Gary Walsh doesn’t have a head for politics, but he does have his finger on the pulse of what Vice President Selina Meyers needs at any moment, and that makes him the perfect "body man" on HBO’s "Veep."
Actor Tony Hale won an Emmy last fall for his portrayal of Gary, a character who has taken a "sneeze bullet" for Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and delivered break-up news to one of her boyfriends. He is the keeper of her schedule, is especially mindful of when it's "leave o'clock," and he carries the Leviathan, his bag of tricks and treats to make his boss happy.
"Gary doesn’t know anything about politics," Hale told TODAY. "And he doesn’t care about politics. But he knows all these random facts about people, like what cake they like or if they happen to be doing CrossFit. Silly information that has nothing to do with politics. He knows what’s keeping him around — and it’s always centered around danishes."
Hale took TODAY deeper inside the mind of the body man during a recent chat:
I would like to have a body man. Can you tell me where I can find one?
You definitely would love to have a body man but you do not want Gary because Gary is a dysfunctional disaster who should have left his job in his 20s but he’s held onto it in his 40s because he doesn’t have a life outside Selina Meyer. So it is a very, very sad existence. He’s so good it gets into the arena of psycho killer/stalker. There’s probably a Selina shrine in his bathroom somewhere. Or possibly in his living room so everybody could see. There’s probably some candles around his picture of her. His bag, I think, is in a glass case in his home. That’s really the only control Gary owns in life — that bag. He’s a sweet mess but he’s still a mess.
Did you meet someone who does this kind of work?
Right before we shot the pilot, they took us to D.C. to meet our counterparts. I talked to a guy who had worked with a certain politician for about two years when he was in mid-20s. He told me that at that time he had no life. He had no social life. He never saw his family. It was great because he was young and he could do that. And then obviously he went on to do other jobs and consult. And Gary has extended that into his 40s and he still has no social life, never sees his family, and Selina is the absolute foundation of his world.
In the new season, Gary seems like he wants to be more than just a body man. But Selina's not budging. Does he really want more?
Totally. I think he’s disappointed but I think he loves the comfort. Here’s the deal — any time she gives him encouragement, that’s like water to his soul. So whatever he needs to do to continue that affirmation, he will keep up. He is attempting to exercise different muscles to impress her. Because in his ideal world, they would be married. Whatever he can do to get a step closer to the altar with Selina Meyer, he will do.
Let’s talk about that bag. Why does Gary insist on calling it a Leviathan?
The fact that he calls it a Leviathan and not a bag says something. He’s making it a lot fancier than it actually is. So if someone calls him a "bag man," he gets very offended. He will go to the technical term that it’s a Leviathan because in his world it’s everything. So do not call it a bag. It is a Leviathan. If Gary Walsh saw what Tony Hale actually carries in that bag he would be mortified because it’s really just filled with empty water bottles and paper stuffing. Whereas Gary Walsh’s bag, he probably has six or seven pockets that are individually sewed in, they’re probably textured and color coded where he could feel around for things. He probably sent it off to Italy to find the exact leather. It’s pretty much a Container store inside the bag.
What are your favorite things that Gary’s done for Selina?
For me as an actor, when she had him break up with her boyfriend: "I need you to handle this." Gary is not the most confrontational human being. That was just a hurricane for him. But a highlight for Gary would be when he gave her too much St. John’s Wort and she got really loopy and told him everything he ever wanted to hear. That was a drug-induced state, so none of it was true but in that moment in time, that was his absolute nirvana.
Is it hard for you to keep a straight face while filming?
Let me just break this down for you. I am the worst, the most unprofessional actor when it comes to keeping it together on camera. It is embarrassing. I should not be employed. It is truly challenging for me to keep it together. There’s been a few times where I have looked at my bag or I’ve turned my back because I’m trying not to ruin the shot. Which is awful and incredibly unprofessional.
What did winning the Emmy mean to you?
I’m surprised I was even able to put a sentence together after they said my name. To be completely candid, when we found out that my name was even on the list, my wife and I jumped up and down in our bedroom for a good 10 minutes. We went into the Emmys just checking our expectations and just happy to be there. When I heard my name, it was like leaving my body. And also as I mentioned in my speech, to be able to nationally recognize the Young Actors Theatre, the theater that was a massive part in my life and made a big difference in my life, that was as rewarding as getting the award.
In the first episode of the new season, Selina’s on the campaign trail but her staff is elsewhere. How did Gary handle that?
That was not an easy day for Gary. I don’t think he’s been that separated from Selina since probably he was in his teens. ... The fact of the matter is that whoever wants to give campaign money to Selina Meyer is an idiot. So we meet a lot of idiots."
The third season of "Veep" begins Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.