How ‘Barry’ Avoided a Sophomore Slump and Allowed Bill Hader to Embrace His Dark Side

TheWrap Emmy magazine: HBO star tells TheWrap he has “no idea” what will happen in Season 3: “We like to write ourselves into a corner.”

Eric Hernandez

This story about Bill Hader and “Barry” first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

After a strong debut season, one that ended with a pair of Emmy wins for star Bill Hader and supporting actor Henry Winkler, HBO’s “Barry” comfortably avoided any sophomore slump, as it allowed Hader’s title character to fully go into the darkness. The season ended with Hader’s hitman-turned-actor, Barry, on an all-out killing spree, and with Barry’s acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Winkler) having the jaw-dropping realization that Barry might have been the one who killed his girlfriend, Detective Janice Moss, at the end of Season 1.

Prior to that chaotic finale, one of the standout moments from “Barry’s” second season was the “Ronny/Lily” episode, which saw Barry and Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) encounter Lily (Jessie Giacomazzi), the world’s most terrifying 11 -year-old girl. “There’s something up with her. We still don’t know what it is,” Hader said, teasing a future appearance. “That was definitely a loose end. She takes off down the street and we kind of go, ‘I don’t know what happened to her.’”

Hader also directed that particular episode, and said filming its extended fight sequence, where Lily was a cross between a superhero and a feral cat, was just as frightening. “When she had to run up the tree, that was terrifying,” he said. “I just had a heart attack every time she would go up. Because it really is an 11-year-old girl. She’s on wires and all that, and the tree is not there, we digitally [added] that in. It’s like a rock-climbing wall she was going up. It was terrifying because in my head I’m going, ‘Oh, please don’t hurt yourself.’”

While Hader and Winkler were nominated again for Outstanding Lead Actor and Supporting Actor in a Comedy, the categories in which they each won last year, Barry landed additional nominations in the supporting-actor category for Root and fan favorite Anthony Carrigan (NoHo Hank), plus a supporting-actress nod for Sarah Goldberg (Sally Reed).

This haul of five acting nominations came after a season in which all the show’s supporting characters saw their storylines expanded.

“It just gets boring if it’s all about Barry,” Hader said. “His storylines [are] in the front, you’re following him, but you also want to see what’s going on with these other people. They’re just as interesting, and if you can do it right, their stuff is affecting his stuff. That’s what we’re always trying to figure out.”

Hader recalled one moment that stuck out for Goldberg. “We gave Sarah this long monologue in Episode 7, and she added an extra page to it. They understand their characters better than we do.”

Just don’t ask Hader what comes next. “I have no idea,” he said. “We like to write ourselves into a corner and then kind of go, ‘Well, geez, I don’t know what’s going to happen now.’” He added that they did the same thing after Season 1. “We don’t know but I think we’re always in good stead when we say, ‘What would the character do?’”

Read more from the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

EmmyWrap Down to the Wire cover
EmmyWrap Down to the Wire cover