What if you could rewind your life? What if erasing a work tantrum or reliving a first kiss was as easy as tapping a few keys on your keyboard? “We all want to be able to control destiny,” said Tony Hale over the phone the other day. Mr. Hale, best known as Buster Bluth in cult TV series Arrested Development, is currently starring as Stuart, a nerdy office worker who can control time with his keyboard in NBC’s delightful original Web series CTRL. “I’m just a huge fan of a completely realistic normal life, just a guy in an office, with crazy supernaturals brought into it. On Sci-fi shows, you’re sort of expecting that. But bring it to everyday life—it’s everybody’s dream.”
Stuart is a put-upon type who has been working for the same company for more than a decade when he suddenly gets to tell off his pig-headed boss and even profess his love to a co-worker, Elizabeth, played by Emy Coligado, all with the help of his keyboard.
“When he kisses Elizabeth for the first time, he wants to re-create that kiss again and have total control over it,” Mr. Hale said. “But he can never really re-create that moment. We all want to be able to control that, but it has to be organic and come from a real place to be special.”
CTRL airs in short, sweet five-minute vingettes, spinning out NBC’s signature quirky, fantastical comedy style from shows like 30 Rock and The Office into a clever Web show. The episodes provide much-needed relief from the I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here–type summer fare.
The show is based on a short film, CTRL Z, which starred Mr. Hale and screened at Sundance in 2008. When SXM, a New York-based new media production and distribution company, and NBC Universal’s digital studio wanted to re-create the movie as a Web series, CTRL Z‘s original screenwriter and director, Robert Kirbyson, signed on. So did Coca-Cola’s Nestea as a sponsor (a bottle of their beverage sits on Stuart’s desk during the show). They promised quality production and a simple story line—which is exactly what attracted Mr. Hale to the project.
“I knew I’d be working with the same people, and I really believed in the show, which made me say yes,” he said. “It was like with Arrested Development—I was working with such creative people and creative writers and that’s what made it great. As long as your team is open to new ideas—it can be incredible.”
So far, six episodes—each featuring a different keyboard function—have been released on NBC.com, and four more are to come.
Could there even be a second season of CTRL? Mr. Hale isn’t sure. But “I love the Quantum Leap thing. He can treasure the keyboard rather than use it more flippantly.”
As for Mr. Hale, you’ll spot him in a few upcoming movies, including Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant, starring Matt Damon, set to be released in mid-September. But he’s open to acting in more Web shows.
“If it’s quality, a gig is a gig,” he told The Observer. “I’m not as digitally minded as maybe I should be. But I don’t have any judgement or put a hiearchy toward different mediums. If the quality of vision is there, absolutely I’m on board.”