From Alec Berg and Bill Hader, who serve as co-creators, executive producers, directors and writers, the eight-episode, half-hour HBO dark comedy series Barry follows a depressed hit man (Hader, in the best performance of his career) from the Midwest who stumbles onto a love of acting while on a job in L.A. Although he only ends up in the acting class by following a mark, he is instantly drawn to the group of students and their beloved teacher (Henry Winkler) and begins to question every aspect of his life of crime while trying to juggle both worlds.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Anthony Carrigan (who plays NoHo Hank, the brutal but unfailingly polite sidekick of a mob kingpin) talked about what drew him to Barry, how he immediately saw this character, finding the accent, the kind of guy Hank is, collaborating with Bill Hader and Alec Berg, what he most enjoyed about the journey this season, and the lovely feedback he’s gotten from fans of the show. He also talked about the fun of playing a character like Victor Zsasz on Gotham, his desire to play characters that defy the norm, and avoiding typecasting.
Collider: It seems like, on paper, this would have been an insane idea, especially knowing that Bill Hader hasn’t really done anything like this before. When Barry came your way, how was it presented to you, as a concept, and what was your reaction?
ANTHONY CARRIGAN: I heard about it from my manager. She reached out and was like, “I have this script here. It’s really cool and I really think you’re gonna enjoy it.” So, I was like, “Okay, I’ll take a look at it.” I read it and was like, “Oh, wow, what is this?!” It’s so unexpected and so different and so much fun. I couldn’t stop reading it. From the very beginning, I was just totally on board. Then, when I discovered this character, I was like, “Okay, I can have a lot of fun with this.”
Did you immediately see yourself in this character’s shoes? Did you understand him, right away?
CARRIGAN: I think so. I had the beginning elements of what I wanted that character to be. I certainly had a feeling of, “Okay, everyone else is going to do this, so I don’t want to go down that road. I want to make it my own.” I splintered off into my own direction. Over the course of time, I was able to really build it up a lot more and get my accent completely down. Hopefully, I’m not offending anyone.
How did you find that accent?
CARRIGAN: I definitely did some research. I watched a lot of films with really well done Russian accents speaking English. I really built this character from the ground up. I immediately assigned him like what he liked to do, and I just started doing that.
Because this seems like a character that easily could fall into certain traps or be too overdone, were there things that you specifically wanted to avoid with him?
CARRIGAN: I think that the show does a great job of creating characters that you like, but also you don’t know if you can trust them. There’s this dualistic nature with all of them. That’s the fun part of it. It’s a tightrope walk between these two worlds. That’s where the excitement comes in. It’s very unexpected.
How would you describe this guy, and how do you think he would describe himself?
CARRIGAN: I would describe him as very grateful, very optimistic and very upbeat. I think he would describe himself as super great and very kind. I think he just wants to be friends. He’s very outgoing.
As long as you don’t end up on his hit list.
CARRIGAN: Right. Well, then it’s all business. You can’t take any of that personally.
He seems like a risky guy to be friends with because you could end up dead.
CARRIGAN: Yeah, you absolutely could, but I guess that’s on you, if that ends up happening. He’s gonna make it as pleasant of an experience as possible, up until that point.
With him producing, writing, directing and starring in the show, what do you enjoy about the collaboration with Bill Hader?
CARRIGAN: The beauty of it is that Bill and Alec Berg have had this very clear vision of what they wanted this show to be, which was incredibly helpful. There are certain jobs you work on where you don’t quite know how it’s gonna turn out or what it’s gonna look like because the people who are running it are still trying to figure it out. But these guys had such a crystal clear vision of that in mind, so I just wanted to get the best thing possible out of it.
This show has such a terrific cast.
CARRIGAN: Yeah, it’s full of absolute legends. Absolute legends.
Is it just a blast to do scenes on this show?
CARRIGAN: Yep, it is. It’s just so much fun. Sometimes when you’re doing a scene, it’s difficult because you’re like, “Wow, that guy is so good! What’s my line?” It’s just a gift. It’s so cool to see everyone’s process and how they take on their character. Everyone brings their A-game to it. It’s really lovely to watch.
When you see someone like Bill Hader pretty much wearing all the hats on a project like this, does it inspire you to try to do something like that yourself?
CARRIGAN: I don’t know about that. It would certainly be a tough act to follow. I was so impressed with the way Bill handled all of it because it was a monumental task to be directing, writing, and starring, but he pulled if off pretty seamlessly. If I do end up doing something like that, I know Bill is the first person I’m gonna call to help me through it.
What did you enjoy about the journey for NoHo Hank, this season?
CARRIGAN: I really enjoyed how, with each of these characters, you see how the circumstances pushed them in different directions and how they are reacting in more high pressure situations. It’s really cool. It’s a testament to the script and just how well the arc of these characters are written. Specifically with Hank, it was fun to put him in all these weird situations and just see how he would react.
Do you have a favorite moment or scene from this season?
CARRIGAN: The first day that I shot, honestly, because it was really a fun way to get the ball rolling, to introduce NoHo Hank in the backyard, where we’re explaining it all. It was just so much fun because immediately we started to play and go off script and just messed around to see what worked best.
Have you heard a lot of feedback about this character, from people who have watched the show?
CARRIGAN: Yeah, the feedback has been lovely. I have been so, so, so fortunate that people are responding positively to the character and to the show, as well. I want everyone to watch this show. I’m a huge fan of it. I really like it. I want everyone to catch onto it and experience it. It is its own thing, entirely. Bill and Alec wanted to make it its own thing. They didn’t want people to be like, “So, he’s an assassin who’s super cool at killing people.” It was never like that. They wanted to actually tell a story about real human beings. They’re zany ones, but that’s Los Angeles for you.