‘Barry’ Stars Talk the Show’s Dark Tones and Plans for Season Four: “We’re Going to Manage to Keep Things Funny”

Barry, now in its third season, is up for 14 awards at this year’s Emmys, with two in the same category. Anthony Carrigan, who plays lovable Chechen mobster NoHo Hank, and Henry Winkler, who plays Barry’s (Bill Hader) acting teacher turned biggest threat Gene Cousineau, will go head-to-head this year for supporting actor in a comedy, in what is Carrigan’s second nomination and Winkler’s eighth (his third for the HBO hit; his win for the show’s first season was also his first career win).

In individual chats with THR, the two talk about being honored for this season in particular, which saw Hader’s Hollywood hitman comedy take a very dark turn, and who outside the show they’ll each be rooting for on Emmy day.

Where were you when you found out about your nomination?

ANTHONY CARRIGAN I was on the train to New York City. I was on the Amtrak, so I was getting all of these messages and phone calls that were getting dropped. I couldn’t really pay attention because the internet on my phone [wasn’t] working, so I was just radio silent for a lot of it. But then, once I got into the city, I checked in to my hotel, went up to the rooftop. Funnily enough, there was great music playing, so I had a drink and danced on the rooftop — very much like Hank would do.

HENRY WINKLER We were watching J.B. Smoove [announce the nominations live], being very smooth. And then I looked online and looked at the [full] list. First of all, I thought, “Wow, they used a good picture!” And then I was just so happy. I love being on this show. It’s a gift. And then this season was different from anything I’ve done before.

When did you realize this show and your character were something special?

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CARRIGAN Well, my character didn’t die — that was amazing, that was a great sign. When people started quoting my character pretty early on, that’s when I felt like I was onto something cool. Also, I was slightly worried that I was going to turn into a doll, where it’s like a pull-string with all these sayings. Fortunately, that isn’t out there on the market yet.

WINKLER From the first time I opened my mouth. In 2016, we’re sitting at Sony around the table as a cast, reading [the pilot] for the first time for HBO. And I yelled at Sarah Goldberg’s character, I smashed the table with my hand and the executives from HBO jumped. And then they said later on to Bill, “We didn’t know that was in him.”

Henry Winkler as Gene Cousineau and Bill Hader as the title character on HBO’s Barry.

Courtesy of Merrick Morton/HBO

What was your favorite, or most challenging, scene to shoot this season?

CARRIGAN The final scenes that I shot. That whole sequence for me in episode eight was pretty challenging and pretty demanding, but just so cool. Because the thing is that there was all this stuff that was supposed to be happening on the other side [of the wall from where Hank is being held captive], but when I was shooting it, I couldn’t really react [to] anything. It was basically Bill sitting right in front of my face just telling me what’s going on, and I’m reacting to it. That was pretty challenging, but also just a kind of great exercise as an actor and a really cool opportunity to utilize my imagination.

WINKLER ​​The most challenging scene is in the last episode, where I get to act with the great Robert Wisdom [as the father of Gene’s deceased girlfriend] — and I’m telling you that this nomination is on his shoulders. That was just incredible. I’ve never done anything quite like that all in one take, and then we did it like five or six times and we had to reach the same crescendo authentically five times. That was really an accomplishment.

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What did you think when you read the scripts and saw where this season was going, into much darker territory?

CARRIGAN I loved it, I was so on board. From the very beginning, the show has been pretty unique in the way that it toes the line of comedy and drama. But I think it’s so cool to be so relentless, in a way, and completely take the comedy out. It’ll come back, don’t worry — I’ll try to find moments for levity.

WINKLER It was so dark, I bought a miner’s cap. I would think, “Wow, I’m prepared for tomorrow’s work, I’m just going to lay low now, enjoy my puppies, I’m going to talk to the grandchildren.” And then I would get to the set and [co-creator] Alec [Berg] and Bill would take me, like, to the Ozarks. I was just taken to a completely different place. Meanwhile, Ozark, that was a great show — it was nice that it was nominated. I worked with Jason [Bateman] when we did Arrested Development, and here he is doing this wonderful work. And Laura Linney was so great.

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Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank

Courtesy of Merrick Morton/HBO

What do you think about the show receiving all these comedy nominations when it’s so dark? Do you still view it as a comedy?

CARRIGAN I think in order to retain the nomination for best comedy, I’m legally bound to say yes, it is a comedy. (Laughs.) I mean, it’s really pushing the envelope, I will say that, and I understand people questioning exactly what it is. But it’s just labels, and we’re going to manage to keep things funny. Don’t worry.

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WINKLER ​​It started as a comedy, it’s got comedy at its roots. In the beginning of the season, I’m holding a gun on Barry, I am intent on shooting Barry if he does not turn himself in, and the gun falls apart. So in its guts, it’s a comedy. It just went to the cellar, to a very dark place.

Do you know anything about where season four is going?

CARRIGAN I’ve been told some stuff, but I never want to attach to it. You think you could be doing something and then before you know it, it’s like, “Oh yeah, that was six drafts ago.” I like to show up completely naive and chew some scenery off.

What other nominees are you rooting for?

CARRIGAN What We Do in the Shadows got nominated for best comedy, I’m so pumped about that. I love that show, it’s absolutely brilliant. It makes me laugh so hard, and I’m just so happy that I’m going to get to meet and fan out on some of those people.

WINKLER The young lady who wrote the pilot and starred in Abbott Elementary, Quinta [Brunson]. I thought, “Wow, this is a wonderful thing, that this woman had this vision, this comedy, these bunch of people in her head, and there they were and now here she is.” I was surprised I did not see Gaslit [nominated]. Those two performances were extraordinary. Man, oh man, oh man, that was something to see week after week. Julia [Roberts] and Sean [Penn], give me a break! Sometimes you would think, “Oh, we’re watching a documentary.”

Interviews edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in the July 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.