- Warning: Major spoilers below if you have not seen the season 2 finale of “Barry.”
- Bill Hader talked to Business Insider about the very dark season finale of “Barry.”
- Hader, who along with starring also directed the finale, explained how some of the most memorable moments of the episode happened by accident and why this was the hardest episode for him to direct so far.
- Hader also explained why he felt bad for the makers of “Game of Thrones” and why people should put their energy in more meaningful things than complaining about the show.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Warning: Major spoilers below if you have not seen the season 2 finale of “Barry.”
The second season of HBO’s hit show “Barry” has had quite a ride. Not only is its lead-in the final season of “Game of Thrones,” but as that show gets lambasted by critics and fans, Bill Hader’s dark comedy has been universally praised. That praise has come both for Hader’s Emmy-wining performance as a conflicted hitman who has caught the acting bug, and his work behind the camera as well.
After directing the first three episodes of season 1, Hader followed that up by directing two of the most memorable episodes of season 2: “ronny/lily,” a standalone episode that followed Barry on a botched hit; and the very dark finale that aired on Sunday, “berkman>block.”
Hader’s work in the finale both on screen and in the director’s chair are exceptional as he ties up the story arcs we’ve been following all season – the disintegrating relationship between Barry and Fuches (played by Stephen Root), Sally’s (Sarah Goldberg) journey to bring truth to her work, and Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) discovering Barry was behind the death of his love Detective Janice Moss (Paula Newsome) – while also playing Barry as a fragile ticking time bomb.
Business Insider spoke to Hader about the major revelations in the finale, why this episode was the hardest so far of the ones he’s directed, how numerous memorable moments of the episode happened by accident, and why he feels bad for all the negativity thrown at “Game of Thrones.”
Jason Guerrasio: I’m very excited to see Cousineau plot his revenge in season 3.
Bill Hader: Yeah, we don’t know what that is going to look like so it’s going to be interesting to see what will happen. We kind of have a tendency to just write something like that and kind of have an idea of what the consequences will be but don’t really know. I think the first day of writing season 3 is us saying, “All right, so, what does Gene do with this information?”
Guerrasio: Was the finale one the hardest to direct so far, even more than “ronny/lily”?
Hader: Yeah, because you’re wrapping up so many things and you have 30 minutes to kind of give everybody their moment so it’s hard because it messes with the pace of everything. It was way harder editing this episode than “ronny/lily.” That was very much thought out ahead of time and because it’s a contained kind of sequence it has a nice flow to it visually and story wise. But with this one it’s really hard to make it all work because you are managing all these stories.
Guerrasio: So the way you and co-creator Alec Berg wrote the finale changed in post?
Hader: There’s always an issue where you shoot it and then look at it and it changes. We talked about not having Cousineau finding out [Barry killed Moss] at the end of the episode. There’s an ending where Barry just goes into darkness and that’s it, but when we watched [the Cousineau finding out version] we were like, “That’s so good!” And it was less us saying Cousineau should find out, I just remember being in the room thinking if Fuches is there and he can’t kill Cousineau why isn’t he not just saying, “Barry Berkman did all this.” He would just say that. Fuches can’t kill him but he can destroy their relationship.
Guerrasio: Did you have different ideas of how to get the cops off Cousineau’s back? Or was the plan always to have Barry place the debt pin in the trunk?
Hader: We knew that Hank had to give him something that he then could plant with Janice’s body so it would look like the Chechens did it. We had various ideas of what that could be. Then once we had this idea that Barry would train the Chechens we got to this place of when Barry is done training them they would throw a party for him and part of that ceremony is them giving him something. Which then we could use for him to put in the trunk.
I’m already self-conscious how much the show owes to “Breaking Bad,” but this was a very “Breaking Bad”-type of moment. I was like, “Guys, this is really ‘Breaking Bad’ right now.” But one of our writers pointed out that if this was “Breaking Bad” Barry would have pinned it on Cousineau. So Barry is not as bad as Walter White.
Guerrasio: It’s so funny how much you are self-conscious of copying “Breaking Bad” because when we talked for Season 1 you said the scenes in the desert you felt were very “Breaking Bad.”
Hader: Yeah, I like that show and you get self-conscious of the things you like. But it’s funny because it doesn’t influence you in the moment when you are writing. I mean, I have only seen “Breaking Bad” once, it’s not like we are at home studying it. But then you are out in the desert shooting and you are like, “Oh my god, this looks like ‘Breaking Bad,’ what the f— are we doing?” And the ending of this episode, “Taxi Driver” is one of my favourite movies, and it wasn’t until we watched it that I was like, “Oh, this is like ‘Taxi Driver,'” when he goes and shoots all the bad guys. “F—! There we go. I love the movie and there it is.” You can’t escape it sometimes.
Guerrasio: Well, if you want one person’s point of view, I did not think of “Breaking Bad” or “Taxi” Driver” in those scenes.
Hader: Oh, good. It’s my own insecurities but if someone does mention it I would go, “Yep, I don’t blame you for thinking that.”
Guerrasio: You have said in the past that “ronny/lily” was in your head for a while and you were definitely going to direct it. But that and the finale are similar in that they are very action heavy. Was it a coincidence you directed both?
Hader: I think it just happened that way, but I like directing action. I like doing it in a way that’s different. That’s more detached. And I felt in season 1 I kind of screwed up a couple of the action scenes so I wanted to get them right. And even the ones I didn’t direct this season, like episode 3 when Barry is in their apartment and they are shooting him, I was like, “No, the camera goes here, and we go here.” I was kind of micro-managing those little moments because I see them so clearly in my head. Later I apologised all day to that episode’s director Minkie Spiro.
Guerrasio: Well, you have said in creating this show you wanted to direct episodes. Has it been a big change compared to season 1, how you see the show because you have directed numerous episodes now?
Hader: Definitely. “ronny/lily” was definitely a thing that made me go, “Oh, cool, I see it this way and I delivered on what I saw in my head.” That made me happy. On season 1 I think because I was new to it I gave up on it. I was insecure in not wanting to rock the boat and then I think I had the confidence in season 2 to just say, “No, this is one shot,” with the girl going up the tree in “ronny/lily.” Because people were saying, “Don’t you want to shoot her going up the tree and then another shot of her at the top of the roof?” And, I was like, “No, one shot.” I was running more on instinct and sticking to my guns. And that can be hard when you have a big team of professional people that have worked on a lot of stuff looking at you sometimes like you’re crazy.
Guerrasio: So are you itching to direct a feature-length movie now?
Hader: I’m writing something right now. I have a thing that I’m trying to figure out that I don’t think I would star in but I would direct it. It’s the thing I’ve always wanted to do and it’s been a weird path to get there. Going from “Saturday Night Live,” getting your own HBO show and directing a couple of episodes and hope people like them. I was very happy with the reaction to “ronny/lilly.” The big thing is I feel I have that confidence now.
Guerrasio: What was the hardest arc to tie up in the finale?
Hader: Sally flipping the table on Barry and not being truthful in the scene. The whole idea that the audience loved it came much later. The idea of all the people coming up afterwards was when we were location scouting. This is how funny things work, that whole scene between her and her agent originally took place in the dressing room. And then the other agents come in and say, “That was wonderful.” And that was the end of the scene, with just the agents loving it.
But we couldn’t find a good dressing room to shoot in so my DP Paula Huidobro said, “This lobby is way more interesting to shoot in,” and I agreed. Then while we were blocking it I realised all these people are going to be walking out and they also can come up to her and tell her it was amazing. That’s going to mean more to Sally than the agents. F— the agents, she wants the affirmation from the audience. That’s more powerful. I would never have hit on that idea if the dressing room had worked. And it’s all because Paula thought the lobby looked cooler.
Guerrasio: And then you have that great shot from above looking down on everyone converging on Sally.
Hader: Exactly. And that’s because there was a balcony. I remember Alec looking up and he was like, “You can get a wide shot from up there,” and I was like, “Yeah, a wide shot of everyone descending on her.” Something Sally has always wanted but it’s terrifying. And we would never have thought of that shot if there wasn’t a second story that looked right down on it and we could put a camera up there.
Guerrasio: How much of those happy accidents have happened on this show for you?
Hader: It happens a lot but you have to be attuned to it. I plan very heavily because I’m acting in it and you have very little time because these episodes have to be at the most 30 minutes. I always end up going over a couple of minutes. But I need to photo board it and be pretty clear on what my coverage is going to be because we just don’t have the time to shoot it. So you have to be open to those things, you can’t be so locked into your plan.
And so a good example is we kept getting rained out. The scene where Fuchs comes down the stairs and brokers peace between Cristobal and Hank, that scene outside. We kept having to push that scene off because it was raining constantly. We shot all of this in January when it was raining every day in LA, the city was having more rain than it had ever had in ten years or something.
So many exteriors we shot them outside, it’s raining, and when my editor cut together the scenes inside during the shootout he put rain over it because all of the exteriors had rain. When I saw it with the rain I felt this now makes it really interesting. We put rain over everything. So when Barry goes into darkness at the end of the episode there’s sound of rain leading us to Cousineau in bed. And then the end credits had rain, so it gives you this feeling of a coming storm. The future is very dark and bleak for these characters. I thought that was great. And that wasn’t in the script, that wasn’t planned, that is because LA was getting the most rain that it had ever.
Guerrasio: We’re taking about all the darkness in the show, let’s turn to something funny. Will we see more of Barry involved in the “Swim Instructors” project next season?
Hader: Oh, I don’t know. We’ll see. I don’t know how we are going to do that with “Swim Instructors.”
Guerrasio: I feel the best line of the entire season is when Cousineau in complete deadpan says to Barry when looking at the script, “You say the title, they can’t cut that out!”
Hader: That’s from my life because I was always the guy in movies saying the title. Like, “You need to go forget about Sarah Marshall.”
Hader: I was always the guy in the trailer who always had a line that was a set up to the whole thing. “You need to go to Hawaii and forget about her.” I had that in a couple of movies and I joked about it to Alec Berg, that it was great playing the best friend in a lot of movies because you have the line that you know is going to make it in the trailer. They can’t cut that scene because it sets up the whole movie. So we thought Cousineau and Sally would be furious that he got this audition solely because he’s the right height. That would make them insane.
Guerrasio: How has it been having the best lead-in in television history with “Game of Thrones?”
Hader: It’s been great. We had 2.5 million new viewers once the season started, it was insane. I was in New York just before season 2 started and the attention was good, but I was there earlier last week to do press and it was massively different for me. People shouting out “Barry!” and stuff like that. And that has to be because of “Game of Thrones.” [Laughs.]
Guerrasio: And while that show is getting s— on your show is getting nothing but praise, that has to feel kind of good.
Hader: Yeah, but I feel bad those guys are getting s— on. Though I don’t know if anyone would be happy with this season.
Guerrasio: My personal feeling is “Game of Thrones” fandom has gotten to “Star Wars” level where it’s impossible to please the majority.
Hader: Yeah. I think Stephen King just tweeted something along the same lines. I was talking to people after I did an interview and they were complaining about “Game of Thrones” and I said, “I think the Dragon Queen going evil was rad,” and they got mad at me. [Laughs.] So I was like, “OK, I’m leaving, this is me walking away.” I mean, I don’t want to get political here but I’ll say this: the fact that there’s a giant petition that the season has to be redone, I mean, there’s a lot more things in this world right now that could use a petition with thousands of people signing it. There are bigger fish to fry.