Exclusive: Bill Hader on Shifting from Comedy to Darkness in ‘Barry’ Season 2 Episode 7

     May 12, 2019

Spoilers for Barry Season 2 Episode 7 follow below.

In the penultimate installment of Collider’s exclusive episode-by-episode breakdown of Barry Season 2 with the show’s co-creator, co-showrunner, star, and sometimes director Bill Hader, we’re digging into the tonal diversity of the series. While billed as a half-hour comedy, Barry has proven time and again to be a show that’s just as comfortable exploring the dramatic depths of its characters as it is delighting in a well-timed “Hey man” from Anthony Carrigan’s Noho Hank. The show is comedic and dramatic; hilarious and tragic; silly and emotionally grounded. It’s part of the reason why I think Barry resonates so much with viewers.

Life is, after all, full of both comedy and tragedy, and in exploring both to its fullest potential, Barry hones in on, well, something true. It’s a show that is emotionally grounded in honesty, and despite the fact that the characters are hitmen and struggling actors, their personal struggles—which can be alternatively humorous and devastating—feel intensely relatable.

That diversity of tone is front and center in the penultimate episode of the season, which Hader describes as the most sitcom-y the show has ever gotten—before a final, dark twist. In our interview, Hader talked about how Barry’s arc in this episode was a very late development, how much fun he and the team had coming up with fake movies and TV shows like Swim Instructors and Payback Ladies, and how that Jay Roach (or Jayroach) cameo came about. Hader also talked about Sally’s (Sarah Goldberg) showstopping monologue, and how they landed on that jaw-dropping ending.

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Image via HBO

Check out the full interview below, and be sure to check back next week for a lengthy interview about the finale. That episode’s a doozy…

So Episode 7 starts out really funny. Barry falls ass backwards into an audition. How early on did you guys hit upon the idea that you Barry was going to have essentially kind of a big break this season?

BILL HADER: That came very late. That actually came 11th hour late. Episode Seven, writing-wise, Barry had nothing to do in it for a very long time. Liz Sarnoff, who’s one of our best writers, was writing it, and she was very nice but saying, “Guys, I’m writing this draft. Barry doesn’t do anything in it. He just kind of follows Sally around.” We were like, “Well, what could happen?” We were shooting episodes one and two, and three and four, and we had this script for seven that just had this big Barry-sized hole in it.

And then, [co-showrunner] Alec [Berg] and I sat down and just went, okay, what happened? We were looking at it, and we said, “Oh, it’s really interesting that Episode Six he kind of ties up everything in his life.” If you’re just following Barry, he’s broken up with the Chechens, he’s broken up with Fuches, so he’s in a good place. So let’s just say we have this scene where Sally is talking to her agents. What if Barry is there and one of them sees him and he gets an audition? And I remember Liz started off going, “Oh, Barry getting an audition would blow up the entire eco system of the acting class.”

It needed to be something big, like a big movie, and it needed to be stupid, and the reason that he gets the audition needed to be something about his looks. It had to be nothing to do with his talent. So, “Are you 6’2”?” was the kind of thing that led us. So what was funny was this episode, as we started then rethinking it, it was like, oh this is the most sitcom that Barry gets. It’s the most sitcom-y episode we’ve ever done, and it was almost like sitcom jokes.

With “Jayroach.”

HADER: (Laughs) Yeah, “Jayroach,” all those things, and then the idea of Sally going and meeting that guy about the show and Payback Ladies. Alec and I were having a lot of fun writing all that because we were thinking—and that was one that I had pictures of Alec and I trying to figure that out. We were in my apartment. Our heads almost exploded. We knew she needed to have a meeting. We knew that a meeting needed to go bad, but the guy needed to say something that offended her and it had to be about his perception or kind of like a Hollywood perception of domestic violence and what it does to women. Then it was Liz Sarnoff that said, “Look, there’s all these TV shows and movies about women who pick up a gun and start killing people as payback. What if it was that?” Because it’s kind of saying, yeah, because you were damaged that turns you into a killer. Sally would be completely offended by that. So Liz kind of came up with it and then we ran with it and came up with Payback Ladies and “It’s that time of the month for revenge” and all that stuff.

Which is ridiculous.

HADER: It was really ridiculous but there are those movies…

You could totally see it happening. You could totally see that being a tagline.

HADER: You could see them all coming. It’s like what the idea of a strong woman is is a woman with a gun, and that’s weird. So we did that and then we were looking at it structurally. We knew we had this ending with Fuches and Cousineau, so it would be great to do a sitcom that then turns to the darkest shit we’ve ever done in the show. So it’s like start off really funny and then have a cool bus action sequence and then just hit you with the most fucked up thing we’ve ever done.

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Image via HBO

And then one of Barry’s dads is going to kill his other dad.

HADER: Yeah, but first he’s got to show them the dead body to his girlfriend and blow his brains out and then say it’s suicide. I’m like, yeah, that would be great (laughs).

Before we get to the dark stuff, where did Swim Instructors come from?

HADER: I just pitched that. There are so many TV shows and movie ideas… I get sent things.

Oh, yeah, that makes sense.

HADER: Movies where the title is what it’s about. So I just said Swim Instructors and Alec started laughing really hard. It was like, “Oh, that’s so shitty.” So it’s Swim Instructors and Payback Ladies and the other shows that he did. It’s a joke that Maggie Carey and I used to have. We’d drive by and we’d see a poster for something that was like Payback Ladies and she would go, “Oh, what do you think that’s about?” (laughs)

That’s funny. And then so how do you pitch Jay Roach on coming in?

HADER: He was just the best dude ever and was just like, “I’d love to.” He was directing the Roger Ailes movie, so he’s in the middle of directing the Roger Ailes thing, and he had a day off and said, “Yeah, I’ll come in.” And that’s really Allison Jones, our casting director. I couldn’t believe it. But again, all this happened very quickly. I remember Aida Rogers, our producer, going, “Hey guys, we need a script for seven because we need to start casting it. We really need a script for seven.” And we just kept saying “Barry’s not doing anything yet. We don’t know what Barry’s doing in seven.” I was on the set of episode four, right? And we don’t know what seven is, and she’s like, “I need it like yesterday.” So that was really stressful.

I can imagine. This is a really great Sally episode and I wanted to talk about when she delivers her monologue outside Barry’s place. She’s terrific in that scene and she has a lot to juggle and a lot of things to say and a lot of things that you could imagine Barry reacting to in different ways. But I wanted to talk about the decision to keep the camera only on Sally for the entirety of that monologue. How did that came about?

HADER: Well, that came about where Alec and I were saying, well, gosh, Sally’s feeling all these different things and we need a scene with her and Barry and we kept throwing out what it could be. I remember we were on the phone with Liz Sarnoff going like what would that theme be? We all were just kind of listing how Sally was feeling. Then Sarah Goldberg also had her thoughts on how Sally was feeling and where she was at. The list was really long and we were like, “How do we hit all these in a thing?” and then I said, “Well, you know, what I’m sure Sarah can do is I’m sure Sarah could do a three-minute monologue without breathing.” Because Sarah is a theater trained actress and she can memorize large amounts of dialogue and then she can say it incredibly fast. So it was a bit like showing off our cast member where it was like, “I bet you can do this and you can do this in one shot.” So there’s no trick. It really is just shot on her and do it just that way. And Alec was like, “Yeah.” Then we take it to Sarah. I said, “Hey, do you want to do a two-page monologue that has like no commas in it, no punctuation and we’re never going to cut? It’s just going to be on you?” And she was like, “Oh, my God, I love that. Are you joking? It’s my dream.”

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