It's just got very, very kind people.
What have been your career highs and lows?
The fact that I'm working, and I've been able to make a living off working, is definitely a career high. I never thought that would be possible. And lows — I had a big awakening being on Arrested Development, where I got my dream and it didn't satisfy me in the way I thought. I think it's because I had not been very present most of my life. It's that whole thing, where if you're not practicing contentment where you are, you're not going to be content when you get what you want. And since I had not really been practicing [being] present for most of my life, I gave a lot of attention to this big thing, and it didn't satisfy me. It scared me, it was like, "Damn this is my dream, I thought this was going to be different." Because of that awakening low, it really taught me the discipline of trying to be more present.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
I wake up. We have a church that we go to in L.A. Have lunch with my daughter at the food court in the mall — I'm not kidding. Come home, we watch an episode of Survivor. Have our really good friends come over for a barbecue, have some cocktails by the fire. Just laugh and then go to bed.
What was your most memorable day job?
When I moved to New York in 1995 to become an actor, I could never get a steady gig, because you never knew when auditions were going to come. I had to do a lot of temp work, and cater/waitering at night. There was this one temp agency named Mademoiselle Temp Agency, and I would go every morning at like 7 a.m. and sit in their purple lobby, waiting to be sent out for somebody who was sick. I have such a distinct memory of that lobby, because they only played Jim Carrey movies the entire time. So I would be sitting on these purple couches in this very '80s room, watching Jim Carrey movies and just hoping that somebody would get sick at a financial institution or a fashion place and I would go and be a warm body.
And then [at the temp jobs] they would have me there, but no one would trust me, because I would just be there for the day, so then I would just make long-distance phone calls all day and not pay for it. It would be so thrilling, because back then you had to pay for them. I would call everybody — everybody — that was long-distance, just because I wouldn't have to pay for it.
How do you spoil yourself?
I love me a chain restaurant dessert. It's quantity over quality. If you order a brownie sundae at a chain restaurant, you're going to have a lot more brownie sundae than you are at some hoity-toity restaurant, where they will give you one-fourth the size, but it's triple the price. So I always go for the chain restaurant.
If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing?
My sister Kim is a social worker, and is always a huge inspiration to me. She's just a real warm and open heart, and I would probably follow in her footsteps doing some kind of mission or social work.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
The most colourful was working with Liza Minnelli on Arrested Development, because she was my girlfriend on the show. It was so entertaining. She took my wife and I out to lunch once, and just told us stories about her upbringing and how she was raised on the MGM lot. We would sit on set and she would just tell us stories, and her stories never came from a place of ego. They just came from a place of, "Listen to my life." It was one of things where I was like, "I'm never going to have this experience again, and I just want to completely soak it up."
What should everybody shut up about?
I think if people begin to stop looking at what's wrong with everybody else, they can begin to start analyzing how they can work on changing themselves. I feel like, especially in politics, everybody is just on attack mode and nobody's talking. I think it's very easy to point out a splinter in someone else's eye and miss the log in your own.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
I want to say it was Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve?
I'm going to go with C.S. Lewis. He lost his wife, and he wrote a grief book. He wrote these really heavy, intense books about life, but then he also took that and made things like The Chronicles of Narnia. He was able to take incredibly difficult times in his life and be able to parlay them into beautiful fiction. I'd call up that chain restaurant and get him a dessert, because I know the brownie sundae would be a crowd-pleaser.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
The hymn "It Is Well."

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