Tony Hale is on vacation in Dollywood, Tenn. — and that seems about right.
Quirky, slightly off-kilter, humble.
Exactly what you’d expect from the actor, famous for his roles of Buster Bluth in “Arrested Development” and Gary Walsh on “Veep.” Hale was visiting the theme park with his family when he called to chat about his latest film, “Brave New Jersey.”
The Tennessee-shot film, opening at Cinema Village and on demand on Friday, is set in a village in New Jersey in 1938 on the evening of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio performance, with the town in hysterics about a Martian invasion.
Hale, 46, plays Mayor Clark Hill, a simple guy trying to keep the town together while pining for another man’s wife (Heather Burns). The ensemble cast is rounded out by Anna Camp, Sam Jaeger, Dan Bakkedahl and Matt Oberg.
For a guy known for popular supporting roles, it’s a nice leading man showcase, though he’s quick to pass along the accolades.
“[Director] Jody [Lambert] made it really easy,” Hale says. “He just made the process so fun that I didn’t feel that pressure. And also the people involved like Dan Bakkedhal . . . and Matt Oberg from “Veep” are super funny.
“So you knew that you were supported in such a great ensemble,” he continues. “So it didn’t feel like the pressure was on me. I never had that kind of leading role, so I never really thought about it. But it was really, it was fun. It was fun. And there was a lot of snakes. I learned that about Tennessee.”
You’ve been in a lot of stuff. Are people stopping and recognizing you at Dollywood?
Oh, no. No. No. No. I don’t know if the Dollywood crowd watches “Veep” or “Arrested Development.” They might. But it’s a blast. I love it down here. We’re in Tennessee. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
And you filmed “Brave New Jersey” in Tennessee.
We did. So it’s all full circle. We shot in a small town, I’m blanking on the name right now. . . . It was really hot while we were shooting. We were there for about, gosh, two weeks. We did a lot of buffets.
That sounds about right. It’s a charming film. What drew you to this role?
Well, Denise Chamian was casting it and she just had the idea to commission me for the role, and pitched it to Jody Lambert, the director. I read the script and I liked the idea for it. . . . And when Orson Welles was doing his broadcast it was incredibly believable the way it was performed and stuff. This small town in Jersey was convinced that Martians were going to hit them. Just that whole kind of mass hysteria from the media, I just thought was really interesting and also the fact that these people, if they only had one day to live, what would they do differently?
How do you think you’d react in a situation like this?
I would probably medicate with food. So Tennessee would be the perfect place to be. I’ve been asked that question a lot. I think it simplifies everything really quickly. I think I put a lot of anxiety on things that just do not matter and they’re fleeting and all that kind of stuff. And it’s unfortunate that it takes something dramatic to knock your priorities in place. So I’d probably just sit in a circle with my family and just stare at them if it was my last day.
I saw this was a Kickstart campaign to get the final funding. What are your thoughts on funding films through Kickstarter?
I think it’s a great resource. I had this one friend, who’s an incredibly talented director and he’s trying to get his film made. And he had so many people supporting him from just different areas in his life that want to support him, and it’s a great resource to use to pull that funding in, and, you know, organize it and gather it together to fill the budget. So I think it’s an amazing resource. … Also it kind of gives people ownership of someone’s art, of somebody’s film, that they’re excited for them to do. So it’s kind of making people involved in a way that I think was not done before.
So I know you lived in New York City for awhile. Do you have favorite memories or favorite spots you could reveal?
Oh, yes. Because I go out there for work quite often. Yes, there is one place that I love. . . . There’s a place called L’Artusi [228 W. 10th St. #1, lartusi.com], it’s an Italian restaurant down in the West Village that is a place that I always go when I go. It’s my favorite place. It’s really good.
Can you talk about what’s going on with “Arrested Development”?
We’re shooting very soon … I had my fitting, my first fitting, which was really fun. So I was able to slip back into Buster’s shoes. So that was really fun. I haven’t heard of any of the storylines yet, so I’m very curious as to what’s going to be going on because whatever comes out of [creator] Mitch Hurwitz’s mind is always a surprise. So that’s going to be very interesting. It’s weird. We started the show in 2003. So it’s been 14 years that this journey has been going on. And honestly, there’s a little hesitation sometimes in going back because you haven’t done the character in four or five years. But the last time we went back in, when Netflix brought us back, the minute I heard Jessica Walter, who plays my mother, [doing] Lucille’s voice, it was just Pavlov. Like I just kind of clicked back in. Like she just has this passive aggressive degrading tone to Buster that I’m just like, “Oh, yeah. I’m back. There’s mama.”
How about “Veep”?
We start probably shooting the fall, late fall. You know I think it’s nice for [Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus] to be out of the office right now because it would very hard to compete with what’s going on in the news comically. So I think it’s fun to kind of tell the story of what happens when the presidents move offices. You don’t really hear that story much. You don’t hear about the libraries, or the foundations, the books and all that kind of stuff. It’s fun to go that way.
Have you ever thought about doing Broadway?
Oh, yeah. I’d love to do that. I’d absolutely love to do that when my schedule allows. And it’s all kind of a timing thing. Because even though my schedule allows . . . there might not be a play that’s right for me. So it’s about hoping things line up so that when I do get the space and schedule time that there’s a play that would be right to do. I would love that. Love it.