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‘Barry’ Season 3: Bill Hader on Bad Junket Questions and How Reshoots Refined Episode 3

That Spider-Man question was inspired by a real experience Hader had, the actor tells TheWrap

Bill Hader is back breaking down the latest episode of “Barry” Season 3 for TheWrap, and this time we’re talking about awkward junket experiences, reshoots and even a bit about the writing process for Season 4.

Episode 3, titled “ben mendelsohn,” is the episode that Hader says changed the most when the series went back for reshoots earlier this year. “All the reshoots that we did in February, which were like two weeks of reshoots, affected Episodes 1 through 6 and it was pretty extensive in some cases,” Hader told TheWrap. “Three was probably the biggest. And it was just like looking at everything cut together and being like, yeah, this doesn’t feel right.”

It was actually Hank’s (Anthony Carrigan) storyline that was significantly reworked for the episode. As originally shot, Hank came out to his Chechen gangster pals who told him they already knew and didn’t care, but once in the editing room, Hader and the rest of the “Barry” team agreed the story didn’t quite track.

“That was really our editors, if I’m being honest,” Hader said. “The editors were kind of like, it just doesn’t feel like this is what they would be talking about. And then I kind of just went into another office and was like, yeah, the scene would be this, and then wrote all that really fast with [writers] Duffy Boudreau and Liz Sarnoff.”

The crux of Episode 3 is Sally (Sarah Goldberg) finds her character thrust into a junket for her hit new TV series, and the experience is strikingly different than what she expected, as she’s faced with questions like, “Who do you think should be the next Spider-Man?” A question that was inspired by a real event that happened to Hader.

“Yeah, a version of that happened to me when I was doing press for ‘The Skeleton Twins,’” Hader said. “Someone asked me about suicide, and then when I was answering, they cut me off and said, ‘What do you think about Ben Affleck as Batman?’”

Read our full interview for more on the Barry/Fuches relationship, embracing the theme of how love can lead to violence and where that chilling ending came from. And check back next week for another episodic breakdown with Hader.

Episode 3 really gets into this notion that Gene has this reckoning for being this abusive personality in his past, and I was curious about expanding on that in this season.

Yeah, Gene was just like a very bitter guy. You see a lot of people like that in any industry. And I like when the guy says, ‘You threw hot tea in my face’ that he’s not saying it with any malice. He’s saying it like, “Yeah, that happens you know?” But I think expanding on that was also a way of paralleling Gene and Barry a bit. And Barry says it in the episode, “We’ve both made a lot of mistakes.” And that’s kind of a thing that might happen where you write the scene in the trailer, and then we go back and you start to add those in earlier, you start to expand on it more because it’s like oh that’s interesting that Barry’s equating their paths.

Yeah, he seems insane in that scene, honestly.

Yeah, he’s just beyond denial. There’s just no way you can cut it any other way. And another thing about Episode 3 is [that] Episode 3 was also one that [we reshot a lot of]. Most of the Hank stuff in Episode 3 was reshot because we got kind of caught up with this idea of – and this is a good example of where you can mess up — you put things on the board that could be interesting scenes. And it was like, oh, what if Hank comes out to Yandar and Akhmal, the two other Chechen guys, and they already knew and didn’t care. And he’s moved by that but it’s kind of a funny scene where they’re like, “We have bigger fish to fry, Hank.” So we wrote and shot that, and then in the edit, with Franky Guttman and Ali Greer the editors, it just kind of felt like is this really what we should be talking about right now? (laughs) You guys just got hit by the Bolivians, they tore the place up, there’s this drama with Cristobal. We should be talking about other things, and I just don’t think that’s where Hank’s head’s at right now. And it was a thing on my part of like, oh but it was up on the board and it seemed like a fun idea so let’s do it. And then you’re like, yeah, but if I had just put a little bit more pressure on this script, we would have caught that.

So we went back and reshot that scene and then added the scene with – because Cristobal and Hank breaking up at the end of Episode 2, you’re like okay I know where Hank’s at but this is the Romeo and Juliet story, where’s Cristobal at? So in the reshoots in February we shot the scene with Cristobal and Miguel where he’s like, we’re going back to Bolivia.

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Sarah Goldberg in “Barry” Episode 3

That’s interesting. So did you also add in reshoots in the scene where Hank’s guy realizes something might be up with him and Cristobal?

Yeah, that was all reshoots.

That’s interesting because it’s following a track of what would actually happen in this scenario.

Yeah, it’s like what would actually happen instead of like, well this isn’t that interesting, let’s have a fun scene where this happens. That was really our editors, if I’m being honest. The editors were kind of like, it just doesn’t feel like this is what they would be talking about. And then I kind of just went into another office and was like yeah the scene would be this, and then wrote all that really fast with Duffy Boudreau and Liz Sarnoff. All the reshoots that we did in February, which were like two weeks of reshoots, affected Episodes 1 through 6 and it was pretty extensive in some cases. Three was probably the biggest. And it was just like looking at everything cut together and being like, yeah this doesn’t feel right. And luckily HBO was supportive, so we went back and did it.

And that was mostly relegated to the Hank storyline and the Cristobal storyline?

Hank and Cristobal, yeah. And the scene where Natalie’s talking to Katy and Katy’s like, “I’m afraid of Barry” and Natalie’s like, “Oh you shouldn’t be, but he’s yelled at us a whole bunch of times.” That was a reshoot, Katy saying the whole thing about her being interviewed, and Cousineau leaving when he’s angry and he throws his jacket down. Because initially it just ended with him punching Barry and walking out and you were kinda like, “Well what’s his attitude after that?”

I like how he immediately regretted it.

Yeah, it also shows how – which I guess is a big theme this season – love can lead to violence, even from people who are not violent. You know his family’s threatened, and he hits him and threatens him. So I thought that was a thing that would come up throughout the season.

I wanted to talk about the junket experience, which I thought was very funny. A fair amount of journalists, I think, would admit that four-minute interviews are not the most fun thing to do for them either, and I know it can be excruciating for actors to sit there all day. But I really like how it’s used to show how Sally has gone from zero to 100 in her career, and she’s thrust into this experience where she has no idea what to expect and she’s asked who should play the next Spider-Man.

Yeah, a version of that happened to me when I was doing press for “The Skeleton Twins.” Someone asked me about suicide, and then when I was answering they cut me off and said, “What do you think about Ben Affleck as Batman?”

Wow.

I was like, “Oh man…”

I really like Sally’s storyline this season, because it’s kind of reflecting the reality of this is what happens when you get everything you dreamed of.

Yeah, and she thinks it’s gonna be these amazing questions and, “Oh my God are they gonna ask me about my ex? I gotta be ready for that” and instead it’s, “What’s up girlboss?” (laughs). Which is totally what it’s like.

Right, “Was it scary when Pennywise was coming after you?”

If you give me a movie I can recite the questions that I got asked for it. “It 2” is, “Did you read the book?” “Have you seen the first film?” and “Describe what it was like seeing Bill Skarsgard in makeup for the first time.” Every single person for nine hours a day, three days in a row and then you travel and then it’s the same thing over and over and over and over again. It’s champagne problems, by the way, I mean we’re in that stuff and we’re getting asked questions so don’t get me wrong, it’s champagne problems. But at the same time, I’m like, “I’m so bored” (laughs). I think there’s a supercut of me on “It 2” junket where I look like I just wanna die (laughs). I’m just sitting there like, “I cannot get asked this again.”

I also wanted to talk about the phone call between Fuches and Barry, which is very funny, but it’s also very interesting because this season is about forgiveness — Fuches wants Barry to apologize and Barry doesn’t care at all. And then the whole thing with, “I thought you said you were in a hospital.”

Emily Heller had a really funny joke in that which was, “Maybe I’m at the zoo with my new best friend.”

Tell me a little about approaching the Barry/Fuches relationship this season and where it’s at in this episode, and then it leads to this panthers story at the end.

Yeah, it was originally a deal where I think I said to you last time you were going to see him get sent to Chechnya, and then we thought in the early days of writing, oh it’d be really funny if Fuches was sent to Chechnya to basically be a patsy. So when the heat comes down on them, they can just blame it on Fuches and say he’s a Chechen assassin called The Raven and send the cops on a goose chase, because Fuches is expendable. And then we thought it’d be funny if he falls in love in Chechnya and he’s raising goats and doesn’t want to come back.

So we did that, and then we needed at some point — the thing that happens a lot this season, and I think is very true to life, is making the wrong choice out of anger which comes out of love. I think Fuches truly loves Barry. And I think his anger comes from loving him, and that violence comes from that, of being ignored and not getting the apology that he wants. He’s so angry about a guy who’s on the other side of the world and not thinking about him (laughs). A lot of people do that. I’ve done that, where you’re like, “Why are you so worked up about this?” So again it’s finding those real emotions that you felt and then writing towards that. And then the panther thing came from something that we wanted to do that’s established in the next episode.

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Stephen Root in “Barry” Season 3 (HBO)

So you worked backwards from there?

Yeah, we worked backwards from there. It’s like OK, we have this thing we want to do, we’ve got to work backwards from it. And then we made up a fable that Fuches totally takes the wrong thing from (laughs). Duffy Boudreau made us laugh so hard when we were writing it and it’s like alright, what’s Fuches’ reaction? And he goes, “You say this happened to a friend of yours?” (laughs) And it’s like, no it’s a fable from the 15th century. He fully got the wrong idea from this.

Knowing in hindsight what that plot point is and where it goes is so dark, but it’s so funny that it comes from him misunderstanding a fable.

It’s an important thing when you’re writing this stuff that the characters – the best we can, sometimes you get in spots where you can’t do it – but if they can instigate a thing or their choice is what instigates a thing or makes things worse or better, that’s kind of where you always want to live. There was a version of that where she could have said a thing and without giving anything away, like agreed with him. You know what I mean? And it’s like, oh no it’s funnier if she says it as a way of dissuading him like look vengeance gets you nowhere, and he’s kind of just not listening to her (laughs). That just kind of sums up that character. And that actress was just unbelievable. That’s the hardest thing when you’re an actor coming in and you have two days and having a big speech you gotta give and you’re in a room full of the crew and it’s a bunch of strangers. I thought she came in and just knocked it right out of the park. Effortless. It’s hard. That’s a tough speech. It doesn’t flow (laughs). It’s like a lot of moving parts, and she just nailed it. Every time nailed it.

There’s this really messed up father and son thing with Barry and Fuches but also with Barry and Cousineau, and it’s fascinating to see him not necessarily drop Fuches, but he doesn’t care about him, and he so desperately wants Gene to love him.

Yeah. That’s definitely where his allegiance is because he feels like – you know this whole thing was predicated on him saying, “I’m not a violent piece of shit, I’m a good person.” And Cousineau is the guy that Barry thinks made that happen.

He validates Barry being a good person.

He validates him, and Fuches is the bad guy who f—-ed him over. Once you kind of understand these throughlines, which takes a while, suddenly these scenes become a little easier to write, they kind of lock into place a bit more where it’s like, well obviously this is where it’s going. It’s funny because right now with Season 4 it’s kind of a little all over the place where it’s like, well this is kind of there. So much of your job is making sure that these things are consistent and that each scene moves the story forward in some way, so if you take that scene out – that happens all the time in the edit where we’ll be doing a scene and then go, “Oh what does this look like without this scene?” And sometimes you do it and you go, yeah you don’t need it, but we needed to write it for some reason to try to get to some place.

I have always said the hardest part of the whole experience is writing, because it can really be anything. Once you’re shooting and stuff you’re honing. It’s all just a process of honing and focusing it. And you can you tell the story back and forth to each other over and over and over. I just did that. Duffy Boudreau and I worked on a scene and I called Liz Sarnoff before we talked and was like, “Hey, so this is what we were thinking,” and you walk through the paces of it. And it’s like, “Yeah, that little part right there, I don’t think tracks,” and you’re like, “OK, tomorrow we’ll work on that.”

Has that process been refined now that you’re in Season 4?

Yeah, I mean I think it’s a little bit fresher in my mind. I think when we were doing Season 3 it had been so long that once we started shooting I was like, “Oh man, these scripts feel kind of too lean or something,” and then we shoot it and we’re still cutting stuff. Where I feel like Season 1 and especially Season 2, we would shoot stuff and it’d be really long. It’s being a little bit more disciplined as a writer and saying every scene needs to be about one thing. Especially Alec Berg and I were kings of writing scenes about five different things, then you get in the edit and go, “Well I guess it’s about this, but it’s also about this, but it’s also about this,” and so you’re picking and choosing in the edit, and I think especially since I was directing more episodes and we had the time, it was just honing it. If everybody’s story works together to tell a bigger story, that’s the goal. It’s easy to do a show where that doesn’t happen. A phrase I say constantly is, “It’s of a piece.” So I’m like, “Now that we’ve figured out that new open of Episode 1 with me killing the very idea of forgiveness I’m like, now it’s of a piece. Before it was just an interesting scene.”

“Barry” Season 3 airs Sunday nights on HBO.

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