Actor’s parents, city of Macon get some love on Emmy broadcast

pramati@macon.comSeptember 23, 2013 

Mike and Rita Hale said their son, Tony, was bitten by the acting bug early on.

From acting in youth theater in junior high and high school to moving to New York and getting acting jobs in commercials, there was never a question of what Tony Hale was going to do with his life.

“Ever since junior high, when he was part of the Young Actors Theatre (in Tallahassee, Fla.),” Mike Hale said, “it just became his career.”

Sunday night, Tony Hale achieved a career highlight when he won an Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. It’s the first award of this magnitude that Hale has won.

When he got on stage, he thanked his parents and told a worldwide audience they live in Macon.

“We just jumped out of our chairs and hit each other on the head,” Rita Hale said with a laugh Monday. “To see him get this award was so exciting.”

Mike Hale said he wasn’t holding out high hopes for his son, given the talent he was facing in that category -- Bill Hader of “Saturday Night Live,” Adam Driver of “Girls,” and Ty Burrell (a former winner), Ed O’Neill and Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family,” which has swept the supporting actor in a comedy category ever since the show debuted.

“We’re such big fans of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and of course, ‘Modern Family’ has been winning everything the last three years,” Mike Hale said.

But when Merritt Wever of “Nurse Jackie” pulled off an upset moments earlier to win Supporting Actress in a Comedy, he thought his son’s chances improved.

“I thought (the voters) were thinking outside of the box,” he said.

Sure enough, Hale’s name was the next one called.

After his win, Tony Hale wasn’t done for the night. When co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus won Lead Actress in a Comedy for her role as Vice President Selina Meyer on “Veep,” Hale went back on stage in the character of Gary Walsh, who serves as Meyer’s Man Friday. As he does on “Veep,” Hale whispered to Louis-Dreyfus the names of all the people she needed to thank. The mini-skit ended when Louis-Dreyfus “forgot” to mention Hale.

For Hale’s parents, the bit was the icing on the cake for the evening, since they’ve gotten to know the “Veep” cast and have been fans of Louis-Dreyfus ever since her “Seinfeld” days.

The Hales moved to Macon in 2002 when Mike, who had retired from the Army, went to work as an IT specialist at what was then Macon State College. A few years later, he was promoted to director of the newly opened Warner Robins campus of the college before he eventually retired.

Though Tony never lived in Middle Georgia, he’s been in Macon several times. He gave a talk on acting at Macon State and was a guest at an event for the Macon Film Festival.

He isn’t the first Emmy winner in his family. Tony’s wife, Martel Thompson, won an Emmy for Best Makeup in 2006 for her work on the daytime soap opera “All My Children.”

Rita Hale said even though her son won an Emmy for “Veep,” it’s still his role as Buster Bluth on “Arrested Development” that draws the most attention.

“We were in this cable car, and the woman there said to him, ‘Aren’t you Buster?’ ” she said. “We were swinging in this cable car!”

The Hales said their son is back at work on Season 3 of “Veep” and is waiting to hear if “Arrested Development” will get picked up for a new season on Netflix or be turned into a motion picture.

The Hales still hadn’t been able to call Tony yet to congratulate him as of lunchtime Monday, though they did text him. Their phone has been constantly ringing from various well-wishers, including their own grandchildren, who called right after Hale won.

Rita Hale said one grandchild asked why Mike was crying in the background.

“He’s crying because he’s happy,” she replied.

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