Bill Hader, the man behind Barry’s killer success

It appeared without noise and ended up making more noise than the big tanks of the year. Barry, the mini-series that HBO premiered last year, debuted with a first season that filled everyone with praise and awards, but especially Bill Hader. The comedian, veteran of the legendary show Saturday Night LiveAt the age of 40, he met the best character of his career; Dark, clumsy, absent-minded and purposeless, this hit man turned stage actor won everyone over and gave his performer an Emmy. Now, with the second season on air – the broadcast episodes are now available on HBO GO – Hader tells the background of his character, of the series and explores the ins and outs behind these immediate hits.

The series is a success, why do you think it was so well liked by the public?

I don’t know, I have no idea how things work. On Saturday Night Live (SNL) I learned that what gives you the most work and what makes you sweat the most, in the end does not dazzle people, they think it was good and nothing more. So I stopped thinking about it and now I just try to do my best, give my all with whatever talent I have at the time, and try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me and better than me. Hopefully it works.

Were you thinking of a second season when the project started?

When Alec Berg (producer of Barry) and I sat down to talk about the series for the first time, we were in a cafe working on another idea. He was writting Silicon Valley. We spent about a month talking about the other project, until one day I arrived with my notes from Barry and I said “you know what? This sucks. It does not work. It has no interest, it has no narrative impulse, it is like it always stays the same ”. The series that I liked were Breaking Bad, Los Soprano, Game of Thrones, The Americans and Handmaid’s Tale, and they all had a lot of narrative drive, rich and fabulous characters, they left you wondering what would happen next. So, a bit out of frustration, I said to him: “What if he was a hitman?” And Alex answered me: “I hate hitmen.” And I said: “but what if it was me? If I were the hit man, being me, Bill, the clumsy one? ” and then he agreed, and we started talking about this guy, and then we very quickly defined that he would be in an acting class. I don’t know why, but I specifically remember Alec saying very clearly, “oh, a hit man in drama class, that’s funny.” This would be the long explanation to say that in that conversation we defined the entire series. And then we write it down. How will it continue? I do not know. But if we get to a third season, we know emotionally where the character will be.

You said you were trying to make the most of your talents at the time, does that vary or fluctuate?

Yes, you never know how funny or good it is. Something may happen in your life, or the well may run dry. It has already happened with others. It’s like training: you have to do it constantly because if you don’t, you can atrophy. You have to see shows, read, get excited about stories, it is mainly about getting inspired: you listen to a musical composition and you imagine a scene or something, you get excited and want to tell someone about it.

Can we talk about your Emmy? I read that he hid in the bathroom after winning it.

Yes, I did hide in the bathroom afterwards. I didn’t think I was going to win, so I just sat there like nothing. I was thinking “well, I’m going to go to the party, I’m going to have a drink and then I’m going to go home, because the next day we’ll start recording the second season”. And then I won. Suddenly they were interviewing me, and they began to pass you from channel to channel, until I looked at my agent and said “I need to go to the bathroom.” I got into a cubicle and sat down. You go to the Emmy ceremony and the after-party, and it’s kind of crap, because people want to take a picture but not with you, but with the award. Three people even took it out of my hands and snapped a photo. His husband or wife took a picture of them holding him and it seemed strange to me.

He is very self-critical; How do you cope with the praise and acclaim you receive for Barry?

I never knew if I was good as a screenwriter until I started writing the series. Then I felt that I had found something that I was good at. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out. On SNL, I convinced myself that I was not a very good screenwriter because I did not know how to write sketches. And now I look at the second season and think, “Did the facial expression ever change? I have the same face in every damn scene. It is shameful. But I have learned that when something really goes well, you have to enjoy it. There is a strange energy, everyone is adorable, and I can’t complain when everyone says nice things to me. Everything is very sweet. But it is very abnormal.

What effect does success have when facing the second season? Did you raise the bar?

Yes, but you also feel that you are a bit paranoid. You don’t want to get to the point of ruining it. So it’s about finding a balance. I’ve seen friends who went through it, won an Oscar or any other award and then a few years later, they’re like “well, I’ll have to take this job for money” or “I’m unhappy about this.” It’s a roller coaster ride. It’s all one big roller coaster, and that’s what makes it the most fun. My goal is to be able to see something that I have worked on to the best of my ability, look at it and say, “that’s what we wanted to do.”

There are not many who accept the charge of writing, directing and acting at the same time. How do you handle that intensity?

It is intense. It’s hard. I turned 40 and did all this work. I haven’t taken a vacation in like three years. And then in the middle of that, I received awards, I went through all those other experiences. Until last Saturday I broke my back vacuuming. I was just vacuuming and I just lay there thinking, “I need a vacation.”

Beyond your back, do you feel the need to have all of that, such that you would not be satisfied if you did not?

It may sound pretentious, but if you consider yourself an artist, you have an idea, a vision, you try to carry it out. And the more time and control you have, the better you can prioritize what really matters to you. The other aspect is something I learned in SNL, and I want to make my own mistakes. I’d rather fall on my own sword than be part of something I don’t control.

* Material provided by HBO Latin America.


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Bill Hader, the man behind Barry’s killer success