Adults know Tony Hale from his TV roles as a vice-presidential aide on HBO's Veep and as the childlike Buster Bluth on the beloved comedy Arrested Development. Now Hale is ready to make his mark with the younger set, co-authoring an illustrated children's book. In Archibald's Next Big Thing, a chicken named Archibald Strutter sets off with a bee friend to find his niche in the world.
Hale is the brother of NC State Department of Social Work field placement supervisor Kim Andreaus, which explains his visit to Hunt Library, where he'll read from his book and discuss its parallels with his acting career and his sister's field of social work. The INDY reached Hale by phone and learned what he loves about acting, how his kids' book came about and why its message should resonate with adults, too.
INDY: What made you want to write this book?
TONY HALE: It kind of came from a lesson I've always been trying to learn in this business [of acting]. I found myself always looking for the next thing. Every time I was on the job, I was looking for the next job. I think you can get into a habit of being so focused on your next adventure that you miss the adventure that you're on. I really enjoyed talking to people about that and the discipline to stay present, because it is such an uncertain and chaotic business. We brought that message into this Archibald character, and it's been a really fun process.
I met this illustrator named Victor Huckabee a long time ago at an L.A. art show. I really love his work. He'd created this character, Archibald. He reminded me of one of my favorite characters on The Muppet Show, Beaker, and I loved the way he looked. He was very quirky. I asked, "Would you want to develop a children's story around this character?" and he said that would be fun. He met a friend of mine, Tony Biaggne, in St. Louis, who came on board to help with the story.
So the idea is focusing on being here now, enjoying where you're at, which can be difficult for adults.
Yeah, I'll probably be reading this book every night for the rest of my life.
What made you want to present this as a children's book?
I think it was meeting this illustrator. When I think about doing a book, all it would probably be about would be my love for Trader Joe's. I love that a children's book is a very simple message combined with the visual aspect. Staying present is a daily discipline. My daughter, many times, will be like, "What's for dinner? What's coming next? What are we doing next?" and I'm like, "Where are we now, what's happening now?"
Half of that is probably because I don't know what's coming for dinner. I don't know what we're doing. But it's just a reminder. I think it's a very challenging thing to do, to stay present. The more we can remind ourselves and talk about, that's a good thing.
Why is it important to stay mindful?
That's all we've got: staying mindful and staying present. At least in my business, you're always asked what's next, and you always ask people what's next, and you're always thinking, "What's next?" I don't want to live the rest of my life always thinking that way. I want to at least practice being present. I don't think I'm great at it. That's why I wrote a book about it. But I would like to get to the end of my life and say, "I was there." My friend said you have to wake yourself up a hundred times a day to where you are.
What's being on a book tour like for you?
With Arrested Development and Veep, it's fun to talk about lessons I've learned and stories I've had, then out of those has come the children's book. Just meeting parents and kids and seeing their reactions has been really fun. I also love talking to people who want to be in the business, aspiring actors or directors or writers, answering their questions as to what my experience in Hollywood and New York has been.
Have you found it difficult to balance shooting Veep and managing the book all at once?
Yeah, it has been difficult because they're two totally different worlds. Thankfully, Veep is really great in allowing me to—on the weekends, we don't really shoot. Sometimes we have rehearsal, but typically, I'm able to travel and do stuff with the book. When I go from talking about Archibald into Veep, which is political satire, it's definitely not children's material, so you're kind of going from one world to the next.
What has really surprised you in your acting career?
I've been fortunate enough to have jobs like Arrested or Veep or movies where it's all about the surprise. That's kind of what you sign up for, because there's really no formula to where things are going to land. You never know what the next job's going to be. With Veep and Arrested, the whole show is based on surprise. You never know which direction it's going to go. I love being on these shows where I have no idea where it's going because there's no mold to follow. All of a sudden, I'm dating Liza Minnelli, or my hand's been bitten off by a seal, or in Veep I'm breaking up with Selina's boyfriend for her. All these fun surprises are just candy for an actor.
This article appears in print with the headline "Arresting development."