Spoilers for Barry Episode 5, “Do Your Job” follow below.
One of the best shows currently airing on television is Barry, the new half-hour comedy series on HBO from creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg. The show is a terrifically exciting mix of dark comedy, rich characters, and a compelling narrative drive that rivals plot-driven serial dramas like Breaking Bad. It’s hilarious, but at the end of each episode you’re dying to find out what happens next. Luckily the eight-episode first season won’t be leaving things open-ended, as HBO recently picked the series up for a second season.
We’re now past the halfway point and as the plot is starting to heat up, and Hader was gracious enough to speak with me about these next few episodes. So over the next couple of weeks, you can find an exclusive interview with Hader every Monday morning on Collider breaking down the previous night’s episode of Barry.
In this first discussion we’re talking about Episode 5, “Do Your Job,” in which Barry is forced to confront the morality of his actions in a big way. Hader spoke about working with director Hiro Murai (Atlanta) on the episode, the collaboration process with the show’s directors, and how they approached crafting the stash house sequence. He also discussed how the acting class is now starting to change Barry’s actions, and how the Macbeth scene leads directly into Barry’s decision not to kill Taylor by the end of the episode. We also, of course, talked about that Leroy Jenkins bit.
Check out the interview below and come back next Monday for a breakdown of Episode 6.
So you have Hiro Murai directing this episode, who’s done some incredible work on Atlanta. What was it like working with him?
BILL HADER: Oh he’s a genius. He’s really calm, he’s a great collaborator. We have these things called tone meetings where you sit down with the director and the showrunners sit with the script and you go scene-by-scene and you talk about what the camera’s doing, what the wardrobe is, what the production design is doing, but you’re also talking about what the meaning of each scene is, the point of each scene, and if you’re setting up something that’s gonna come up in another episode, things that you wanna look for. And you want to have them say to you, “Oh I was thinking about doing this all in one shot,” or “I want to play this in closeup” or “I have this idea,” and you kind of get those out in that meeting.
Hiro is just insanely collaborative, where we could talk to him about the stash house hit and say, “Okay we wrote it in a way that was pretty much like an action movie and we kind of went against our own edict.” You can’t help yourself, you’re writing a scene and you write it like an action movie and then we go, “What the fuck?” As we were in the tone meeting I went, “We just kind of went against what the edict of the show is, which is don’t glamorize the violence.” You have this scene where they take these guys out in the stash house and we wrote this kind of cool shootout. So in that meeting it was like, ”No it should feel very quiet.” We talked about that scene where they walk in and the guys are just watching TV and they shoot them all, and the stuntmen when they get shot they don’t do the sort of stuntman dance where they act like they’re hurt and fall down. They should just drop. It should feel as real and brutal and quiet as possible and Taylor and Barry should be like machines.
So we discussed that in the meeting, and Hiro was the one that was like, “Well let’s get to the location and we can map out each stage of the shootout.” So Hiro, I remember from the first meeting with him I was like, “Oh wow he has such a handle on it and such a confidence, but he can also be so open to our ideas.” It never felt like someone was pushing against us. Someone who has such a strong vision like Hiro does, you watch Atlanta and you go, “Okay well he has his thing that he does and that’s what works for him.” Hiro wasn’t like that at all. He was so cool and willing to go, “Oh I thought of it this way but I see what you guys are saying, let’s try that,” and conversely we were doing the same thing with him where I went, “Oh that shot is way cooler than the way I had it in my head, let’s do that.”
I also wanted to ask about the scene where the class essentially debates the morality of murder, which feels like the emotional centerpiece of this episode in many ways. How did you guys go about constructing that scene and what does it mean for Barry going forward?
HADER: That was something that we always wanted to do. We wanted to give them a scene where they’re talking about Macbeth and Barry starts kind of defending Macbeth, and the actors are putting this judgment on him that he had never considered before which is that he’s a psycho and he’s damned to Hell or whatever. That was a hard scene to write. We went around and around and around on how to write it, because we just couldn’t figure out what Barry’s argument was. We knew what the class’s point of view was but we couldn’t really figure out his point of view, and so finally we just said, “What if he’s Macbeth and Fuchs is Lady Macbeth?” Also he’s kind of looking at them going like, “You’ve never been in battle. You’re just these little wannabe actors.” It’s the first time he gets frustrated with them in a very real way.
It’s like he’s never considered this before. He’s never been presented with this, and the first time he sees it he gets angry and defensive, because they’re calling him the Devil basically. They’re passing judgment on his soul. And in his mind he’s like plenty of people have killed. He was just doing his job. That’s what you do, I’m taking orders. And they’re saying, “Yeah but you have free will, you can do whatever you want,” and he’s like, “No, fuck you. You don’t get it. You don’t understand what I’m going through,” and he really lambasts them. I really like that scene. I also love it when Cousineau says, “You know if you’re in war, that’s okay. But if you shoot someone out of war you’re a psycho,” (laughs). Barry just realized like, “Oh this community I have, if they really know me they’ll never accept me, ever.”
That entire sequence leads directly into his mission with Taylor, which feels like maybe the first time he hasn’t carried out a job for Fuchs.
HADER: Yeah and I think that has to do with the conversation he had with the class. It’s causal. It stuck with him and he’s like, “I’m not a fucking psycho.” He’s being asked to follow orders again, to kill Taylor. And he doesn’t wanna do that anymore, and you’re seeing again how the class is affecting his life. Like in Episode 4 with the Glengarry Glen Ross scene how that gets him to this place where he could stand up against Fuchs. If he had never taken that class, he would have killed Taylor. He also would’ve killed Ryan, and he would’ve shot Paco from the eagle nest thing. If it wasn’t for this class, he would be making decisions that didn’t endanger his life on a bunch of different levels (laughs).