Barry is getting intense. We’re nearing the end of the first season of Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s brilliant half-hour HBO series, and what began as a humorous story of a hitman trying to become an actor has begun to swing a bit more into drama territory to terrific results. Tonight’s episode, “Listen with Your Ears, React with Your Face,” featured both IBS jokes and a shootout. Barry contains multitudes.
Since these next few episodes of Barry really ramp up the story in a big way, I recently got on the phone with Bill Hader to break down each episode exclusively for Collider. In the below conversation, we focused on Episode 6 and talked about how the aforementioned IBS joke came about months later in post-production, how the decision to pair up Detective Moss and Gene was inspired by Jackie Brown, and why Hader initially disagreed with the decision to make Barry hide the money in the bathroom. We also talked about the episode’s final moments, and what Chris and Taylor mean to Barry.
Check out the full interview below, and if you missed Hader’s breakdown of Episode 5 click here. Check back next week for a discussion with Hader about the eventful penultimate episode of the season.
This episode felt very Fargo-esque to me. It’s really funny but also really dark, and you have this really strong plot throughline with the money that concludes in deadly fashion. Was that consciously on your minds at all?
BILL HADER: No, we kind of got into this thing with money and where that money ends up. That was a big headache actually. We ended up doing it, but I was like, “Wait why is he putting the money in the bathroom? That doesn’t make sense. Why can’t he just keep it in his backpack?” I got vetoed on that. Everyone was like, “No he can’t have that money because it’s dirty money,” so we had that line when he’s talking to Taylor like, “I can’t take this. This money has to be laundered.” So that kind of helped it a bit, but that was a big thing in the writers room. I was like, “I would just have that money in my backpack or I’d go outside and put it in the trunk of my car,” and everyone was like, “Yeah, but he should hide it.” (laughs).
Well it does lead to some really good story.
HADER: That’s the hard thing is you go, “Well he could hide it and that’s kind of stupid but maybe he’s making a rash decision in the moment,” I’m like, ‘But he’s supposed to be the best at this,” and then your head starts to hurt and you go, “Alright fine.” And then it doesn’t bother anybody except me and I’m like, “Okay fine, I’m wrong.” But yeah no we didn’t really think of Fargo that much. I haven’t seen the TV show, I’ve only seen the movie. The only thing I remember about that is Darrell [Britt-Gibson] trying to open up the bathroom door and then he starts talking about IBS, we did that in ADR like months later. I said, “Why don’t you say, ‘Oh you have IBS? I have IBS. Can I tell you my story?’” and Darrell did it and we all started laughing.
Gene and Detective Moss is a really delightful pairing. Once you guys decided to have them hook up was it exciting to start digging into the storytelling possibilities there?
HADER: Yeah, yeah and just that it’s this middle-aged love story. That was a movie we did talk about was Jackie Brown, how this middle-aged love story thing could be fun. I didn’t go back and watch that movie but we just talked about that thing—I actually haven’t seen that movie since it came out. So we talked a bit about that, but it’s really just these two lonely people that kind of connect with each other and are—she’s trying to do the right thing, but now she’s doing the thing that she gave Loach shit for in Episode 2. And I just love Paula [Newsome] and Henry [Winkler] in those scenes. I like it when he says he’s 47 years old. I really like that scene in the backyard when they’re having breakfast. He’s the perfect romantic guy for her and he’s being genuine.
My favorite scene in Episode 6 to be honest is when Loach and Moss found the money and Loach puts it together. She’s been nothing but a jerk to him, he has every right and moment to just kind of lambast her, and instead he’s tender with her and gets it. He says, “It’s over with though, right?” and she’s like “Yeah.”
Her performance there is so good.
HADER: Yeah it’s really wonderful. That was a fun thing in the writers room, when we were putting all those strings together and it’s like so Vacha can’t kill Barry so he’s gonna kill Sally, so she shows up to the theater, and then we went, “Oh that’s great, as he’s walking out Moss is walking in because now she’s like the acting class is off the table so I can go be with Gene, and it’s right when he’s leaving and now it’s flipped again.” It was just one of those things when you put it all up on the board it kind of fit nicely together, I remember we were all really excited by that.
And Mark [Ivanir] too is just fantastic, he improvised that when he went up on stage and started singing. He improvised that in one take and we were like, “That was great.” Apparently the hardest thing in post-production was clearing that song. The people who wrote that song live on an island outside of Russia and someone had to go track them down to get the rights so we could do that.
I was just sure Moss was going to die in the final gunfight and my stomach was in knots. Was that ever discussed when breaking the story? Because it does feel like a show where the stakes are very real.
HADER: Oh good! We never talked about her dying there, but it was more we wanted to see her be a formidable force. That Moss knows how to handle herself and that this is basically getting the noose around Barry. And also all this shit can be traced back to Barry and Ryan (laughs). If these things had never happened, she never would’ve met Cousineau therefore she never would’ve been there and therefore this shit never would’ve happened.
So of course at the end of the episode Barry’s decision not to kill Taylor comes back to bite him in the worst way possible as Chris, someone he cares deeply about, is now involved, and the episode ends in a way that had me yelling at the screen. How did you guys settle on bringing Chris into Barry’s hitman world?
HADER: We said, “Okay let’s bring in these Marines,” and then we were like, “Well who are these other Marines?” and then I just remember deciding like, Barry’s at a crossroads in his life. He can either go become Taylor, or he can go become Chris. Chris is what he wants: a family, good guy, just a regular dude. That’s what Barry wants, that’s his North Star. And what he doesn’t want to be is he doesn’t want to turn into Taylor. Taylor’s apartment, we kind of purposely made it look like Barry’s apartment in the pilot. He just sits around watching porn all day, angry, and he’s this lonely guy who’s just pure id. It’s just sex, violence, food, pot, that’s it. That’s what Barry could become, so they’re the two polar versions of his personality. He refuses to kill the one, and now he’s put the other one in danger.
Barry airs on HBO Sundays at 10:30pm ET/PT.