Interview: Tony Hale from Ctrl

We had the pleasure of speaking with Tony Hale. We spoke with him about his role as Stuart on NBC’s Ctrl. Here’s what he had to say.

How were you approached to make this particular short-film into a Web series?

Tony Hale: Sure. We did a – I guess it was about two years ago, Rob Kirbyson, the director, had the idea and wrote the idea of “Ctrl Z”. It was a short film that he was producing and he approached me to play Stuart.

And, at that time, he also approached Zachary Levi to play the boss and then Emy Coligado was also playing the girl. But we did the short film and it went to Sundance and the Delta, kind of film competition and fortunately it won. People really liked it so then Tom Bannister and NBC approached Rob to make the short film that we did into a Web series which was really exciting because it was fun with the short film, there was really mainly the focus of Ctrl Z which is the undo button.

And with the Web series you can focus on a lot more keys on the keyboard and kind of the power and the magic that could happen with those.

So, I thought it was a really fun idea and it turned out to be just a lot of fun so Im glad it happened.

If there was something in your life you could undo, do you have a particular moment or event?

Tony Hale: That is so funny. You think I would have thought of this question before coming into the interview and I just did not.

Let me think, if theres anything I could undo – usually when I want to undo things its like right on the moment because I look to the stuff that I go through in my life and something always comes out for a reason so Im doing that. But, its always that when you say something thats just so asinine and so stupid, youre like, ahh, if I could just, please, have an undo button just to not say that.

So, its usually in the moment but theres many times Ive had that moment.

How has youre comedic style and sense of timing changed since Arrested Development do you think?

Tony Hale: Hows my comedic style changed? I dont know. I mean, thats a great question.

My comedic style changing. I mean its really mainly the way I look at it is each character kind of brings their own obvious sensibilities and like Im doing this movie now, right here up in New York called Happy, Thank you, More Please and the characters very kind of a lovable loser and really, really likes this girl and wants to date here and all this kind of stuff and hes got his own quirkiness but it comes from more of a kind of a realistic base and he just kind of says stupid things.

But then hes – hes just really kind of a sweet spirit and he kind of has his funny tones and then you look at the character I played on Chuck, Emmett, and hes just kind of evil and conniving and hes got his tones and then Buster was pretty much – theres a lot of mental illness going there and he was pretty much a man child so he had his kind of tone.

So, its really kind of just how its created and then you just kind of bring your own stuff not that.

What do you think Ctrl needs to succeed as opposed to a network TV series?

Tony Hale: Well, the only thing I can really, I guess say about that is, what I believe in it. And what I love about kind of the Web series Ctrl is I love that aspect that its just kind of an everyday experience being in an office and all the sudden the supernatural comes into that.

Its – I think thats really something that everybody can, everybody wants. Like Woody Allen actually does this a lot in his movies, its kind of called magical realism where he has just kind of an everyday, these kind of everyday experiences and all the sudden something magical or supernatural will come into to and I just, I love that and I think everybody can kind of – everybody wants that at some point in their life.

So, I would think that would be a kind of a lasting factor because its just really fun to watch. You know, its not like – even though Battlestar Galactica, I love that show, but thats totally sci-fi, totally out there, totally supernatural but this is youre just taking an office environment and then something crazy happens like the magic keyboard.

As an actor, what draws you to usually playing such socially awkward characters?

Tony Hale: Probably because Im socially awkward. What draws me to playing socially awkward characters? Gosh, thats a good question. I think theyre interesting. Im fascinated kind of by – I mean, I know Im sure Ive got my own social awkwardness but Im kind of fascinated by that and I lived, probably, I attribute it – I lived in New York for a long time, road the subways, saw a lot of awkwardness, but theyre just interesting.

Theyre not cookie cutter. Theyre usually very colorful characters. They see things different ways and, I dont know, its just a kind of – just a kind of life thats interesting to me.

How will the Stuart Grundy character evolve throughout the series?

Tony Hale: Well, how he evolves is – well, its cool because I mentioned before where I did this short firm CtrlZ and that was just focusing on one key and this, the series, really goes to a lot of different keys so he like copy pastes himself, he becomes bold, I think in the third episode he did that, and he sees the delete key and he kind of discovers all these new things.

But, what I love about it is what he sees…You know, many times when we think about – because the control aspect of what he has kind of becomes an addition, the control becomes an addiction to him. And what he sees as kind of a perfect thing, if I could undo this…Like, theres that one time in the third episode when he kisses Emys character he wants to recreate that first kiss but thats a spontaneous moment of love.

And what he thinks he can create, he cant. He cant get back to that and we think we can control that and we cant because when it started it was all about her but then when he tried to redo it, it became all about him.

So, he kind of sees how things can get perverted with that control and how it can kind of become an addition.

How does a day on the set of Ctrl compare to, say a day on the set of Arrested Development for the differences?

Tony Hale: You know, theres obviously the production budget was a little higher with Arrested Development so the craft services was a little better.

But, you know, as actors we just kind of – there really – with this sometimes there is a big difference because the material is not as good. Arrested Development’s material was so good and sometimes Ive done things where the material hasnt been that great, so there is a big difference. But with this, I was just such a fan of the material and such a fan of the story so I was as involved and as excited about it.

So, pretty much know very similar that ways but I think we probably had a little more Krispy Kreme donuts on our Arrested Development set than we did on this set.

Do you find it more difficult to get the audience to connect to Stuart when youve only got five minutes in an episode to do it?

Tony Hale: Oh, sure. I was talking to a friend of mine about this the other day actually because I used to do a ton of commercials in New York and I was always impressed that like in the 30 second or a 60 second spot it can have a beginning, middle and end and that they only have 30 seconds to a minute to do that.

And I was just always impressed by that they could do that and this is the same thing. Like I think, yeah, its four or five minutes but you can get a lot in there and you can have that immediate connection and immediate routing for Stuart and kind of fascinated by the magic of the keyboard and it is possible.

So, and I think Rob has really achieved that.

Youve been in film and in TV series and youve voiced over animation but how does it feel to be a trailblazer in a new media frontier?

Tony Hale: Wow, thats a nice term. Thank you for calling me a trailblazer. Thats fancy.

I dont know. I mean, for an actor its all about just a gig. Were just thankful to be working.

So, its – who knows whats going to happen with whole Internet Web series thing. I mean, obviously people are spending a lot more time on their computer but it was – its kind of…The great thing about it is so many short films have been done over the time and theres not a real, theres not a venue for them because everybody goes to see a feature length film so it really is a great vehicle to do these kind of short creative pieces, so its kind of fun to be a part of that and kind of see what can happen from that. But trailblazer, I dont know. I mean, thats a pretty fancy word.

I would – probably somebody like Rob Kirbyson or Tom Bannister who really got the wheels turning that they can probably be considered trailblazers.

If you could have any other actors come on as a guest star on the show, who would you have?

Tony Hale: Oh, wow. Thats a great question. Well, my kind of childhood comic ideal was Tim Conway.

And just because I always loved that he could do so much without saying anything and just his physical comedy. Id love – I mean, that would be kind of a dream to have him come on and be able to act across from him.

How many Webisodes are there planned to be at this point?

Tony Hale: Theres ten that are coming out.

Throughout one of your films so far, whats been your favorite button to use?

Tony Hale: I do love, I did love the copy/paste one because just we did, obviously, a lot with the green screen and Ive seen the finished product for that one and its pretty surreal to kind of see, I mean, to see my receding hairline self five times over.

But, its really – I just…Thats an episode I really love.

This is a little off topic but I was wondering if you could tell us anything about the Arrested Development movie?

Tony Hale: Oh no. Its not off topic at all. We all want it to happen. I think right now its like – supposedly the script is being written. I havent really heard. But, I pretty much – everybody wants to do it. Its just a matter of getting everybodys schedule together and everybodys kind of doing their own thing.

So, because youve got probably, I dont know is it about 11 people that you got to kind of get everybodys schedule coordinated. So, I think thats kind of a feat but were definitely all on board and seeing as the script is supposedly in the works so we all need it to happen so well see, hopefully.

I want to wear Busters hand again.

Are you going to be back on Chuck again?

Tony Hale: Yeah. We start shooting on August 6 and then I know Im doing the…I dont really know where the storylines going but I know Im doing the first episode and then I dont know whats going to happen to Emmett. Hes obviously causing drama in the Buy-More so well see what happens to him.

Besides the Ctrl, if you had to use a one word control key description for the how itself like drama or comedy, what would you use?

Tony Hale: Oh wait, one word description of the show itself?

Oh, lets see. What would be a one word key instead of control that I could use on the keyboard to describe the show?

Id say – that is a good one.

Yeah, I think – Im…Im sorry. Its kind of like a (dramaty) but its almost like you want to…I dont know. Thats a good one.

I guess (dramaty) but its kind of like a corky (dramaty) I guess.

What was it about the project that initially appealed to you?

Tony Hale: You know, I loved the – when I saw the…When we did the short I loved how Rob, it was just very simple. There wasnt a tremendous amount of bells and whistles but it was just that kind of simple idea of…As I mentioned before, just kind of the supernatural coming into the everyday of how a guys whos kind of living a mundane life in an office and all the sudden his life changes because the keyboard becomes magical.

I just really – I really loved that idea because everything, I think everybody kind of resonate with wanting to do that.

And it was just done just very – the music was very simple, the shooting was very simple and I just kind of love kind of throwing that fireball in there of the supernatural. I think thats super fun.

What other projects do you have going on besides Chuck or Arrested Development or anything else thats going on? What else is going on out there?

Tony Hale: Im doing The Informant with Steven Soderbergh. Its coming out in September and then in August theres a movie coming out called the The Goods, the Don Ready story with Jeremy Piven and then I think in about a week Ive got a movie coming out called Answer Man. Its with Jeff Daniels.

So, thankfully Ive got some gigs coming out so thats really fun.

Were going to see you everywhere arent we?

Tony Hale: Hopefully, hopefully.

Interview By: Gable White

– Ctrl Official Site


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