After nearly two years since the season two finale, the 6-time Emmy-winning HBO series Barry is back for thirds with its Emmy-winning lead actor Bill Hader continuing on as its title character in this critically-acclaimed dark comedy series.
If you regrettably have not seen Barry yet or you simply have forgotten everything that happened before the pandemic, the series follows Barry Berkman, a low-level hit man who attempts to change his violent ways by getting into the world of acting. However, as the first two seasons proved and this third season (premiering April 24 on HBO and streaming on HBO Max) will continue to show, a fresh start is sometimes easier said than done.
“I think it’s Can he be forgiven?” Hader tells me of the overall theme of his Barry character in season three. “I don’t know if that’s possible but I think that’s the question we’re asking ourselves when we’re writing this. Is that something that he deserves or not, or is that even a thing? I think he kind of feels like he does things this season and doesn’t really think of the consequences, you know? He learns this season that there are a lot of consequences (laughs).”
Beyond his starring role, Hader is also the series co-creator and co-writer with showrunner Alec Berg, as well as an executive producer on Barry. He even directs the first episode of season three, a position behind the scenes that he has taken on five times prior on episodes throughout this series. So, I wondered what Hader enjoys most about being in the director’s chair that he perhaps does not creatively get out of acting alone.
“I don’t know, I just enjoy the process of telling a story through pictures. I’ve loved movies my whole life. It has always been the main love is film and telling a story that way. That has always given me a real ‘high.’ I have friends that are amazing comedy writers – they think in jokes. I don’t think in jokes in the way they can. When I think of things, I think of it in terms of pictures and sequence.”
I also spoke with Berg briefly about his professional relationship with Hader, having nothing but praise for his Barry partner-in-crime.
“He’s freakishly talented,” Berg says of Hader. “In terms of growth, it’s just about experience and confidence. He has the ability to do all of it. Now three seasons in, I don’t think that his skills have gotten any sharper. I think he’s just more confident. He has had more reps, so he knows what he wants and what he doesn’t want and he knows how to get it and what the scene is. So, I think he has gotten more efficient.”
As Hader continues to wear many hats on Barry, I wondered what has finding this project meant to him at this stage of his professional Hollywood career.
“This has been the thing I’ve always wanted to do,” Hader reveals. “I moved out to LA in 1999 because I wanted to be a filmmaker, a writer, and a director. So yeah, this was the first chance I got to do that and it has been just really, really amazing. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience and to do something that is the best representation, I think, in my mind of what I find interesting. People saw me on Saturday Night Live and they see me in big comedies and I love that stuff, but if I could do the stories I am interested in, it would be something like this.”
Speaking of Saturday Night Live, Hader was a cast member of the longtime comedy sketch series from 2005 until 2013, often bringing his memorable characters like Stefon, The Californians, and Herb Welch to our television screens. So, in what ways did his years on the popular live series prepare him for the work that he is doing today?
“What SNL taught me really well is you failed every week. And so, failing that often and falling on your face every week kind of taught you to brush yourself off quicker and then that kind of gave you the confidence to try stuff – and if it didn’t work, then it doesn’t work. I think SNL taught me that you would fail on live television and the whole nation just said That sucks!”
When I asked Hader what advice her would give to his former self, the Bill Hader first auditioning for SNL around 2005, he says, “Remember to have fun. Yeah, I didn’t have a lot of fun. I was so terrified of being wrong and messing up that I had zero fun. When you have fun, it permeates, and that helps in anything you do. If you can have fun, it’ll at the very least go faster (laughs).”
With Barry continuing to air on the premium cable network HBO and its fast-growing video streaming service HBO Max, Berg reveals why this coveted outlet remains the proper home for him, Hader, and their Barry cast & crew.
“They’re just the best because they just want things to be good,” Berg says of HBO. “There is no ulterior motive, there’s not a lot of narcissism, there’s not a lot of We need to put our stamp on this so we can take credit for it. These are the people I will always want to work with because they care about the right things. I think Bill and I are both very responsible in terms of budget and being smart about what we need and what we don’t need. So when we run into trouble and we call them and we say Hey, we need a little more money to do this, they know that we need it.”
While many television series tend to see a dip in viewership as seasons go on, Barry has only seen growth in its viewership as more storyline continue. In May 2019 during the season two finale episode, Barry reached a series high of 2.7 million viewers, an impressive 253% increase in viewership compared to viewership for Barry’s season one finale. With season three premiering and season four already written by Berg & Hader, there are undoubtably high hopes that this new season will be the most “killer” yet…so forgive them, in advance.