Access Pollywood: ‘Veep’ Star Tony Hale Works to End Modern Slavery

by Claire Handscombe

The actor was on Capitol Hill advocating for a bill that would help end modern slavery around the world.


Tony Hale (Courtesy Photo)

Tony Hale is known to many of us as Buster from Arrested Development but possibly even more beloved in D.C. as the ever-efficient, ever-beleaguered Gary on the political comedy, Veep. On April 20th, he joined with around eighty pastors and advocates in heading to Capitol Hill to lobby for the swift passage of the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act.

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act is somewhat of an anomaly in Washington: a bill that passed unanimously out of committee. Spearheaded by International Justice Mission (IJM), it aims to combat abuse, violence, and oppression across the world by raising and distributing funds from both public and private sources.

Washington Life caught up with Tony Hale to ask him about his involvement in lobbying for the Bill, and snuck in a few questions about the new season of Veep, which premiered on HBO on April 24th.

WL: How did you get involved with IJM?
TH: I have a ten-year-old daughter and hearing stories of children way younger than her being trafficked, it’s the most horrific thing. So I just started talking with them and partnering with them. There’s 35 million slaves around the world, and IJM rescued 4,000 slaves last year.

One thing about IJM, one of the many things that I love, is not only do they rescue these men, women and children but they restore them. They set up facilities to provide them places where they can heal and be restored, and also send advocates to defend them, because these people are completely defenseless.

WL: How does your faith impact your understanding of slavery?
TH: I found out about IJM through my church. When the problem becomes so large in your head and you hear these facts and you see these stories and you feel so helpless – to be able to just surrender to God and say to God, this problem is so huge but what can I do, bring up opportunities that I can talk about it. I’m doing press in New York for Veep and this was happening at the same time so I could just take a train down and be here – those opportunities I’m really thankful for.

WL: And what role do you think people who aren’t famous can play in this issue?
TH: Bring it to the table and talk about it, and look into it. It’s really a challenge to say, yes I am going to be overwhelmed by this, yes this is going to be daunting, but… don’t negate the power of words, don’t negate the power of conversation.

WL: What about in terms of donating financially – is there a big need for that, do you know?
TH: There’s always a huge need for that, and this bill is a huge effort for that. [Note: IJM runs a program called Freedom Partners, which encourages a monthly donation of $24.]

WL: Do you shoot in DC at all?
TH: We shot a week here in DC in March and that was fun.

WL: Are there challenges to being a Christian in Hollywood?
TH: I don’t see it as a challenge. There’s so much uncertainty in my business, to know that God has my back is everything to me. Especially having a family and a mortgage and all this kind of stuff – for twenty years I’ve been doing this and I never know where the next job comes from. There’s no certainty anywhere, but in my business it’s really obvious. So that’s everything to me.

And also it’s a business that involves a tremendous amount of rejection – you pretty much sign up for a life of rejection. So to know that my value is not in my work, but my value is in who I am as a person, and who I was made to be, I think that gave me longevity. I always had my support system that reminded me of that.

In my business, you have value when this happens, when this happens. But I have the same value now as I had before I got anything. People forget that about themselves. DC’s culture is like that: what’s your title, what office, I’ll have value when I work for so-and-so. No! Your value has stayed the same.

WL: I was hoping you might say that the Veep cast are all in town, but they’re all in New York?
TH: Julia is, and Matt Walsh is. I saw those guys yesterday for a conversation about the show. It’s always fun when we’re doing press and we get together – I mean, I love those guys to death. I feel very fortunate to work with them. They’re normal, they’re not entitled, and Julia sets the tone and she’s very open and kind and giving and a team player.

WL: You must have to do takes a million times because you’re laughing so much?
TH: Oh, I am the worst. I laugh the hardest and I break the hardest. Julia once said to me, “you know, you’re not watching the show, you’re in the show.” But it’s just really challenging. I grew up on the Carol Burnett Show and one of my icons was Tim Conway and he used to make people laugh and I actually enjoyed watching them break because I think there’s value to laughing and breaking. Within reason.

WL: Is there anything you can tell me about the upcoming season or is it all a big secret?
TH: It finishes the next season at the inauguration. I never want there to stop being chaos, because I love the mistakes. It gets more and more dysfunctional and chaotic. She’s got a bunch of morons around her that are just stupid. Or needy, like pets, like myself.

WL: Do you follow real life politics? Do you get involved?
TH: I get a little overwhelmed by it, honestly. My wife got me onto Daily Skimm, it’s a great daily thing that gives like a Cliffs Notes version of what’s going on. I like knowing what’s going on and then going on with my day. It’s more productive for me.

WL: How long does it take you to shoot a season of Veep?
TH: It’s about five days per episode, but unlike a lot of other shows we have a large rehearsal time. So we shoot from probably beginning of October to early March. It’s really hard work, but the people are absolutely lovely, and it’s so funny. It’s also nice when someone gets your comedy and when you feel like something’s not right and someone else goes, oh yeah, let’s work it out. That’s just a breath of fresh air.

WL: Do you watch TV yourself?
TH: My daughter and I marathon Project Runway. I really like House of Cards. We like a lot of cooking shows – my daughter loves Cupcake Wars.

My wife laughs at me: I watch blind auditions on The Voice over and over. I don’t really care what the judges have to say: to see the families crying in the back and jumping up and down, it is the best thing ever, ever.

WL: Anything else you want to tell us?
TH: Gary’s as dysfunctional and neurotic, and never evolves. He is never promoted, he stays where he is.

I’m happy to do my gig, and very very happy to be here. My show is the politically incorrect – this is the correct. IJM is what needs to be happening. My show is so fun to do, the material we’re drawing from is so crass, but it’s because of that I’m able to do stuff like this and that’s exciting to me.

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