Spoilers for Barry Episode 7, “Louder, Fast, and Keep Going,” follow below.
Those who’ve been keeping up with Barry on HBO are now well aware of the show’s brilliantly diverse tonal range—especially after Episode 7. The penultimate episode of the season shifted hard into dramatic territory as Bill Hader’s titular hitman found himself boxed in, which led to the devastating decision to murder his friend Chris (Chris Marquette). While the Barry in Episode 1 had no qualms with killing people—this is his job, after all—the character is now beset by conflict and regret, perhaps for the first time in his career. It’s all due to the effect the acting class is having on Barry’s life, not just professionally but personally, and Episode 7 is a wildly emotional clash of both worlds, resulting in the best episode of the season and one of the best episodes of TV all year.
I recently spoke with Hader for an exclusive interview about Episode 7, in which he revealed how the writers came to the decision to kill Chris and the unique way in which that jaw-dropping car sequence was shot. Hader also discussed why this is his personal favorite episode of the season, how the Macbeth scene builds upon things set up earlier in the season, the delightful performance from Anthony Carrigan as Noho Hank, and where the idea for those emoji texts came from. Additionally, Hader teased next week’s finale and what fans can expect from the final episode of the season.
Hader was tremendously insightful not just about the story of Episode 7, but how certain scenes were staged and constructed from a filmmaking standpoint. Check out the full interview below, and check back next week for an extensive breakdown of the finale and the season as a whole.
In many ways this feels like a culmination of Barry’s actions from the pilot. Did you guys see it that way? Structurally, how did you approach the penultimate episode of the season? It’s a dark one.
BILL HADER: Yeah it’s my favorite episode of the season. It’s when everything kind of comes together and you get to sense what the stakes were, and it’s like he made this decision and you see how all these things crash together. But when we were plotting it out, it just kind of happened. You go, “Well what would happen next?” I remember we were in the room and initially Episode 6 ended with Cristobal coming out of his plane and going, “What the fuck was that?” I was like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you were inside the car and the car flips over at the end of six, and then you start seven from the other guys’ point of view?” So you don’t really know where we’re at and then we realize, oh we’ve jumped back in time a little bit. It also gives you a proper introduction to Cristobal and kind of shows how weirdly insignificant and how stupid their bum rush was from the other guys’ point of view.
It was just starting there and going, “Okay, so Barry’s lost.” Him trying to do both things in this episode is nearly impossible. The fact that he even shows up to rehearsal is crazy, but he’s so determined to do this show and be—he’s like a good soldier, you know, “I said I was gonna do something and I’m gonna do it,” to his detriment. And the thing I like about this episode is Chris shooting the guy is a callback to him when he’s trying to shoot the thing at the carnival game for his son and he’s not good. That’s not what he’s good at, and so we wanted to set that up in a way that this isn’t what he does. The effect of him murdering somebody and the difference between him and Barry, and Barry realizing like, “Oh I’m far gone. I’m done. That class is right because this is how I should be feeling when I kill somebody, and I’m not.”
That scene in the car in phenomenal.
HADER: That’s my favorite scene of the whole season, that scene with Chris in the car. I think that’s the best scene we did all season. I was so proud of that when I saw it. I was so stoked when we were writing that, and then we just got to a place and we all went, “Well he’s gotta kill Chris,” and then everybody just got quiet. Liz Sarnoff, who wrote that episode, was like, “Alright. He’s gotta kill Chris!” (laughs). We just started doing the dialogue and then Chris backtracking just made us all go, “Aww man that’s so brutal.” He realizes he went too far, and then having the car pull up. That was one thing in the room it just flowed, what the scene should be. The actor Chris [Marquette], who played that part, just every take delivered. I don’t have to do a lot of acting in that. I thought he was gonna hyperventilate and pass out on every take, he would get so worked up. It was really fun to watch him work that day. He was unreal.
The shot construction of that sequence is also incredible, building the tension.
HADER: Yeah Alec [Berg, who directed the episode], Paula [Huidobro] our DP, and Jeff [Buchanan] our editor, who edited Her and works with Spike Jonze, did an amazing job on that episode. They don’t go close, they keep it wide in these overs. So you don’t know what’s gonna happen; violence can pop up in the frame at any moment. Sam Fuller movies would do that, it was always these two-shots and three-shots where suddenly violence would happen. You didn’t construct it with close-ups. I remember when we were talking about it I was like, “Oh man we should do a slow zoom-in on Barry like Michael in The Godfather when he has to kill McCluskey,” and then Paula I remember very rightfully said, “Yes but we’ve seen that before, Bill.” (laughs). Simplicity was the way to go. We shot that coverage. We shot extreme closeups of me, extreme closeups of him, we did different coverage and Jeff in editing was like, “I just like these overs, man. Just let it play out because it seems like two guys having a conversation that then has to erupt in violence.”
Well then it reaches a point where it feels inevitable but you don’t know when it’s going to happen.
HADER: Yeah exactly, and that’s all in the way Paula and Alec chose to stage it and the way Jeff chose to cut it. Jeff just knew to cut it in that way. I just think that scene is so great because you don’t have any bells and whistles on it shot-wise. That was my initial thing, I said “Oh my God you could get in there and do some great subjective camera stuff!” and then it was like, “No, no, play with nothing. Play with the freeway in the background and it is two guys having a conversation. Shoot it like nothing happened and it was just two guys saying, ‘We robbed a bank, what do we do now?’” You would just shoot it in overs and maybe a medium shot and a closeup and that would be it. When it starts to get tense I feel like you’re in the car and you’re like, “Oh can I get out please?” (laughs).
And the final sequence with Sally’s big scene and Barry having a nervous breakdown is incredible. The editing feels very precise in that it made me physically anxious and upset, and it builds to this heartbreaking performance by Barry on stage. How did you approach this sequence? Because again the shot composition and even the sound design is terrific.
HADER: Yeah it was good for us to show what’s supposed to happen, like Barry’s version of how it’s supposed to go in his daydream of the scene going the arch way of her playing Macbeth and everything. So it’s nice for the audience to see the way it’s supposed to go, and then you see what happens. And again Jeff did a wonderful job. That’s the first cut he did of what Barry’s thinking of, of Chris’ wife answering the phone and everything. He goes, “Okay guys this is my first pass, let me know what you think,” and we were like, “Don’t change anything. That’s perfect.” It was his first pass at it and he did such a good job.
In terms of story, it was the thing that we kind of talked about where it’s like he has to use it. You set that up in Episode 2 this idea of “using it,” making someone look good and all that, and I remember just saying, “Man if we could take Barry and Sally’s story, and the culmination of their stories help each other.” The domino of he has his breakthrough that then ends her story of her then feeling like she now knows what it means to be in an ensemble. He cries and that gives her performance something. And Sarah Goldberg did a beautiful thing in that scene where she was playing it with a very slight British accent, and then when I come out and deliver my line and leave, she dropped the accent. It’s a very subtle thing but I just thought that was a very cool choice, and I think she just did an amazing job on that. She kind of states, in a weird way, the theme of that show in that moment (laughs). And then yeah, I think Barry having his breakdown, it’s not acting. It couldn’t feel like he was acting. It had to feel like he was legitimately, “I killed the thing that I wanted to be and I’m damned to this. It’s my lot.”
I need to talk about Anthony Carrigan, because he’s amazing in this show. What was it like casting him and did the character of Noho Hank evolve much once he was cast? The emoji texts made me laugh so hard.
HADER: We were just writing it and Goran had to have a little henchman and we were like, “What if he was like one of those guys who works at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store?” It was like a Chechen guy with a polo shirt who’s just very polite and hey he’s here for you if you need to talk to him. So when we had our auditions that’s what we’d say to people, like “You’re just very polite. Don’t think of yourself as tough.” Anthony came in with an accent that was really funny and crazy, it wasn’t quite the accent that he has on the show. But what got him hired honestly—and this is an interesting thing for actors—was the way he listens. He looked really funny listening. He was just so open in a way, and it just would make us laugh. Him listening made us laugh and go, “Oh this guy’s really interesting.” And then seeing him read again was even better, and then we got him into wardrobe and Audrey [Fisher] our costume designer really went crazy with him and they had fun with that. He would say you know, “Super great” or “Jeez louise” all these things and it was just a fun character to write for.