Bringing Up Buster: Talking with Arrested Development's Tony Hale Before His Sarratt Show Tonight


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As we mentioned last week, if you ever wanted to hang out and watch Arrested Development with Buster Bluth, tonight is your chance. Tony Hale, who plays Buster in the gut-busting recently revived comedy series, will introduce a few favorite episodes followed by a Q&A tonight at Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Cinema, with proceeds to benefit Blood:Water Mission, a local non-profit focused on ending the HIV/AIDS and water scarcity crises in Africa.

Hale will be on hand for a VIP reception before the show starting at 6 p.m. — no word if the food and drink menu includes juice boxes — and doors open for the GA crowd at 6:30. Lightning 100’s Wells Adams will be your MC, and after the screening and Q&A The Young International will play a short set. Both VIP and general admission tix appear to be sold out, but Hale graciously hopped out of his shower and took a few minutes to chat with me this morning.

How was your trip? Did you get in okay?

I had a great trip. A little delayed, because I think Obama was flying into the airport in L.A. I got in and went last night to the Husk restaurant. I think that’s only been open about two weeks? It was a beautiful place. Had some fried green tomatoes and ribs, just perfect for the South.

Have you been to Nashville before?

I have. I went to Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and I remember taking trips up here to visit friends, and I came up here last summer to have a meeting with Blood:Water. I love it — it’s a fantastic place. … We watched a bunch of folks migrating across the bridge, down to the arena.

How did you get involved with Blood:Water?

I’d heard about them for a long time. Then, last summer, I met with Victor Huckabee and Mike Lenda, who work with Blood:Water. I have massive, massive respect for what they do, empowering people to help fight HIV in Africa through their own gifts. I remember talking to them and being like, “People that do [benefit] events are usually musicians, and do concerts. I sure as hell can’t do that, that would not be a pretty event.” So I just tried to think of something we could do to raise money. When Arrested Development came out, we thought this would be a fun venue to have a little screening and a Q&A and would be a great way to raise a little money for a good cause.

You’re screening some of your favorite episodes. How did you pick what to show?

It’s tough! I’ve gotten that question before; even from the first three seasons, there’s just so much that I love about it. I picked the episode “Bringing Up Buster” because it has one of my favorite scenes. Buster has so much inner angst towards his mother, and when he just lets loose in his tirade of cussing, and calls her an old horny slut, that brings me such joy. Then we’re gonna show some clips from the new season, which also involves an incredibly unhealthy relationship with [his] mother.

Towards the end of the new season, we see Buster transition from “mother boy” to “mother man.”

It’s not an easy transition for Buster! He’s not there yet. His mother only left for two days, and that sent him into a spiral of neurosis. Extreme neurosis.

Across your career, you’ve played very rounded characters; even in short films, they come across with a backstory, hidden or not. How do you get into character?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just extremely messed up. Maybe it comes way too easy! [Laughs] Buster was a 7-year-old trapped in a 32-year-old body, and now he’s more like a 5-year-old trapped in a 40-year-old body. He just regresses; he’s in a constant state of paralysis. Gary on Veep will step up to the plate for his woman, Selina (as played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), whereas Buster, if something happened to his mother, he would just start rocking in a corner.

Despite the obvious differences, have you ever thought of Gary Walsh as a kind of grown-up Buster?

Yeah, I think Gary is a high-functioning Buster, a little bit. If Gary needed a second job, he could counsel Buster, with life lessons. I remember the episode where Gary takes a “sneeze bullet” for the Vice President, and that to him was like going into the military. His masculinity is bumped up a bit from Buster. It would be hard to find an ounce of masculinity in Buster.

Part of the charm AD’s characters is that they represent different facets that appear in everyone’s personality, but greatly exaggerated.

Sure, totally. As sweet and vulnerable and wide-eyed as Buster is, every character on the show is incredibly selfish. All Buster really wants in life is safety, so anything that threatens his safety, he just spirals. He’s constantly terrified that Lucille’s going to leave him, which is selfish. Every single character on that show is that way. The one I would say is the sanest of them all is George Michael.

Which was a big shift.

Yeah, he’s the only one growing in the family; everyone else is in a state of arrested development. George Michael is maturing, he’s actually developing.

So where do you see him going in the future?

I don’t know. That’s what’s so fun about the show, and the reason why we all love going back. It’s one surprise after the next. We have no idea what’s going to happen — it gives us all a rush. At the L.A. premiere, there’s an ostrich on the carpet, and I’m thinking, “What the hell is an ostrich doing here?” We’d heard some hints, but we hadn’t seen each others’ episodes yet, so we had no idea what was going on. Everything is about surprise on that show. I mean, the first time around, it was “I’m going to lose a hand. I’m dating Liza Minnelli.” I have no clue what’s going to happen to any of these people.

Is there anything you hope someone will ask tonight at the Q&A?

I guess I love the surprise element of everything, and I love Q&As because you never know what someone’s going to ask. I don’t have an answer for ya! I’ll have to be surprised.


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