The co-creators of HBO’s acclaimed comedy break down the banshee inspiration, good web notes, and routine reactions that “really bother” them.
[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “Barry” Season 3, through Episode 5, “crazytimeshitshow.”]
“Barry” season 3 has been rough when it comes to its titular assassin-turned-actress.Barry Bullock / Berkman, co-creator, executive producer and director Bill Hader, in a vicious circle. He murdered again to hire someone. He pushes away Sally (Sarah Goldberg), now his ex-girlfriend, and he’s been trying to make up with Gene (Henry Winkler) — or, really, even wonders how to make up for it.
From his uncontrollable outbursts to his messy appearance, Barry is not someone anyone should want to be around. Yet the magic that the series weaves week after week does just that: “Barry” finds humor in both dark and light corners. When Barry can’t find hope, the ensemble looks for hope, and their performances are always hilarious because they’re all so good. Even if Barry is scary — and it happens often — “Barry” is enticing, rewarding, and downright addictive.
Most of the credit goes to Hader and co-creators Alec Berg, he also serves as executive producer and director. They have always respected honesty in Barry’s bleak story, just as they have raised supporting characters Hank (Anthony Carrigan), Gene, and Sally into clear individuals with their own ambitions. But like any story, its creators have no control over people’s reactions. Most of the responses were positive — rave reviews, high ratings, prestigious awards — but in the interview below, Berg and Harder discuss a persistent, harmful response that bores them . Read on for their takeaways, as well as key questions to keep in mind in the coming weeks, how remakes can help improve featured episodes, casting secrets, and more.
The following Q&A combines two separate interviews. It has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Standalone line: Three years between the end of season 2 and the premiere of season 3. How did you write the opening knowing that you had to set the tone and explain Barry’s state of mind?
Bill Hader: I remember sitting down and writing that, and there were a few iterations. There’s a version that’s completely different — I think it happens in the parking lot of a gas station — and it’s like, “Oh, what if it was a more dramatic opening? [in] A more remote place? “
Our grounds manager Jonathan Jansen showed me the photo, and I just saw that tree and I was like, “Oh yeah. There.” But when you start writing about it, it’s like, ” Well he’s doing these stupid jobs right now and doing everything. Let’s see where he is. So you hear someone begging for forgiveness. Then when you see Barry, he’s just eating donuts and brooding .” That should tell you something — where he is emotionally. It’s his idea that basically kills the idea of forgiveness. The idea of forgiveness was unreal to him.
Alec Berg: I think the most important thing in any show — in any arc or in any character — is to be sure, “What does this character want? What is the most important thing they need in their life?” This season’s theme is mostly repentance [and] forgive. So that scene really set the stage for the last time we saw him: he lashed out at Fuchs, and then he went mad, and he went mad. Last season was, “Is he naturally violent? Can he control it?” We thought he could control it, he thought he could control it, and then, at the end of last season, we saw he couldn’t. It’s not something he has, so this season we wanted to start the topic, “Can he be forgiven? We know who he is and what he is, but how did he go out and seek forgiveness and repentance?”
So the idea: he’s at work, and then one of them forgives the other at work, and you’d think [Barry] would say, “Great. I don’t have to do this anymore,” right? But that’s not where he is. He was very angry at the thought that this idiot had been forgiven and that no one would do it for him. So, is all hope lost? How does he seek forgiveness?
One of the biggest moments when it comes to how Barry can cause despair and hurt to others is Sally, who yells at her for refusing when he comes up with the idea of helping Gene. Why is it important for Sally to go through this again – to prove she’s in another relationship with a dangerous boyfriend?
Berg: Her ex was a violent, abusive man and Barry was clearly a violent man, so she was regular. And then I think the question we’re asking as viewers is, “Should these guys end up together? Do they belong together? Should she run like hell because she’s in another relationship with another dangerous bad guy?”
From a storytelling standpoint, it’s fascinating how many people react to Barry and Sally’s relationship from Barry’s point of view and say, “No, I don’t know if I like her.” Said is always so charming. Like, “Yeah, she’s a bit narcissistic, she’s probably selfish. [But] He’s a murderer – why are you worried Barry in this relationship? “Not everyone should go,” she should be running, not walking. She’s dating a long-term, repeat-murderer, and yet, for some reason, it’s more of a concern, “Yes.” he Will you be happy with her? “
Hader: Kind of weird.
Berg: The level of judgment we impose on women who are narcissistic or just seeking fame or just seeking fame [kind of] A career is a conversation in itself. This definitely applies to Sally. But yeah, it’s a scary note.
Hader: strange to us [someone] would say, “Sally is horrible,” and be like, “Well, Barry kill people. “I do have this [conversation] Been with someone recently.I won’t say who, but it was a reporter who said, “Yeah, Sally sucks.” And I said, “Barry kills.” And [they] Like, “Yeah, but I know you didn’t actually kill people, you know?”
Hader: I know. I was like, “But no, this story… you know what? I feel like you’ve made up your mind.”
But it’s something that bothers me a lot personally. I think there was actually a clip of a woman somewhere saying how much she hated Sally, so I said, “Oh, Sally is based on me.” – that’s not necessarily 100% true, but I’m just saying this To make her feel bad. Do not, [I’m kidding.] But it’s kind of real. This season in particular, I relate to a lot of what Sally has been through, in terms of her acting and things like that. But yes, killer and ambitious actress. To me, it’s clear who you should worry about.
I’m curious how those viewers react to scenes like episode 5, when Barry tries to comfort her after “Joplin” is canceled, he just ticks off one extreme psychological revenge episode after another.
Hader: Yeah yeah yeah. That’s an interesting scene too, because that’s where he thinks he’s approaching her. It’s his attitude, “Well, I’m just showing you a little bit of myself, and you’ll respect me, or you’ll understand me a little bit.” He’s trying to take Hank and Cristobal’s words to heart. She was like, “stay away from me,” which makes sense.
but I don’t think we have [wrote that scene] As a reaction to any kind of criticism or what people say about Sally or anything else online or in articles.It’s not like we’re in the writer’s room saying, “You know what? We need to make sure people are sympathetic to her.” It happens very naturally — just saying, “Well, at some point, this will happen. [with Barry]. “At some point, he’ll start going against the people he loves to get love. [Another example is] In episode 2, his last scene on the couch with Cousineau, it’s just, “Yeah. I’m going to ruin your life before you love me.” “I’m going to hold you hostage and give you everything you can You forgive me.”
I would like to ask about Sally’s experience with Banshee. What inspired the president, played by Elizabeth Perkins, and the scene where she just gave the worst note imaginable?
Hader: Her lines in those scenes were – I wrote that scene – they weren’t supposed to be funny, she made them funny.Like, “Have you ever lived with your mom?” “I did.” Like she did [makes the scene] Funny now. That’s where writers have a lot of fun because you’re like, “Okay, what’s that? [worst] Have you ever had a bad note-taking session? “
I think my direction to Elizabeth Perkins was, “This is the first time you see [this show]. You have attended nine meetings today. This is your ninth session and I really don’t know if you’ve seen this. When you look at it, I don’t think you remember why you gave it the green light. ‘ she did this very funny thing with her pace [lines] – This is Elizabeth. Because she talks like that, she has time to think and remember, “Who is this? Who am I talking to right now?” Oh my god, she’s funny.
But at HBO, that’s not the case at all. I am being honest. I’m not just a corporate liar. [HBO’s EVP of Original Programming] Amy Gravitt is the exact opposite.There was a scene in episode 1 where we reshot some scenes in February, and one of the scenes we added, Amy Gravitt said, “It would be nice to see a scene where Barry might buy those flowers.” And then I just Think, “Oh, he might be talking to someone who wants to [hire him as an assassin.]”I understand what she’s talking about. She knows it intuitively [the viewer] Want to see, see Barry does not understand.
We also remade episode 4, [Sally’s] Speech before the screening. There’s more to it initially… schadenfreude, I’ll say so. Again, Amy Gravitt said, “You know, I think it would have been better if she had done everything right and the show would have been canceled.” I was like, ‘You’re absolutely right’ – because she Schadenfreude in a vile way that makes everything that happens later feel like the result. So she just broke down a little out of joy, as if all the pressure was released.
I said to Sarah, and I thought, “There’s a private moment in between,” and she just started doing that, and she made those weird half-laughing hiccups. I don’t know what happened, but this is Sarah Goldberg and I’m crying and laughing.
Berg: Oh, she’s glad to do so. It’s funny – Jay Roach is really nervous. Allison is a little nervous, Ben [Harris], her casting partner, who reads with the actor all day, every day.But when you let them play by themselves, all of a sudden, like their hands are too big, they don’t know what to play [do with them.] Same with Jay Roach. He’s like, “I’m nervous,” so it’s fun to flip the table over him. But Alison was so happy to do it, it made the whole scene really work, she made it so real.
Shirley Thomas was your casting director on Barry, so why did Alison play the role?
Berg: Oh, just because Alison Jones has been working with Jay Roach for a while. We just thought, “Oh, this is a comedy, who’s the director? It’s supposed to be Jay Roach.” And then Bill and I knew Jay forever — passed from different things — and we were like, “Oh , Jay’s going to hire Alison Jones, so let’s call her.”
“Barry” airs new episodes on HBO Sunday at 10 p.m. ET. The Season 3 finale is scheduled to air on June 12. HBO has Renewed for Season 4 of ‘Barry’.