Tony Hale is changing his pace in the new Disney+ series The Mysterious Benedict Society, based on the original series of novels by Trenton Lee Stewart.
Through his major roles in Arrested Development and Veep, Hale has made himself a household name and shows no signs of stopping.
His latest project, The Mysterious Benedict Society, tells the story of a group of four gifted orphans who find themselves enlisted on a mission to save the world from “The Emergency” — a widespread distribution of subliminal messages that are being used to induce mass hysteria.
These selected children were handpicked and brought together by Hale’s character, the admirable Mr. Benedict.
However, that’s not the only role that Hale plays in the new fantasy series. He also plays Benedict’s evil twin, Dr. Curtain.
While balancing these two characters, Hale found himself being challenged in many different ways.
He told Monsters & Critics, “I had to find places in myself where I resonated with the characters because if I didn’t, I’d just be playing kind of an idea of the characters, like the good guy and the villain. I really wanted to find that authentic place.”
Hale added, “For instance, with Dr. Curtain, he’s very sarcastic. I’m very sarcastic, so I was able to find that resonance. And that helped, hopefully, with giving a little more of a real picture of them rather than kind of cardboard cutout types.”
Tony Hale spoke with Monsters & Critics about his experience filming The Mysterious Benedict Society during the COVID-19 pandemic and his first impression while reading the show’s script.
On shooting during the pandemic
Monsters & Critics: Throughout the show, you get to work with a lot of younger actors. Can you tell me a bit about that experience? They’re great.
Tony Hale: Yeah, they’re so great. Mystic, Emmy, Seth and Marta — those four kids are so good at what they do. Not only are they signing up for a Disney show, which is a very big deal and probably daunting, but they’re also doing it during a pandemic.
They’re away from their homes for five months. They can’t go home. And, they’re having school half of the time and all of that.
They still showed up with a good attitude. I have a lot of respect for that. These kids really stepped up to the plate and I feel very honored to have worked with them. They’re really good kids. Really good kids.
Monsters & Critics: It’s so impressive that they were able to juggle all of that while everything else in the world was going on.
Hale: Exactly. It’s funny you said that because while I was shooting, it was really hard to not make a parallel to what was going on in the world compared to what the story was saying. I mean, as you know, the story starts off and there’s a global crisis happening that’s creating fear and anxiety.
My character, Mr. Benedict, sends these four kids out to find the source. And what I’m crazy about, is that these kids don’t have magical powers.
Their superpower is their creativity, intellect, empathy, and also their uniqueness. And that’s what makes a difference. Those are superpowers. And, I look at this past year and it’s those voices of empathy and those voices of truth that have risen to the top.
So, while shooting, it was really difficult to not draw that comparison constantly.
Finding inspiration through The Goonies
Monsters & Critics: What were your first thoughts when you read the script?
Hale: Scared. But that’s typical. I think if you don’t have a healthy sense of fear when you do something, something’s off. I was nervous, but I was also really excited to dive into it.
This young adult category is just like very simple truths, but very powerful truths about how you treat others.
I was a big fan of The Goonies growing up. So, I’m constantly remembering The Goonies, like when they played the piano and it opened the door and all that stuff. I love that stuff.
And in this, there are all of these puzzles and as I’m reading, I’m trying to figure out how does this work? And the kids, of course, are getting it before me because it takes me a little more time. I love that stuff and that’s what this is all about.
I had to look at it as just allowing the story to unfold with each script. And that’s what made it really fun.
Check out our full interview here:
The Mysterious Benedict Society is currently streaming on Disney+.