‘Veep’ Star Tony Hale on No More Emasculation by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and 10 Other Emmy Nominee Questions

The “Veep” star tells TheWrap how his character finally stood up after years of abuse from Julia’s inept politician

Tony Hale
Photo by Corina Marie Howell for TheWrap

A version of this story first appeared in the “Down to the Wire” issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

With one Emmy and two other nominations for playing Selina Meyers’ bag-toting “body man” Gary on “Veep,” Tony Hale, 44, is a supporting actor whose character is devoted to support. And in his onscreen relationship with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, he has a relationship so symbiotic and richly comic that creator Armando Iannucci described it to the New York Times as “a strange, demented double act.”

TheWrap: At this point, the interaction between you and Julia seems almost effortless.
Tony Hale: I don’t know if effortless is the right word. It’s so fun. If I throw something out, I trust that she’s going to get it. And if I throw something out that’s not good, she’s gonna save me.

This was a tough season for Gary.
Yeah, it was a tough year for Gary. Obviously, Julia became president, and my character didn’t have as much access to her. I would rather Selina verbally abuse me than distance herself from me. That’s emotional suicide for Gary. So the first two episodes, when there was more Secret Service around her and I couldn’t get to her ear, was really tough for Gary.

You two had a classic scene this season where she tells him he’s unimportant, and he surprisingly yells back.
The thing is, Gary will do anything for his queen. He will go through her trash, he’s broken up with boyfriends for her. In Gary’s mind, they’re going to be married one day–whereas in her world, she barely knows who Gary is. So when she said to him, “You’re a middle-aged man who sanitizes my tweezers,” something just triggered in Gary’s mind, and he lost it.

I will say, as an actor playing a character who’s been emasculated for three seasons, that was just fun to be able to let her have it. And I so appreciated that they gave us the time to finesse that scene. We were given this idea that Gary goes off on Selina. But then we had a day to work it out and say, “What would Selina say to trigger Gary? What would Gary say to really piss off Selina? How does that build, and where does that climax?”

We could find the exact rhythm and play it out on set, and that’s what I’m so grateful about. Many times, I think actors are put in situations where it’s like, “I hear what you want, and I hear where you want to go, but the way that it’s going right now, it’s hard to get there.”

For most of the run of the show, I have to wonder if Gary would have been able to recover from some of the stuff Selina says to him in that scene.
Playing Gary and taking that much abuse, I do think, Why are you staying, dude? I think he just grew up not having much identity of his own, and he just latches onto powerful people and they become his identity. And half the stuff with Selina, I really don’t think he hears it. Any time somebody attacks her, to Gary it’s blasphemy. How could anybody speak about the most precious, the most pure woman on the face of the Earth? He just does not see her faults at all.

Do you ever see stuff in a script and think, How am I gonna be able to play that?
This is the most fun part of the show – even if I see something in a script and think, I don’t know how this is going to work, I know that when we get together as a team, that somehow we’re gonna figure it out. Because we rehearse for two weeks before we shoot, we’re going to get in the room and somehow it’s going to make sense. We’ll come up with a bit or something that makes it gel. I always trust that we’ll get there in the room.

That way of working is something instituted by the show’s creator, Armando Iannucci. But now he’s leaving, so how different do you think next season will be?
When we found out that Arm’s not coming back, it just made me sad. He’s family, we love each other and we love all of his writers. But I have massive respect for his choice, because he lives in the U.K. and wants to spend more time with his family. And David Mandel, who’s coming in, has worked with Julia so many times before, and has got an incredible résumé. And David and Arm have spoken, and they know where they want the show to go. I have complete confidence, and I’m just excited to see what they come up with.

As good as the last season was, it feels as if Selina belongs as vice president.
Here’s the deal: Selina does not belong in office. Politics should never be a part of her life.

But if she is in office…
Yes. Of the two, I would say she should be… It’s even hard to say, but of the two, that would be the better choice.

Two of your castmates, Matt Walsh and Timothy Simons, just sold a script to Paramount. Do you have any scripts in your drawer, or on your computer?
Oh, man. I actually do. I’m playing with one right now, but it’s more just playtime.

If you had a body man, what would he have in his bag?
Oh my gosh. After playing this character, I don’t think I could possibly have one. I’d give him spa days every single day.

You’ve been nominated for Emmys before, and you’ve won once. Do you get sucked into the competitive aspect of it?
I don’t know. It’s so, so surreal to me. It’s still something that I don’t completely grasp hold of. If I ever get used to it, somebody just needs to hit me.

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