Note: The Following contains spoilers for “Barry” Season 4, Episode 4
As “Barry” barrels towards its series finale, the HBO series takes a couple of big swings halfway through this final season. Not only does Episode 4 feature the death of a major character from the show, but it ends with a shocking time jump that jolts the story forward eight years into the future, with Barry (Bill Hader) and Sally (Sarah Goldberg) not only living together but seemingly with a son of their own.
The idea for the time jump was born out of Hader’s desire to see what would happen if all of the characters got what they wanted. “Would they be happy? Could they maintain that?” Hader told TheWrap in our latest episodic interview. Read on for plenty of insight into how Cristobal’s death came to be (and the pushback Hader received in the writers room) and the story behind that delightful cameo from “CODA” director Sian Heder.
So you have this idea that Barry’s escaped prison and Jim Moss is going to find him. He’s hot on his trail. Tell me about threading Moss throughout this episode.
A lot of that was in reshoots, to be honest. The initial episode, as shot and written, was just one shot of Jim Moss driving – you can actually see it in the trailer, it’s Jim Moss driving and he looks up at the helicopter. So that was the initial scene, you saw him there and then at the end in front of Sally’s house. When we were cutting it together, I just felt we need to feel like Jim and the police are hot on Barry’s tail, what are they thinking? So I wrote the scene of Krauss pulling up in front of the house with the cop cars so you know what the cops are thinking which is Berkman could be going to Noho Hank or Cristobal or Sally, and then Moss not promising he won’t kill him so now we know he’s after him too. The other new idea that we did a reshoot of was the Dave and Busters thing, I just said it in the edit, “What if the cops were like, ‘We’ve got to know where he’s headed. Someone told us where the headquarters are?’ and then you just see a bunch of SWAT guys kicking people’s asses at Dave and Buster’s.” The editors thought that was good so we ended up shooting that and that scene of Jim Moss watching Dave and Buster’s. That was all shot in late March.
Let’s talk Hank and Cristobal. You told me to remind you of a note the show’s former editor Kyle Reiter gave you for Episode 4.
Yes, the note he gave me was initially the way this was written and shot was that you just thought Hank was freaking out because Barry escaped, so when he’s acting weirder and weirder you’re going, “OK this is because of Barry.” So then when the sand thing happens, the whole idea was that it was supposed to be a real shock. Kyle, correctly, said, “I think in the scene with Hank and Batir, I think he needs to say something like, ‘You need to get rid of those guys and join us.’ You’re not tipping it, it actually helps me because when I’m watching Hank in Episode 4 I’m like, “Wait is he freaking out about Barry or is he worried about the Chechens and thinking about joining the Chechens?” So then it becomes this kind of slow feeling when he goes to the sand thing you’re like, “Oh no, something bad’s about to happen.”
Knowing what happens later, Hank is so sad when throwing the party for the gangs. It’s clear he doesn’t want to do this.
Yeah or he’s conflicted about doing it. He doesn’t know if it’s the right thing, privately, but he knows that they’ll get wiped out by the Chechens and he’s never really believed in the sand operation. In Season 2, he believed in a crime utopia where they could all get along. And now, I think because of what happened in Season 3 with him, he’s like, “That’s bullshit.” That’s basically what he says to Cristobal at the end of the episode.
Tell me about putting the whole sequence in the sand room together. It’s really nerve-wracking.
So that is a giant set that Eric Schoonover, the production designer, made of the sand silo and it’s the biggest set that we’ve ever made for the show. It was two stories high and underneath was a contraption that opened up and it’s basically an hourglass membrane thing that sends those stunt performers underneath, and then at the bottom of the structure there’s a bunch of stunt guys pulling them out of it. We shot everything that you see before they go under fairly quickly, and then we had a technocrane and that set was one where you could take one of the walls out, so we had a technocrane locked off at one angle, and then we literally bolted it down so it wouldn’t move, and then shot the guys going through the membrane. I think we did it twice. I was very nervous because I was just like, “I hope these guys are OK.”
Then they closed up the membrane, they put a Michael Irby-sized box in there and then they covered that in sand. There was someone just watching the camera so the camera doesn’t move, and they were also making sure nobody disturbed the sand between the camera and the hole. So we do all that and put Michael Irby in the box and then his head comes out of a hole in the box and one arm and then they just poured sand around it and patted it in and then they left, and then we found the angle we liked and then unhooked the camera, and then on action you just periscope out the technocrane to do that push-in shot to reveal him.
Then in VFX they just very slightly did a stitch so it’s two shots stitched together, and then the sound on that really helps a ton. Then we go behind Michael and they put a giant piece of glass in between, so all the sand and Michael are on the other side of some glass and the camera is shooting through the glass to Michael behind him, and then as he sinks the camera goes down with him into darkness. Then of course we got there and we put the glass in and the glass was really dirty (laughs). Everything was so planned to a T on that thing and then the one thing we don’t consider is the glass is dirty.
Was that always the way you saw that sequence playing out in your head?
Yeah, we did do one shot of Hank pulling him out but it looked like something from another show. It looked like an action movie. So when we were in the edit, it was like, “Well can we go from black right to the water being poured on his face?”
Once Cristobal is out, it’s striking that the camera stays low on the ground with him as the Chechens come in and Hank is there.
Yeah, they needed to look really big. You need to be looking up at Hank too, like all these people are bigger than me. It was also 115 degrees outside when we shot that scene. Poor Michael Irby had to be on his knees and then we had those poor stunt guys. They’re laying on blankets and we took the blankets out with VFX because the asphalt was way too hot. Michael Ironside and JB and the other Chechen actors were in those dark suits, and it was just awful.
So tell me about the decision to kill Cristobal. When did that idea arise?
I was in the writers room and I said, “I think Hank has to make some big moves to try to be a tough guy and it ends up getting Cristobal killed,” and we had a lot of different versions of it. I think the writers thought I was saying that Hank would kill Cristobal, like he would shoot him, and I was like, “No he would never shoot him. It’s just that, I think it would get to a place where Hank has gone so far into it with the Chechens and he just assumed that Cristobal would be with him.” The way I said it was they’re a couple and he bought a giant, crazy expensive house without telling him. Like, “This is our house and you’re gonna have to deal with it.” And Cristobal’s like, “That’s insane, we can’t afford this,” and it’s like “Well, that’s where we’re living and I don’t want to hear it.” And Cristobal would say, “I don’t think I can be married to you. I don’t know you. That’s insane. Why would you not talk to me about this?”
When I was talking about it in those terms, people started to understand it. So then when Cristobal was like, “You know what? You’re not who I thought you were. I’m really sad. I’m gonna get out of here,” then Hank would be like, “You know too much.” And they went, “Oh, yeah, OK, I see what you’re saying.” I remember in the writers room everyone fought me on it pretty hard, with the exception of Duffy (Boudreau). Because we had talked about it a lot and Duffy said, “Yeah I get it.” But Liz Sarnoff and Tao Kolade and Emma Barrie especially were just like, “Why? They’re so loved. Why do you wanna do that?” and I was like, “I think he’s gotta go, to make where the season goes, and where I wanted to see Hank go this season, he’s got to make a massive mistake.” And then in my mind, it was kind of like Barry shooting Chris in Season 1 where here’s the moment where they do something awful and they can’t really come back from it.
That’s what it reminded me of, where it’s just gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.
It’s very heartbreaking because it feels like Hank is trying to be a tough guy. It’s like what Barry says, “Oh, you’re a tough guy now?” and he’s trying to be a tough guy. He says, “In order to do this, you got to make the hard decisions,” and you want to be a crime lord, now you’re a crime lord. This is what it’s like. You’ve gotta be ruthless in this world to make anything happen. Then he says, “I’m leaving you” and now Hank has to make a hard decision. He tries to backtrack, he tries to placate and it just goes horribly wrong. I think that moment of him saying, “You know too much,” Cristobal I don’t think ever thinks he would kill him.
I was gonna say, do you think Cristobal knows the Chechens would kill him?
Cristobal’s like, “F–k you for even saying that.” Because you have to remember Cristobal is a crime lord and Cristobal’s got a lot of respect for himself, and when Hank says “It took a psychopath to save you from your crazy f—king wife” he’s like, “Alright I’m out. I don’t know you, dude.” So when he hugs him and says “Forget it, Hank. It’s done.” He’s echoing the words that Janice Moss says to Barry at the end of Season 1, it’s almost the exact same words. And we recreated them hugging at the end of Season 3, it bookends that so it’s the exact same shot of him hugging him and then going, “Oh no.”
It’s so heartbreaking because had the stakes not been so high, you get the sense it’s just a fight and then after cooling off, they could have reconciled.
Yeah, but it just keeps building because what he did was so unforgettable. He ruined Cristobal’s dream and now he has Cristobal working with people he doesn’t want to work with and he didn’t even talk to him about it. It’s so crazy disrespectful to Cristobal. And this is what you have to write, you have to go here’s where Hank’s coming from and here’s where Cristobal’s coming from and hopefully you can understand both sides of it, even if one’s totally wrong, morally, you understand where he’s coming from. Hank’s like, “I can’t sit down and tell you ‘Hey, I want to get rid of your dream and the thing you’re working so hard for and so excited about because my family now wants to work with us and if we don’t work with them, they’re gonna kill us all, so we’ve got to get rid of those guys.” He just does it because that’s the new Hank. And he wants to impress the elders. Hank wants that. It’s like Sally and them wanting Hollywood to like them and Barry wanting Cousineau, he wants acceptance. And doing that leads to losing your humanity or something.
Also, the fact that Cristobal almost dies in the sand thing and you see it from his point of view, and Hank still does this. For me, it was important to show what Cristobal went through and how Hank doesn’t even ask him about it. When they’re in that fight, he’s never bringing it up to him, it just shows how dismissive he is about what Cristobal went through. But also that he could have the love of his life in that position and save him and then so quickly be like, “OK let’s put a damper on that because the elders are here. Let’s get in line.”
What was it like on the day, shooting that?
It was pretty tense. It’s a very sad scene, and I think the actors are just unbelievable in that scene. I remember it was the last thing we shot that day, we shot a bunch of other stuff. Everybody went to lunch, but instead of going to lunch I sat and kind of blocked that whole argument out. I was texting (cinematographer) Carl (Herse), “Are you done eating? Come back to set!” because the thing I got excited about was what if, when they’re walking out, we’ve got the car there and we just do a slow push-in on them kind of point of view of someone who loves them, who’s giving them space, but they’re going away from us and there’s this hopelessness to it. It makes it feel like such a private moment, and Carl really dug that and our steadicam operator Neil did an amazing job with that because that’s a very hard shot to do.
Everybody was just very respectful, it was kind of the first really, really big death on the show of a character who’s been around for all the seasons. I remember when I was blocking out the shot and explained to Michael Irby where he needed to lay and where the blood needs to be, the crew was incredibly, respectfully quiet. No one was talking.
Anthony Carrigan’s performance on the couch is amazing.
He’s great. Initially, the way it was written the first time, you stayed with Cristobal and he got in the car and then he got shot. When I first told Anthony what was going to happen he was like, “Holy s—t,” and then he goes, “I think Hank’s feeling emotions but he’s trying to bury it, he just doesn’t want to feel it,” and then the minute he said that I went, “Oh that’s what you should be seeing,” so I started rewriting the scene on the phone with Anthony.
You see him literally swallow it down and bury it.
Yeah, now he’s a crime boss. This is a real crime boss. It’s the birth of Hank crime boss, which is interesting when you see what that looks like later in the season.
After it was shot and done, how did the writers feel about Cristobal’s death?
I think they feel pretty good about it. Liz Sarnoff was like, “Holy s—t, what a scene. That’s so intense,” after she saw the cut of it. Everything leading up to it was a reshoot, his dinner with Michael Ironside where he’s like, “We’ll be silent partners” and Cristobal’s just sitting there. The way I originally wrote it, Cristobal was sitting at the table with him but when we did reshoots, Michael Irby was in another show and he had a giant beard he was not allowed to cut. I was lnot going to do a visual effect beard removal, it looks like garbage, so I said let me just rewrite it. So I rewrote it where he had his back to them. But we reshot it so you would know what the Chechens’ plan was and where they stood. And if you pay attention, Michael Ironside says, “As long as you’re good with Hank, you’re good with us,” and then immediately Cristobal leaves Hank so if you do the math you’re like, well he’s not gonna deal with them.
In the writers room there was a question of why can’t Cristobal just leave Hank? I was like, “You really think they’re gonna let him leave? Why would they let him leave?” And no one could give me a good reason why the Chechens would be OK with it. That’s the stuff I see in TV shows and movies that drives me nuts, is that they would let him leave. That’s just being like, “Well it makes sense for the story.” There’s no way that that would happen. And Hank caused all this. He thought he could figure it out and he couldn’t and then he tried to take it back and he couldn’t and he has to live with this decision and it’s going to haunt him forever.
Now let’s talk about something that’s very funny, which is the Sian Heder cameo.
She’s a good actor, and she’s wonderful. So yeah, the whole idea was that Sally tries to be an acting teacher and it doesn’t work, but what if she became an acting coach, which was something we’d always toyed with, even back to Season 2. What if Sally had to be a model’s acting coach, and that would drive her insane? And if that happens, what kind of movie would it be? We threw around a bunch of ideas and then I think we all were just like, “Well, what’s the thing everybody would kill to be on?” And it was a superhero movie. So when we did that, then it became this joke of, based on other friends I’ve talked to who, you know, you do a little prestige movie that wins awards, and then Hollywood opens up the gates for you, and then you you get “Mega Girls 4″ (laughs).
Initially, I think Sian was a little skeptical about it, because I think – understandably — she was like, “Oh, is this making fun of ‘CODA?’” and just wanting to be respectful because that’s a great movie. Incidentally, “CODA” was shot by Paula Huidobro, who was the DP on “Barry” in the first two seasons, so we had that connection. So she finally said yes after we sent her a bunch of different versions of the scene that Duffy Boudreau and I wrote to see what she was most comfortable with, because she’s playing herself. I think once she saw what it was, that it was more of a joke of her taking a big Hollywood job and being like, “Oh, man, I hope this doesn’t backfire,” (laughs). Which is true. I don’t think that’s being cruel or anything, that’s just the truth. That just happens.
It happens and some of those movies are really wonderful.
Yeah some of these are really good. I love the Jon Watts “Spider-Man” movies, they’re great. I have so much fun watching those movies. Anytime one of those movies comes out, I go with my kids and watch them and we have a blast.
Yeah I don’t think anyone’s thinking Ryan Coogler sold out with “Black Panther.”
No, “Black Panther” is great. “Wonder Woman,” all those ones. So it’s nothing like that. But it was just like, “Oh, this is a perfect example of something that Sally would kill to be in.” And then it was like, “Well, what’s a fun cameo kind of thing we can get in there as the director, someone that that’s not some big action movie director.” So it had to be someone that made a movie that Sally found really amazing, and she would love “CODA.” We all loved “CODA.” So then I was like, “Oh, then Sally would then turn it into an audition for herself,” and that was really funny to us. I think Sarah is just pretty amazing in that scene. Every time she goes, “Sister, no!” we would start laughing really hard. And the “Money” line is a shout out to Gavin Kleintop, our first AD because he says “money” unironically (laughs).
Sian is genuinely great there.
We also have Paul McCrane. He’s the guy in “Robocop” who gets hit by the car and melts, so I was freaking out. He’s a great director too, but the reason we cast him is he actually did an amazing read for Fuches. So did Patrick Fischler. We obviously went with Stephen who’s phenomenal, but every season Sherry Thomas our casting director would say, “Is there a role for Patrick or Paul here?”
His conversation with Sally in the golf cart was great.
That was probably four times as long. Here’s a perfect example of an idea that was bad that we ended up having to edit around (laughs). That thing initially was all locked off, and the whole scene was them on the back of a golf cart, and it went on for like five minutes. I think everybody was kind of looking at me like, “You want to do this?” and I was like, “Yeah, I think it’s gonna work,” (laughs). It had just rained, so as they were driving, it was all splashing and stuff and it was super noisy and it just was not great. So when we got into the edit, Franky Guttman just said, “You really want this whole thing?” So he and Aly Greer went in and made that cut that you see, you dissolve to her listening and then that whole thing is ADR because they’re driving through water. It was so loud.
And then we have Gene in the cabin, shooting his son.
So that was our very last day of principal photography, all the stuff at Big Bear at the cabin. It went pretty smoothly and then, unfortunately, the son played by Andrew Leeds got COVID. So it was actually kind of sweet, when Henry’s doing his scene where he’s talking to his son in the car, he’s doing that scene with me. I’m sitting behind the steering wheel. Then months later we picked up the shot of Andrew in the car which we shot in front of the Malibu house where Cristobal dies. But the final thing we shot of the whole season for principal photography was the shot of the figure in the doorway and the squibs going off on the door. So we did that, it was “Three, two, one, POP” and Wade Allen our stunt coordinator fell down and then everybody looked at me like, “Was that good?” and people are crying (laughs). I gave a big speech and we all cried and hugged each other and that was it.
Henry Winkler’s very last take as Gene Cousineau in principal photography was going, “F—k you!” and running away. So the shot of Andrew Leeds having been shot was a set of the porch that we built in March for reshoots.
So then the episode ends with Barry and Sally running away together.
That was Sarah’s very first day of shooting. We had to get rid of that set of Sally’s apartment, so that is Sarah’s first day of shooting Season 4 and that is my second. The first thing we shot of Season 4 was that weird, carpeted room where the FBI are talking to us.
And then, of course, you have the time jump at the end.
Yes, I’ll have more to say about it next week, but I will say I think the time jump for me was something that came from talking about Season 4 and saying, “What would happen if all these characters got what they wanted?” What if they actually could put on another face and play the version themselves that they feel like or what they feel they deserve? Would they be happy or could they maintain that?” And I had always, since Season 1 – and you can see it, Barry has a daydream in Season 1 about him and Sally taking a family portrait with a little boy – I’ve always felt like that’s something that he’s wanted. So what if he got that? So we said, well what if we went eight years into the future and they had a kid? What would that look like?
I think it’s very telling that when the kid opens the fridge all you see is beer, wine and donuts.
Yeah, beer, wine and donuts. That tells you right there what kind of household it is (laughs). Episode 5 and the finale are my two favorite episodes of the season.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
“Barry” airs Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.