Tony Hale has survived. He’s survived seven seasons of Veep as Gary, the tireless, selfless, cringe-inducing body man to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s vicious Selina Meyer. (The role brought Hale two Emmys.) Before that, he survived Arrested Development as the equally hapless Buster Bluth. Now, as all great actors must, Hale is playing a fork in a Pixar movie. He called us from Los Angeles to discuss.
How was Forky pitched to you?
He was pitched as nervous, so, you know—check. [Laughs] He was pitched as gullible to a fault—again, check. If I’m being honest, just the fact that they asked me was a little strange. Initially, I thought, Someone’s going to wake up to the fact that they’ve made a big mistake. Surely they meant Tony Danza.
Who is Forky?
He’s Pixar’s first homemade character. It’s literally a spork, a pipe cleaner, some clay, some broken Popsicle sticks. He comes from the trash, but then, through this whole journey he has with Woody, he’s taught that he has a greater purpose than that.
His simplicity turns him into a surrogate child for the audience. Maybe he’ll be an invitation for viewers to make their own Forkies.
That would be amazing. This is getting meta, but anybody who thinks of themselves as trash—if they were treated like trash or see themselves as trash—they should know that they’re so much more than that. They have so much more purpose, so much more beauty.
Forky grapples with that, almost like Haley Joel Osment does in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. At one point, he asks, “Why do I have to be a toy?” It’s heartbreaking. Where does that existential angst come from for you as an actor?
Sadly, for most of my characters, it doesn’t take me long. I don’t know what that says about me.
Seriously, how do you get into that mode?
I will say this: I’m the kind of guy that walks around and says, “Why am I here? What’s going on? You realize we’re spinning on a planet, right?” I appreciate that Forky asks a lot of questions.
We all miss your Gary. But, as a performer, was it a relief to escape the overbearing presence of Julia’s Selina?
It definitely was a contrast. By the way, I loved doing Veep, and we’re all such close friends. But I think we were close off set because, in character, we were so abused. It was nice—the purity of Toy Story 4—because Veep was such a cesspool. The insults alone: I was called a bitchy mime. I was called Cow Eyes.
Now you’re hanging around with Tom Hanks, jumping out of windows in search of freedom.
Yes! Now I’ve got Woody, who’s the exact opposite of Selina Meyer. He’s nurturing, he’s taking me along with him, he’s encouraging. That was a good balance to have.
Because of Forky, do you look at forks differently now?
I have a whole new relationship with forks—forks and spoons. Forky is the best of both worlds.
Toy Story 4 opens Fri 21. Read our review here.