Note: The following contains spoilers for the “Barry” series finale.
The final episode of HBO’s “Barry” found fan-favorite character Noho Hank meeting a deadly end, and while actor Anthony Carrigan went through a “grieving process” saying goodbye to the character, he considered Hank’s heartbreaking final moments to be a fitting end for the character that was in lockstep with the choices he’s made this season.
During a showdown at Hank’s compound, Fuches (Stephen Root) arrives with a dozen men armed to the teeth and is ready for war. But Fuches offers Hank a way out – admit he murdered Cristobal (Michael Irby), and he’ll walk away. Hank starts to break down and comes close to the truth, but retreats back into denial and calls Fuches a liar. At this point, Fuches pulls out a gun and shoots Hank in the chest, killing him.
“A huge theme in ‘Barry’ is what are you pretending to be, and what is the truth?” Carrigan told TheWrap during an interview about the series finale. “Hank is too afraid of the pain inside of him and the truth that he murdered the love of his life, and to be faced with that, he buckled. But then it was this twist that then he doubled down again. You saw him swallow his emotions again, and it ended up costing him dearly.”
Carrigan said Bill Hader, who wrote and directed the finale, put the camera two inches away from his face for the confrontation, which gave him nowhere to hide.
“It was a real exercise in vulnerability and this veneer being just stripped away by such simplicity. It’s such a beautiful performance by Stephen Root,” Carrigan said. “I really credit him with that whole scene, the way he was just simply asking questions and getting straight to the point made my job so much easier in terms of reacting and I think it’s really sad.”
Read on for our full interview in which Carrigan unpacks Hank’s final moments, the surprising approach he took for playing Hank post-time jump, why filming Hank’s first (and last) scene with Sally was one of his favorites, and why he has a hard time picking just a couple favorite moments from his time on the series.
How are you feeling?
It’s pretty weird that it’s all coming to a close, but we’re all really proud of it and it’s been a long time in the making. I’m just thrilled to finally be sharing it with everyone. It feels really special.
What was your reaction to reading the finale for the first time?
I was kind of in shock. I kind of had to put the script down and just digest it and process it because it’s a lot to take in. What this show has done so well over the course of these four seasons is really kind of shock people and surprise people, and I think that that’s such a novelty these days. It doesn’t happen very often. I think the finale will succeed in surprising people, and shocking people, but at the same time, if you kind of backtrack everything that leads up to that moment and everything in the finale, it’s all warranted and it all tracks.
It makes perfect thematic sense. Specifically, Hank refuses to acknowledge the bad he’s done, to admit the truth of who he actually is, and the price is death. The same with Barry. When did you find out Hank would die?
Bill called me and he was really sweet about it, he let me down very gently. Just based on everything that Hank had done up to that point in terms of his denial, and how he had been lying to himself, it was kind the most poetic way to go out really, because, Hank wanted to play gangster. Ironically, he wanted to play gangster, and when you’re a gangster you tend to die a gangster’s death. So It was very intense.
What was it like for you playing with that time jump and the extent to which Hank’s denial had kind of seeped through everything? He’s built a literal monument to this lie.
I was really kind of looking at it from the standpoint of not just what are the ways in which Hank was still in denial, but what are the other kinds of ways in which Hank was then just trying to cope? Make it more like a positive action. And I saw it as something that, from that point on, Hank was quite fractured. I think he was also coming from a pretty dissociated place as well. I don’t think he really felt like himself after the thing with Cristobal. I read quite a bit about trauma during and after Season 3 with what happens to him in the Bolivian dungeon, and when something traumatic like that happens, you lose a sense of yourself and I think it gets compounded when Cristobal is killed. So I thought of it in this way of how does Hank then try to be himself when he feels so fractured? I thought it would be an interesting choice to have Hank play a version of himself to everyone else, to have this kind of fake Hank. He was doing an impression of what he thought he should be, because he felt so far away from himself. So a lot of what you see after the time jump is Hank being this kind of plastic version of himself. That’s something that I had a lot of fun with.
Your performance is so incredible because you can see the cracks in the veneer every now and then of that performance that Hank is doing, and he literally swallows the truth down again in this confrontation with Fuches where he very nearly is honest with himself. What was it like filming that scene?
That was a really beautifully written but also just incredibly demanding scene. I mean, there’s no hiding from the camera when it’s two inches from your face (laughs). It was a real exercise in vulnerability and this veneer being just stripped away by such simplicity. It’s such a beautiful performance by Stephen Root. I really credit him with that whole scene, the way he was just simply asking questions and getting straight to the point made my job so much easier in terms of reacting and I think it’s really sad. It’s really heartbreaking that Hank is given this opportunity, he’s given a way out. Fuches is willing to drop the whole thing because at that point he’s just tired of the bulls–t. A huge theme in “Barry” is what are you pretending to be, and what is the truth? Hank is too afraid of the pain inside of him and the truth that he murdered the love of his life, and to be faced with that, he buckled. But then it was this twist that then he doubled down again. You saw him swallow his emotions again, and it ended up costing him dearly.
Do you think he at any point there thinks Fuches will actually kill him? Is he choosing to lie and die over telling the truth and living?
I never thought about it that way. I suppose on some level there is a kind of self-destructive bone in his body, but I was more thinking of it as just a feral reaction against the truth.
What were your discussions with Bill like about putting that scene together? And what was your reaction when he told you he’d be putting the camera that close to your face?
(Laughs) I mean, knowing Bill and knowing just what a great eye he has, I was just trusting him implicitly. When he’s put the camera wherever I’ve always been really happy with the work that he’s done, so I felt very safe with everything he was doing. Leading up to that scene, both Stephen and I talked to Bill about this thing that was pretty prominent throughout “Barry” which was how can we take this incredibly heightened moment and ground it so completely that there are no frills, there’s no flourish to anything, it’s all just very simple and very direct. I think that was our main goal, essentially to just get to the meat of this scene.
What was it like filming your death scene as Noho Hank?
It was so surreal. I do remember just being so present on that last day, because the idea of having to put a character down after playing them for years and years and years, there is a kind of grief process that you go through naturally. Whether the character dies or stays alive, you’re kind of putting down a part of yourself. There’s something really beautiful and tragic about that, so I was just really trying to stay in this place of presence, and not taking a single moment of it for granted and just really soaking it all in because this whole series has been such a gift. I really wanted to make the most of it. So yeah, it was surreal seeing this character who I love so much die, but as an actor, I was also letting go of the show as well so there were a lot of things happening all at once.
Does it feel real yet that it’s all over?
Yeah, it does in a certain way. I’ve gone through the stages of grieving (laughs). But what’s left with me is just this deep, deep appreciation of the whole process and everything I’ve learned from it and everything I’ll take from it moving forward. It’s not often that you encounter a show like “Barry,” and to get to be a part of it is even more special. It’s very bittersweet, but at the same time, I feel like we’re all very proud of the work that we’ve done on it and to get to share it now, that’s the best.
Hank’s had a rough but fitting journey this season, with his decision to let Cristobal die. I know there were some nerves about how the fans would react, but what’s it been like to see the fans embrace this challenging arc for Hank this year?
That makes me so happy. But at the same time, you’re really rolling the dice when you kind of throw fan service out the window. I think it’s that funny thing that fans both want to be serviced but they actually don’t. They actually do want you to take them in an unexpected direction, and sometimes disappoint them too, because then they’re gonna have to grapple with some more uncomfortable feelings. But it makes me really happy to know that that they can appreciate the complexity of these characters, they can appreciate how nuanced it is, and that it’s not all cut and dry, and that they’re gonna have to grapple with these difficult emotions.
Shooting that scene with Michael Irby was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I’m just happy that my character didn’t get completely eviscerated by people or completely shunned (laughs). Those are the stakes, though. That was a very real possibility. But it’s nice too when Hank can open up those boxes of heads and people are still laughing.
Yeah on the one hand it’s super dark, but on the other hand, it leads to this beautiful place in the finale which is just thematically so rich. It’s a direct consequence of his actions.
But at the same time, too, I think one of my other favorite things about that sequence is it really subverts the cinematic and kind of spectacle of the action sequence. It just stripped it all away to make it fast, clumsy and horrifically destructive. Like, what do you think is gonna happen when 30 guys face off against each other and they’re all armed to the teeth? Everyone’s gonna die. And “Barry” doesn’t shy away from that fact. It pulls no punches.
That’s been true from the opening shot of the entire series.
I was also curious about your scene with Sarah. Hank and Sally have not shared the screen in the series together, but it’s a really touching moment where we’re Sally asks what’s going to happen to them and Hank turns back and says, “That’s not up to me.”
It was one of my favorite experiences of the entire series. You have these characters who are all in their own orbit. They’re on the same show, but they’re just in a completely different orbit all around Barry. There are times when they come dangerously close to each other, and anytime they do come close to each other is usually a very dangerous time. When I got to actually share that brief time working with Sarah, I just relished it. I thought it was a really beautiful scene, because not only was it an opportunity to work opposite one of my favorite actors period – I’m such a fan of Sarah’s, I think her work is so phenomenal in the entire series so the opportunity to share that space with her was so special. But at the same time, it was a really beautiful note to that scene as well, this sadness that both Sally and Hank share. They both have been used by Barry. They both know what it means to have been taken advantage of. So I think there’s a kinship there, and an understanding and a sadness, and it’s so brief, but that’s what makes it so perfect. It’s not heavy-handed, it doesn’t last too long. It’s not a huge scene about it. It’s just a couple of moments, but that’s all you need.
In a very real way, the finale is about these people whose lives Barry has completely ruined. These people all coming together in a horrific, destructive way, would never have met had it not been for Barry, and for Barry being such a dumbass.
(Laughs) He’s so dumb. The saddest thing is he’s just such a dumbass, and he’s just ruined it for everyone. But it’s good storytelling.
It’s so sad when Sally gives Barry one final chance to turn himself in and he just doesn’t. Then you know where it has to go after that.
You know where it’s going, and at the end of the day, that’s really kind of what the show is about. This question of, can you be real? Which is echoed throughout the acting class. Can you be honest? When it comes to performing, are you giving something fake and shallow because of how you want to be seen, or are you going to let yourself be vulnerable and true to yourself? I felt that that was echoed so expertly in the writing.
You mentioned working with Sarah, is there another moment or two that sticks out to you from the run of the series as a favorite?
Oh gosh, I mentioned Michael Irby. Getting to do that scene was just something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. Just in terms of how special that was. But the whole show is an embarrassment of riches. Working with Guillermo del Toro was unbelievable. And working with Bill, one of my all-time favorite scenes is the phone call with Barry where it’s this kind of turn. It’s something that I’ve seen and witnessed when someone gets hipped to like an ex-partner or ex-lover trying to get them back, trying to suck them back in but you’ve already realized this person is toxic. There’s no future for us. That was one of my favorite things too. Can I just say the whole thing? (laughs)
Did you take anything home from set?
I did take Hank’s watch. It’s a fake Rolex. It’s like a classic retirement from the job thing, except it doesn’t work. But it means a lot to me. I was also given some of the tattoos, so who knows maybe Halloween 30 years from now I’ll revisit it. I’ll put on a polo and some tight pants and go trick or treating.