Emmy award-winner Tony Hale ‘95 (Communication & the Arts) knows he’s a television actor. He knows he’s a dedicated husband and father. But he can’t completely put his finger on how he got to these places in life. The quirky and comical Hale says he has “pretty much no recollection of anything at all,” and goes on to explain just what that means.
Hale’s sparse memories from childhood, early college and his 20 years in “the biz” are due to a continual and total absorption with his “next project or role.” A hum of anxiety regarding “what’s next” would pulse through nearly all of Hale’s decisions, driving the search for his next big break.
But even when Hale landed his coveted role on a sitcom, playing “Buster” on FOX’s Arrested Development in 2003, it didn’t satisfy him like he thought it would.
“I still found myself anxious about what was coming up next,” says Hale of the days after landing this role. “I got my dream job, and I was still looking for the next thing; I wasn’t practicing being in the present.”
What does the present look like? He’s in Baltimore, filming his latest HBO series, Veep, alongside television legend, Julia Louis-Dreyfus — a role that helped him take home a 2013 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of “Gary Walsh.”
This constant gnawing for his next show or role has led Hale to develop the lovable lead character in his new children’s book, Archibald’s Next Big Thing.
The story follows a young chicken, Archibald, who finds himself on a journey to find his “big moment.” Even in the midst of eating tacos in a desert with a robot, or exploring space, Archibald constantly asks when his incredible life will begin.
With co-author Tony Biaggne, and illustrators Misty Manley and Victor Huckabee, Hale created the autobiographical story illustrating his own search.
“If you keep looking forward to your next adventure, you’ll miss the adventure you’re on,” he cautions. “I think it’s a daily discipline to have a mindfulness to be present — you have to wake yourself up 100 times a day to where you are.”
Hale’s wife, Martel, and their 8-year-old daughter, Loy, have helped him discover the value of being in the moment. Loy is a sizable inspiration, appearing in the story as Archibald’s big sister. She even took part in designing her namesake’s outfit.
“Many times when I find her asking ‘What are we doing now?’ or ‘What are we having for dinner?’ I tell her just to enjoy the moment,” says Hale. “I tell her that because I don’t ever know what we’re having for dinner — but I also want her to be able to embrace where she is.”
Hale calls this a “discipline of contentment.” And though he says he hasn’t mastered it yet, speaking and writing about the process, and surrounding himself with a community that supports him, helps Hale feel “normal” and “grounded” — rare traits in an industry that stamps value on artists according to their job title.
“In this 20-year journey, I’ve learned that it’s very easy to be defined by what we do,” says Hale. “But who we are even apart from what we do has tremendous value.”
Hale shares that his quest for valuing who he is was propelled during his graduate studies at Regent. Here, he was able to appreciate the art of acting without the accompanying fear of rejection. After studying journalism and advertising as an undergraduate student, “Regent was a springboard; I got to get my toe back in the water of acting,” says Hale. “It was good for me to be back in that world again.”
As he continues to trek through the wonderful world of acting, for the first time, whatever Hale can dream of for the future takes second-billing to what he’s discovered is really at the top of the marquee: his present-day life.