CLIFFORD Star Tony Hale Talks Playing The Villain, HARLEY QUINN S3, VEEP In The MCU & More (Exclusive)

CLIFFORD Star Tony Hale Talks Playing The Villain, HARLEY QUINN S3, VEEP In The MCU & More (Exclusive)

With Clifford The Big Red Dog now available on Digital HD, we recently caught up with the film's 2x Primetime Emmy Award-winning star Tony Hale to talk about playing the villain in the family adventure.

After a strong performance on Paramount+, Walt Becker's fun-filled family adventure Clifford the Big Red Dog is now available to purchase on Digital HD platforms everywhere, and to mark the occasion, we were able to sit down with 2x Primetime Emmy Award-winner Tony Hale (Zac Tieran) to talk about playing the villain of the piece.

Hale spoke at length about his career and the choices he likes to make when differentiating his many characters, his process, and what kind of role he'd like to tackle next after spending multiple years inhabiting Buster Bluth on Arrested Development and Gary Walsh on Veep.

He also talks about his time on Chuck, teases Harley Quinn season three, and considers the possibility of one day reuniting with former Veep co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is now playing Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Check out the interview below, and keep scrolling for the full transcript!


ROHAN: Since you're once again working with a larger-than-life personality in Clifford, who would you say was harder to work with: the Big Red Dog or Will Arnett?

TONY: *laughs* I would say those are two really big challenges, really big, really big challenges. Will made me laugh a lot harder than Clifford because I never got to see Clifford, it was all these massive puppets that we worked with and with Will, I just couldn’t keep it together. I’m surprised we got any footage when I worked with Will Arnett.

ROHAN: The rich billionaire villain is a character we've obviously seen before, so when playing Zac, did you want to do anything specific that would make the role more unique?

TONY: That’s a great question, there’s always that kind of challenge to not go into a stereotype villain and I kind of loved the idea that - well, I think with any character you have to kind of resonate with something or you’re kind of playing just the idea of the villain and this guy, he has a massive tech company, it’s all about to fall apart, he’s freaking out and I can understand that anxiety. I think he put like $400 million dollars into the company and it’s all falling apart, then he sees this dog and is like, I need to make this happen. So, I can understand that crazy anxiety, so I guess what I’m saying is trying to find something to connect with, to where you’re not just playing a cardboard cutout of a villain.

ROHAN: You really excel at playing these characters that have an edge like Buster or Gary and more recently with this character Zac. On Chuck, you played this hilarious character Emmett Milbarge... 

TONY: He got shot in the eye too, do you remember when he got shot in the eye? They took him out!

ROHAN: Yeah, of course... I was going to ask you if they had more plans for your character initially?

TONY: No. *makes gunshot gesture*

ROHAN: Do you find it more creatively fulfilling to play characters like Buster and Gary, or someone that's the complete opposite and perhaps a little darker like Zac and your character Alexander from Nine Days?

TONY: I think it’s actually, there was such a long season - and I’m grateful for it - where I was the emasculated beaten-down character, so any chance to play the opposite, I mean even though there are some emasculation to Zac and all that stuff, anything to kind of play that fake alpha, kind of like just arrogant, entitled character, that’s just really fun. Actually, after Gary and Buster, anything that has a spine was fun to play. *laughs*

ROHAN: To me, you're best known for appearing in more adult shows like Veep and Harley Quinn, but you've also played great roles in films geared toward children like Toy Story 4 and Clifford - do you ever find it difficult having to constantly flip that switch in your head?

TONY: *laughs* That’s a great question because I remember when I was recording Harley Quinn and I was recording this TV show I did at the time, Archibald’s Next Big Thing, and Archibald is so full of life, so positive and I think the same day I was recording Harley Quinn, who is just so crass, Dr. Psycho is so crass and it’s like - if I was doing Veep at the same time, it was fine, because it was kind of in the same world - but going from Archibald to Harley was a bit of mind shift.

ROHAN: I think you've mentioned before how streaming saved Arrested Development, and since its revival, streaming has really exploded in popularity and opportunities - as an actor, do you find it more freeing now to tackle a streaming series versus a traditional TV show where you're doing 20-something episodes a year?

TONY: Honestly, any chance I get to explore and do characters is a complete gift. The show I do now, the Mysterious Benedict Society, I get to play two characters. I get to play twin brothers, one who’s very endearing and compassionate and one who’s very dark and manipulative and that’s just an opportunity I never thought I’d have. I don’t know if that’s because of streaming, a lot of it probably has to do with there being more variety, so you can have a lot more choices, but just the fact that I get the opportunity, I never ever take that for granted. Never ever ever ever.

ROHAN: You've played a wide range of characters, are there any particular roles out there that you'd like to maybe tackle next? Something that excites you or maybe even scares you?

TONY: There’s a movie that came out called Being the Ricardos and kind of stepping into an iconic world, I can’t imagine what Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman went through because they were really having to embody these iconic characters, but even being in that world, that was terrifying, just to kind of matching expectations of what that show brought, but I will say that character was so - there’s something about playing, I mean Buster and Gary and obviously Doctor Psycho, all these characters are so heightened, so I get a lot joy out of playing a very grounded, baseline, even on Nine Days, just a baseline human, who is not so heightened all the time. That’s been a lot of fun these past two years.

ROHAN: It's already been announced that they're working on a sequel for Clifford, do you think Zac will be back? Could you see him getting some revenge or maybe redemption? 

TONY:It’s always fun. After 25 years in this business, I never expect anything. *laughs* That’s always the big wigs that have to make the choice, but it’d be fun to kind of see where Zac goes, but I let the writers decide because I’ve gotten into the position before, I’ve been like, “This would be cool!,” and then, it goes in a different direction. So, we’ll see.

ROHAN: As I'm sure you're aware, your former Veep co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus has joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Would you ever want to reunite with her in the MCU? Have you ever been approached for one of those roles?

TONYI haven’t, but I really miss working with her because my character on Veep was so close to her that I got all those little subtleties that maybe the camera missed and I could not keep it together. We just had this dance going on where it was almost this comic dance. Any opportunity that I get to do that again, I’ll just jump at it, I don’t care what it is. We’ll be performing on the streets or something to do it.

ROHAN: Man, I loved Veep, I've always wanted to ask, what happened on Labor Day?

TONY:*laughs* I don’t know, but it was dark, man. The fact that I couldn’t even say it, she couldn’t say it because and she, as you know, said a lot, that’s when we’re getting into like murder territory or something.

ROHAN: Have you heard anything about when we might see Harley Quinn season three?

TONY:I haven’t, I know that I think they released - I gotta get better on top of that - but I think they released images I believe, between Harley and Poison Ivy, I think they’ve released images, but I think I’ve seen something online, but I don’t know when there’s going to be a date, but man, I think that is such a fun show. That’s such a fun show.

ROHAN: Since you're doing both, which do you find more challenging: a voiceover role or playing a live-action part?

TONY:It’s different challenges, there’s something about - when I started out doing voiceovers, it was really challenging because I was so used to using physicality and face to kind of present a character and when it’s just that microphone, just that sound, it was like ooh, but then I kind of learned that you do the same performance and hope it transfers, so that was a definitely a challenge at first, but man, you can’t beat the time commitment. When you’re doing VoiceOver, there’s no hair and all that kind of stuff, the pre-production and the time commitment, but then, there’s a whole other thing with live-action that just to be able to whole self and to kind of see what a costume, hair and makeup, and all that stuff does, that’s just you’re a kid again. So, they both have challenges, but they’re both pretty amazing.

Clifford the Big Red Dog is streaming on Paramount+,
and is now available to purchase on Digital HD!

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