Note: The following contains spoilers for “Barry” Season 3 Episode 8.
Barry Berkman is now behind bars.
Bill Hader’s titular hitman finally got caught at the end of the “Barry” Season 3 finale thanks to a trap set up by his acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Herny Winkler), but the acclaimed HBO series is far from over. Hader and Co. are already hard at work on Season 4.
“The nice thing about knowing he gets caught is you can just, like, start burning stuff because the whole thing with a show like this is everybody goes, ‘He’s never going to get caught until the very last episode,’” Hader told TheWrap during our final (and lengthy) episodic interview of this season for the finale “starting now,” which Hader co-wrote and directed.
As it turns out, having Barry get caught was one of the very first ideas they came up with in the writers room for Season 3.
“On the first day of writing Season 3 we put on the board: Cousineau knows, Sally has her own show, Cristobal-Hank are a couple, the Fuches revenge army and the last scene is Cousineau catches Barry,” Hader said. “So we knew that first day of writing that Barry was going to get caught.”
And if you look back, the cookie crumbs of this twist ending were threaded throughout the beginning of the season. It’s Gene’s acting that convinces Barry to walk into Jim Moss’ house, which turns out to be a trap set up by the police.
“That was all tied into Episode 2, when [Gene] goes, ‘I won’t tell a soul, Barry.’ He goes, ‘You’re not a good actor, Mr. Cousineau.’ At the end of the season, his acting is what tricks Barry, so he is an amazing actor. He gets Barry by giving the performance of his life,” Hader said.
Hader and the show’s writers didn’t face any resistance to locking Barry up at the end of the season. On the contrary, Hader says the idea was born out of not wanting the story to get stale.
“I always just feel like I start to get a little bored, because I’m like, ‘well, how’s this guy not caught yet?’ It felt like one of the first conversations was he’s going to have to get caught this season, and then I think the trick in going to Season 4 was, well, what’s the pressure now? It’s out of the bag. What are we holding our breath about?”
That answer will have to wait until Season 4 debuts (Hader said he can reveal “absolutely nothing” about the next season, for which he’s directing all the episodes), but for now, “Barry” leaves viewers with its most intense and horrific episode to date. Which was by design.
While a few episodes of the show have showcased some fun and funny action sequences (many directed by Hader himself), he didn’t want anything in this finale to feel “badass.” Indeed, “what you’re watching is trauma” is something Hader has said more than once this season and he said it again in relation to the finale. It all comes to a head when Barry’s hitman world finally comes into contact with Sally (Sarah Goldberg), and she ends up murdering an attacker.
In our wide-ranging interview with Hader, he breaks down the finale in granular detail, including how he crafted the Sally scene, the Gene-Jim interrogation sequence, designing the horrific panther sequence with Hank without actually seeing the creature, inducing a panic attack for Barry’s scene with Albert at the tree, how the darkness of this season is a reflection (of sorts) of the news and much, much more.
Read on below.
Right from the jump, this episode puts dread in the viewer by showing Sally and Gene with all the people Barry’s killed.
I think that was “Here are the two things that he cares about more than anything,” and I think in my mind that was kind of like a fever dream of he’s afraid of something happening to the two people he cares about the most.
There was just a worry that it was a harbinger of things to come, that they’d end up dead by the end of the episode.
It plays like that for sure, and that’s also great.
How did you set upon opening this episode, knowing where it’s going to go?
The initial open to this episode was the beach, and no one’s on it, and there’s a rock and Sally is laying across the rock like a panther. She looks at the camera, like it’s her profile looking out, and then when she turns to the camera, her eyes glow, like a panther, and we were going to do that. Then I saw this show “Midnight Mass,” and they did that. I went, “Oh man, this looks great. They did this really well. Forget it.” (laughs) I don’t know if it would’ve mattered or not, but it just made me not like the idea anymore. I was like, ah, forget it. Let’s just have them there. Then, oh, we can have Cousineau there. Oh, this is much better. That’s what happened.
That opening shot is actually a stolen shot from Episode 7. That’s just the tail end of another piece of coverage, where I’m looking back and noticing the people I’ve killed. That’s me looking at Mayrbek.
Then we cut to the title. How did the audio that plays over the title in this episode come about?
That was just me and the editor Ali Greer. We were messing around with that and I said, “Why don’t you try putting the football game underneath it?” And we did, and I can’t explain why. We both thought it worked. Then we played it for Franky Guttman, the other editor, and he went, “Oh yeah, that’s great.”
Then we get Gene and Annie and we see here he’s still trying to give everything away to her, and then he gets the call from Jim Moss. How did you hit upon this as closing the book on Annie’s story for this season?
Well, it was a fake-out of saying this is where their story’s going now. With the “Our Town” thing you go, “Oh, this is where it’s headed,” and then Jim Moss calls. Like everything, it was about twice as long, and we cut it in half, and that she wants to do this other show called “Chrome F—- #9.” I think I had watched David Cronenberg’s “Crash” again, and the next day was working on that and I was like, “Oh, ‘Chrome F—- #9’” (laughs). So that was fun, and then he gets a call from Jim Moss, and the thing I like is Jim Moss knows exactly how long it takes him to get to his house. It’s like, he’s already starting the breaking down immediately, which I thought was fun.
Then we cut back to Fuches in the interrogation room, and he of course goes to prison. He gets handed his clothes and he says, “I’m the Raven.” Is Fuches now going to try to inhabit this persona while he’s incarcerated?
Yeah, I don’t know. You’ll have to see in Season 4, but we just thought it was funny that he’s trying to own it.
I think probably the hardest I laughed in this episode is at the police station where the other officer in the background says, “Haven’t seen him since he stormed out here and cocked his gun in front of us. He’s probably out there seeing the sites.”
(Laughs) That was a joke added in post-production because, initially, he was saying something else that was more serious, I think. We went, oh, it doesn’t really matter. Let’s make it a joke. So he ADR’ed that.
Now having seen the episode, it’s setting up that the cops are going to show up at the end, and they’re starting to come around and figure out it’s Barry.
And that Jim Moss is the one that’s going to call and say, “I got Gene Cousineau here, and here’s what happened.”
Well, let’s talk about that interrogation scene with Gene and Jim, which I think is one of the best scenes of the series. The shot construction and performances are great. Tell me about constructing that and directing the actors on the day and putting that together, because it’s so effective.
Well, I wrote that. This episode, we had written a lot of it, and then we started writing Season 4. We had a writer’s room over Zoom, because it was the summer of 2020. Then I had to go and do passes on the drafts, and I would send them to the writers. They would give me notes and I’d take their notes and go back.
I wrote that pretty much as you see it. That one didn’t change that much, but that is constructed — I feel like the way it was written, I don’t think there’s a camera move in it, but I knew in my head it was going to be one-shot that pushed in on them. That it felt like an interrogation, but also like an acting exercise. It ends on this close-up of Cousineau that Jim Moss would enter into it and you would just have this incredibly tight two-shot of them in each other’s faces. I think Duffy Boudreau said it well, where he says, “It’s Gene facing God.” It’s God looking him in the eye saying, “Do you love Barry Berkman?” Because he said he did in the beginning of the season, and do you love Janice Moss? Basically, you’ve got to make choice.
I just asked those guys to run it and they rehearsed it a lot, and we were shooting and they would rehearse with other people and they just got it down. I think we did it seven times. I think that is take six. That’s the second to last take. It really worked on that sixth take. Then I tried to chase it and go, “Oh, that was so good. Let’s go one more time.” Then Gavin Kleintop our first assistant director very wisely went, “I think they’re tired.”
And Henry Winkler really cried. He really cried in that. He got so worked up on that take. Robert really scared him, and he got really worked up and it was… It’s weird for me to say it was sweet, but it was sweet.
You mentioned you guys started writing Season 4 during the pandemic before you shot Season 3. That’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you about, because you when you guys started writing Season 4, you went back and opened the scripts for Season 3, and I was curious what changed.
Well, certain things I can’t say, because it sets up stuff in Season 4, but I can say where Sally and NoHo Hank specifically end up this season and giving them Barry’s disease, like they murder people. That was something that, as we were looking at Season 4, it was kind of going like, “Oh, that could be interesting to just have their characters be different.”
Well so let’s talk about Sally in this episode. When we first get to her, she wants Barry to terrorize Natalie. Which is funny, but Barry is actually very sweet in that scene.
He doesn’t want her to make the same mistake. He thinks he’s Sally and Cousineau’s rock. He thinks he’s the person they go to when they have problems, so he’s trying to give her the best advice he knows how, especially with what he’s just gone through. He’s genuinely saying, “I don’t want you to end up going where I’m going.” Then by the end of the scene, it’s worse.
So tell me about that. How did you hit upon Sally’s going to murder this person? I full-on thought you were going to kill Sally off in that scene.
I think a bunch of people when they watched the cut thought we were.
It goes on a long time.
Ali Greer edited that, and she did not enjoy it. She was like, “That was very rough thing to cut, and I would take little breaks.” But we both felt that it needed to last for a while, him choking her. You need to buy into it, but I also don’t like it feeling like an action sequence. It also had to be slightly stylized in a way, so it’s not handheld, it’s not a documentary. It’s this hybrid thing that you’re trying to figure it out, and you don’t want anything to feel “badass “about it. What you’re watching is trauma. You’re watching someone with trauma act out and try to take control.
It has this really heartbreaking contrast to that oner in the first episode, where her abuse is being acted out on the set of “Joplin.”
That’s totally by design. It’s like, we’re going to show this. It’s a harbinger to the shot at the end of the season, where she’s going to be the one being choked, and it’s a cycle. Initially, I think that scene was always going to be some version of that, that Taylor comes back, knocks out Barry. I said, “Well, what could be the worst thing that happens right now?” You go, well, Shane Taylor comes back, he knocks out Barry and now it’s just him and Sally alone. Now the two worlds have officially collided for the first time ever on the show. The killer is in the room with her. We know her history. We know who this guy is.
The irony is that Anthony Molinari, that actor, is one of the nicest human beings on the planet, and I’m not being hyperbolic. He’s one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. He and Wade Allen, our stunt coordinator, and Sarah worked that sequence out. I said, “Here’s where I’d like it to go. Here are the shots.” They worked it out, and I just said, “Your thoughts shouldn’t be about her. Your thoughts should be about Barry. You’ve just got to get rid of her, and I want your thoughts to be in, ‘What am I going to do to this guy who killed members of my family?’” He’s probably going to go torture Barry someplace, but first, why is this girl here?
I said, “You should be annoyed, and you shouldn’t think of her as anything other than a fly.” That’s how he plays it, and it’s really disturbing. It’s about not caring about human life, that it’s not a conscious thing, but as we’ve seen in the news and the way the world happens — it’s something in me, all this s–t, the movies, life, but also what’s happening in the world. It all is stored in there, and then it comes out somehow. It’s a thing that’s a fact of life. It’s a fact of being human, and it’s something that also makes me really sad. It was trying to dramatize that. The way he looks at her, and then she stabs him and his thing is, “Why’d you do that to me?”
Yeah he’s like, “Now I can’t see, did you poke me in the eye or something?”
His attitude’s like what is wrong with you? Why’d you just do that? It was an important thing to me for the revenge army to say… You had Annabeth Gish’s character, you had Michael Bofshever who played Ryan’s dad, all these people, Sharon, Chris’s wife, you have all these different actors having a different reaction to the violence. But it was important to me that you needed a psychopath too, because those exist. Taylor is a psychopath. It was just playing that, and that Sally stabs him.
Then there was this talk of, well, what does she do? Does she run? Does she call the police? I think majority of people in the room felt like, from everything we’ve put her through and everything she’s gone through in her life, up until this point, she should kill him in a fit of rage. Then Barry sees this and is like, “Oh no.” Then he tries to take it and say, “I did this.” He’s now given her his disease, and he tries to take ownership and it’s like, that’s not how it works. I floated that to Sarah Goldberg, “And here’s what we’re thinking.” She was like, “I have to kill him. No way she’s not killing him.” (laughs) Especially when he’s calling her a bitch and all that. She snaps. Then in doing that, you have her going to the booth and by the door closing and the sound going out, it’s instinctual, but it gives you a feeling of… I see that, and I can’t speak to what everybody else sees, but when I see that it’s like, oh, she’s cut off. There’s something about her that she’s never going to be the same again.
It also just makes the violence that much more striking. You’re an observer to it. You’re not in it.
Yeah. Then we get her out of the booth and then we get to that closeup of her, and that was the thing that, to me, exemplified the whole episode in a shot, and Sarah was unbelievable in that shot. It was truly transcendent acting in that moment, I thought. Then we finished it, and Carl Herse, our DP went, “Ah, there was a buzz on the lens,” which means the focus was off. We tried to do it two more times, and Sarah was getting frustrated and I was getting frustrated because it just wasn’t the same. I said, “Well, can I look at the first take?” And everyone said, “Yeah. There’s a buzz on the lens.”
You watch it. I don’t see where the buzz in the lens is, but there was a buzz on the lens. I was like, “Oh God,” but that’s why you have really talented people there because they see the things that you can’t. But that was one where I said, “You know what? Forget it. If there’s a buzz on the lens, I don’t care, that performance was just outstanding.”
That was shot on a stage at Sony and all planned out pretty well. The scene where he throws her against the wall and then she falls down into the foreground, it worked out great. That’s a Texas switch, so he’s throwing a stunt woman into a wall, and Sarah’s crouched right next to it, and she just drops into frame. It looked great.
Then we go to Hank, which is where I felt like I was going to have a heart attack.
That’s a horror movie (laughs)
Hank is going to escape. He’s going to get Cristobal out. He’s going to kill Elena. That, on paper, can go a number of different ways. How did you go about figuring out how this was going to be visualized? Because there’s such a sense of dread and terror and horror and you don’t see hardly any of the violence.
That was the idea behind it, was that the idea of not seeing anything, and that the panther, it hearkens back to the panther story in Episode 3. But it’s this idea of turning into a vengeful, violent thing, and then by not showing it, it was like this ethereal thing that he’s reacting to. But then on just another horror movie thing, the less you show, the more you hear and the better it is.
Again, it just happened organically through the writing, which is you do that, and then you go, “God, what if you just never see the panther?” Because at one point he shot through the wall, and he came around and he went into the room. You saw everybody dead in there and you saw the panther barely alive, and he shot it, and it just, you didn’t need it. Again, like the Sarah thing, Anthony [Carrigan], when he read it, he said, “This isn’t like ‘Rambo,’ right?” I went, “No, no, we’re watching trauma.”
That’s a set. The thing I heard about multiple times on that episode, and in that scene in particular, the amount of meetings we had about walls, because it was one wall you could hit, nothing would break. Then a second wall you could break, and then the third wall you had to have squibs on, and to take each of those walls out takes like 20 minutes. So we want to shoot all the shots for this wall, and then we have to shoot all the shots for the second wall and all the shots for the third wall, and to save time we don’t want to have to go back and forth a bunch. It was really planning out your shots of which wall’s in the background of this shot? Where’s the wall at now?
Then the other thing that broke my brain was when do we see the panther, and I remember coming into my office during a break, and my assistant Alyssa was like, “You’re going to meet with a panther wrangler.” I was like, “You never see the panther!” (laughs) I just feel like no one was believing me. They went, “Right, right, right, right. We don’t see the panther. But just to have it, let’s just have you meet with a panther wrangler.” I go, “We’re never going to see it!”
Then I show up and there’s this guy with a fake panther, just in case I want to see something in the room. I was going, “It’s all sound,” and they went, “Right, right, right, right, right.” Again, I just felt so bad for this guy, because he prodded his fake panther out and just sat there. He got paid and I’m sure he ate good food and stuff. But I felt bad.
But Anthony Carrigan deserves a lot of credit because he is acting and reacting to me talking. He’s not hearing anything, really. It’s like me going, “All right, now they’re coming in, and now the panther’s gone.” He’s just reacting and it’s really good.
That final shot of him is just so heartbreaking where he hugs Cristobal but he’s so traumatized.
Yeah. He’s never going to be the same again, or is he, I don’t know. But I like that when he comes upstairs, it’s a mansion. That was cool. Then that’s one of my favorite shots of the whole season is that shot behind him, pushing him down the hallway, and you see the guy dancing and the lights are flickering.
Well, I was going to say, that goes to you don’t see the panther, but you also don’t know really what’s at the end of the hallway. It adds to the horror and the tension when you don’t know what’s around each corner.
I like that stuff. Liz Sarnoff, I remember, pitched the conversion therapy. She was like, “Oh, she should be trying to convert him.” I was like, “Oh God,” and initially it was going to be with drugs. Then, oh no, it should be more vicious and more blunt and not thought out, if it’s with electricity. Krizia, who plays for Cristobal’s wife, is a very sweet actress, and I told her, “Don’t play this like a villain. You’re hurt.”
You can tell she cares about him.
She loves him. She cares about him. She just needs to fix him. That’s her motivation, and then that actor who was a stripper was very sweet and very patient, and I like it when he starts playing the piano. Then Michael Irby is just amazing in it, and I love that shot where she gets shot and falls out of frame and then Hank takes her place. Now, they can officially be together.
And yet, nothing’s the same.
And yet, getting that, Hank’s now forever changed. To get love, he had to perpetrate this violence.
I didn’t want to move on without just noting the sound design of this episode is incredible.
Matt and Elmo and their whole team is just pretty unreal, and they just did a phenomenal, phenomenal job, top to bottom. All the guys over there are just, they’re really nice, and it’s a tough episode to have to watch over and over again and work on. I mean, that’s the funny thing is if you were on set for a lot of this, you would see that it’s so intense that there is a lot of joking around and messing around. It’s very light on set for the stuff we’re doing that’s pretty rough.
Then we see Barry’s back at the tree burying the body, and Albert confronts him. I think your performance here is incredible. Barry is just broken, and you feel it.
I had to like induce a panic attack (laughs). I don’t if that’s the smartest thing to do when you’re trying to direct another actor, but [writer] Duffy Boudreau and [first AD] Gavin Kleintop were really helpful this day, and [executive producer] Aida Rodgers too, because I was really exhausted after a couple of takes. I couldn’t see straight. Then when he pulls a gun on me and I scream like that, I remember Duffy Boudreau going, “That was cool. I like that scream. It’s like, oh yeah, he’s not Jason Bourne. He’s a scared boy.”
Then the thing with that was, the cycle of it started with Albert. The first time he killed somebody out of anger was the guy he thought killed Albert, and that guy was innocent, and now in Barry’s mind, it ends with Albert. This makes sense. I think when he drops to his knees, he’s thinking, oh right, of course. This is what has to happen. And I tried to stage it where they look the same, almost, like Barry’s in the same position as the Afghani guy in Season 2. Then Albert forgives him, which is what he wanted all season. He gets forgiven.
Again, it’s the cycle the other way. If you hadn’t tried to save me, my daughter wouldn’t have been born. I wouldn’t have a kid. I wouldn’t have the greatest thing in my life. For that, it’s almost harder for Barry to hear that, to be forgiven is– it’s not the weight off of him that he thought it would be. He’s given his humanity back in a way.
Then I think it’s funny that then he immediately f—s it up, but I don’t think anybody’s going to find the episode funny (laughs). I love that Sally is like, “I love you,” and then it’s like, “F— you, I’m getting the hell out of here.” I do love the idea that if Jim Moss had never called Barry, he would’ve just driven to Sally’s apartment, and she wouldn’t have been there (laughs). And knowing him, he wouldn’t really understand it for a couple of weeks.
Because she knows, from the Natalie thing, and then seeing this trauma and everything, she’s just got to get the hell out of Dodge.
Yeah, and she’s got to go back to Joplin, and that’s that. She just can’t. Then the scene with Henry on the street was really fun, because Barry’s very worried about Cousineau, and he is so angry with him because he’s like what is happening to everybody? The actors are now trying to kill people, what’s happening? (laughs) What are you guys doing? He’s there for Cousineau, and he is like, “Let’s get out of here. Let’s do this.” Then Cousineau says, “Jim Moss knows you killed Janice. He knows everything,” and Barry, he’s in self-preservation mode. “F— what just happened up at the tree, I got to make sure I’m okay.” Because there is a version where he says, “F— it, I’m leaving. This guy can say whatever he wants, but we’re going,” you know what I mean?
That’s what I was going to say. Barry could have just gotten in the car and left. Gene offered.
He could have just gotten in the car and said, “Come on, let’s go.” But he’s got to go get rid of that guy because he cares about Number 1.
It’s ironic because the title of the episode is “starting now,” and I remember that from the finale of Season 1, and that’s what Albert says, and then immediately after that, he breaks it.
Immediately, he f–ks it up (laughs). That’s what I find funny, and that’s just kind of life. Starting now, I’m not going to act like this anymore. Starting now, I’m going to go on a diet. I’m not going to eat cookies (laughs). It’s like, no, that’s not human nature, and Barry, “Starting now, I’m not going to kill people anymore. I just got forgiven. I’m good. No more.”
And he pays for it. I did not know what was going to happen going into the sequence. You build the tension really effectively, especially with that handheld scene with Gene. My mind is racing, is Gene double-crossing him? Is Gene suicidal? I don’t know. Is he going to get killed in here?
You know what a lot of people told me is, “Oh, he took the gun, the gun falls apart.” So they go, “Oh, he’s going to try to kill Jim Moss, and the gun’s going to fall apart.” I had three people say that to me. That would’ve been a letdown. But on the first day of writing Season 3 we put on the board, Cousineau knows, Sally has her own show, Cristobal-Hank are a couple, the Fuches revenge army and the last scene is Cousineau catches Barry. So we knew that first day of writing that Barry was going to get caught.
Did you get any pushback from that? What was the reaction in the room when you pitched that?
They were into it. I remember pitching it and people going, “Yeah.”
Because you guys have a habit of blowing up the show a bit and it’s fine. That’s how they made “Breaking Bad” and it turned out well.
Yeah, every season we end, people go, “Don’t do another one.” That’s why I can’t really engage in a lot of that stuff, because I don’t know. Even when it’s nice, you’re like, “I don’t know what to do with that.” (laughs) When people are like, “I love your show so much. Don’t ever make another episode.” Or, “I hate this show. When’s it going to start being funny again? Isn’t this show supposed to be funny? I thought the show was gonna be funny,” I’m like, “It’s funny!” There was funny stuff in it, but that episode is not funny. But there’s hilarious stuff this season, I thought.
I did want to ask about Henry’s performance when you reveal Gene’s face when it’s over, and your direction to Henry in that moment, because Gene is also giving up his career at this moment as he turns Barry in.
Well, he’s doing amazing acting, and that was all tied into Episode 2, when he goes, “I won’t tell a soul, Barry.” He goes, “You’re not a good actor, Mr. Cousineau.” At the end of the season, his acting is what tricks Barry, so he is an amazing actor. He gets Barry by giving the performance of his life, and that shot of Henry is the only shot, I think, we did the whole season that’s on a 50mm lens, and it just needed to feel different. But I just said, “Just look at him, like, ‘I got you. It’s done. It’s over.'” That’s what that look is.
Then Barry’s devastated.
He can’t believe it. And that shot too, of the guys yelling his name, and then he looks the other way and you see all those SWAT guys come out of the darkness. Then the screen direction of that is very strange. Because they’re talking to his left, but he looks right, and I remember that was a thing that, we’re in the edit, everybody’s going, “He’s looking the wrong way. Shouldn’t he look over to where they’re screaming at him?” I’m like, “No, no, no, no. I don’t want him to do that. I want to look around the room and then look over to those guys.” They have to yell like, “Berkman, look at me!” Then he looks over.
This very, very nice woman, that’s her house, and we took it over for two nights, and she was very sweet. But the initial principal photography, the last day of shooting was the last scene. The last shot was the very last shot of the season of Jim Moss out in the yard. And that, initially as scripted, it was you’re with Barry as he’s getting drug out by cops, and cops are hitting him and yelling in his ear, “We got you motherf—er,” and all this stuff. There’s onlookers and stuff like that. Then we were scouting that house, and I saw that house and I saw that big window and I thought, I love what Robert Wisdom’s doing right now. Let’s just end with him.
And the picture of Janice in the corner.
And the picture of Janice in this silence and it’s, I got the bad guy. We caught Barry. Him and Cousineau were a great team, and then all the cop cars leave, but he still has to go inside that house and he’s going to be alone. So you caught him, but does it matter? I don’t know.
It’s the effects of trauma, and Barry still did what he did and it can’t be undone.
Yeah, that house is empty because of Barry, and so you want to feel that at the end. I thought that was interesting.
But our last day of shooting was that shot, and then we had to come back, I think, two weeks later to shoot the scene with Sally in the fight because someone had gotten COVID. That was the only time we had to shut down for COVID. We had to shut down, and then came back for that scene, so that was the official wrap. We shot that scene and then it was like, “Hey, Season 3’s done.” And then two months later we were back shooting reshoots. The final shot of Season 3 that we did was the gun store owner saying “Sweet.” We did that, and it was like, “That’s an official wrap on Season 3 of Barry,” which is always such a nice feeling of relief. I feel like that actor who said “sweet,” I think he was probably like, “I can do another one.” It was like, “No, that was great. We’re wrapped.” (laughs) We just want to go home.
Looking back, was it constructing a bit of a mouse trap to get Barry caught in the end?
The nice thing about knowing he gets caught is you can just, like, start burning stuff, because the whole thing, I think, with a show like this is everybody goes, “He’s never going to get caught until the very last episode.” I always just feel like I start to get a little bored, because I’m like, well, how’s this guy not caught yet? It felt like one of the first conversations was, he’s going to have to get caught this season, and then I think the trick in going to Season 4 was, well, what’s the pressure now? It’s out of the bag. What are we holding our breath about?
Well it makes sense now that you guys moved into writing Season 4, because how do you not start to think about where this show goes from there?
Yeah, and we’re doing that. Yesterday, we had written an episode, and I felt really good about it and sent the draft out some people. My assistant, Alyssa Donovan, read it and just pulled one string on it, just pulled one thread. It was like, “What about this though?” It just went pfff, it fell apart and we all went, “F–k.” This morning was, “All right, page one.” (laughs)
What can you say about Season 4?
Absolutely nothing (laughs). We’ll see. Judging from other people who have watched it, I think Season 3, some people are like, that was great or that was too bleak or don’t do it anymore. We’re going to make some more.
And you’re going to direct all of them.
Yeah, and I direct all of them, because I don’t like sleep (laughs). But still, nothing’s harder than “Saturday Night Live.”
Well, looking back on this season, how do you feel about how you changed as a writer and director making this season and how the show changed? Or did you think about the show any differently?
You just have to just be honest with where everything should go, and it’s just not worry too much about likability or thinking too much about these other things. You just want to go, “Well, this is what this character would do,” and just taking it one scene at a time like that, because anything else just gets overwhelming. And also trusting myself a little bit more. I think I can get a bit thrown by certain things and get overwhelmed and go, “Oh, I don’t know what I’m doing today, and I don’t know if this works.” But it’s private. The crew never sees it. It’s just I go off in a corner and go, (whispers) “What am I doing?” I think people like Duffy Boudreau and Gavin Kleintop and Aida Rogers have been great to lean on, and say, “Nah, man,” and Liz Sarnoff, like, “It’s going to be great. Don’t worry, bud.”
It feels like the show really hit a confidence stride this season with the tone, and I’m sure you love getting asked, is it a comedy or is it a drama?
Oh yeah. I get that asked, or this isn’t funny anymore. To me, it’s just like, what’s a good story? What’s a story that doesn’t sell s— out for the sake of other things? It’s like, you’ve just got to make it as genuine as you can.
Looking back to the first episode of the season, it all tracks. It’s been telling you this whole season, this whole series really. The opening shot of the series is dark as hell.
It’s always been really dark, and it felt to me like what this wanted and what it meant was that you would have an episode that wasn’t funny, and that you looked at it and you went, “Gosh, if we tried to put any comedy in here, it just really kills everything.”
Did you try? Did HBO ask you to?
No. HBO was great, but they were kind of like, “Jesus Christ, I’m sorry, is there any comedy to mine anywhere?” (laughs) Not really. They understood. But look, I mean, people go, “Man, the show’s bleak and everything.” I just am like, is it as bleak as the news? Not really. Is it maybe a reflection of the news? Yeah. Is it a reflection of hopefully human nature and how people have treated each other since the beginning of time? Maybe. I don’t know. But that’s how I feel (laughs). I can only say this is how I feel at times. I’m really bad at intellectualizing it, because I think by doing that sometimes you lose something.
Also, this is a story about a sociopathic hitman, like do you want to love this guy?
Exactly. Well, it’s always trying to take someone like that and then try to give them some attributes that you can maybe relate to.
You can humanize him without making him “lovable.”
I did hear that when Barry yelled at Sally in Episode 2 of the season, people going, “Well, gosh, he’s not going to be likable after this.” You’re like, “He killed Chris. He mowed down an entire monastery of people.” (laughs)
If you missed my previous “Barry” episodic interviews with Hader, catch up below:
- ‘Barry': Bill Hader Breaks Down Season 3 Episode 7 and Teases ‘Incredibly Intense’ Finale
- ‘Barry’: Bill Hader Explains How He Pulled Off That Chase in Season 3 Episode 6
- Bill Hader Explains How ‘Road Warrior’ and ‘Thief’ Inspired ‘Barry’ Season 3 Episode 5
- Bill Hader Breaks Down ‘Barry’ Season 3 Episode 4: ‘You’re Watching Trauma’
- ‘Barry’ Season 3: Bill Hader on Bad Junket Questions and How Reshoots Refined Episode 3
- ‘Barry’ Season 3: Bill Hader on Barry’s Episode 2 Outburst and the Fallout
- Bill Hader Breaks Down the ‘Barry’ Season 3 Premiere
This interview has been edited for clarity.