I had the opportunity to create portraits of Tony Hale, Tallahassee, Florida’s Emmy Award-winning actor, when he visited home recently. Hale is known for playing Buster Bluth on the Fox comedy series Arrested Development and for playing Gary Walsh on the HBO comedy series Veep.
Hale studied his craft at Tallahassee’s Young Actors Theatre while growing up. During his televised Emmy Award acceptance speech last September, the pinnacle of his career so far, he gave a shout-out to the theatre, its executive director, Tina Williams, and its musical director, Alison Grimes, both of whom had taught him some 25 years prior. Hale also wanted to give publicity to the theatre while he was in town for a series of events. Tallahassee magazine was doing a cover story on him, and he insisted that the photo shoot be done at the theatre and include Williams.
I had a rather short time frame to get several shots for the story; Hale rolled into town and went straight to the theatre for our photo shoot before he was to go to the Capitol to be presented with the Florida Ambassador of the Arts award by the Florida Department of State. To move things along faster, I had three separate setups ready before he arrived. Despite the time crunch, Hale actually gave me more time than I thought we would have, which rarely ever happens when photographing a celebrity.
I knocked out the cover concept with Hale and Williams first, which was an environmental portrait of them in the house seats. Then I did a series of fun portraits of Hale in the photography “studio” I had set up on location. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing him. He was interested in the shoot and rolled with my ideas, giving his input so his portraits became a collaborative effort. After his individual shots, I did another series of environmental portraits of Hale and Williams together, this time from the balcony with the stage visible in the background.
Hale was a pleasure to work with; he was grounded and kind and was without a hint of an ego. I admire that even though he’s now a successful and famous actor, he remembers who gave him the foundation on which he has been able to build his career – and he gave back.