71° Good Afternoon
71° Good Afternoon

‘Barry,’ Bill Hader’s new HBO series, gets surprisingly dark

Bill Hader appears as a hitman in the new series.

Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg star in HBO's

Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg star in HBO's new half-hour dramedy "Barry," airing on Sundays. Photo Credit: HBO / John P. Johnson

A series about a hit man that doesn’t skimp on the gore can’t be humorous, can it? HBO’s newest half-hour script “Barry,” by “Saturday Night Live” alum Bill Hader and “Silicon Valley’s” Alec Berg, aims to hit that dramedy mash-up genre.

“I think it’s going to surprise audiences how dark it does go. The humor sort of trickles in and catches you off guard,” says actress Sarah Goldberg, who plays one of the show’s theater buffs, Sally Reed.

The series finds a Marine-turned-hit man tied in with the sketchiest of members of the Chechen mob. Barry, played by Hader, follows a mark to a Los Angeles acting class (led by Henry Winkler) where he suddenly decides to try his hand at theater because, well, why not?

Realizing his career path has left him feeling rather empty, Barry runs into trouble when he tries to ditch the mob bosses to chase stardom.

Hader says the idea for the script came to him from his personal struggle with anxiety while performing on “Saturday Night Live.” The 39-year-old comedian left his post on the sketch comedy show in 2013 after eight years.

“The longer I was on the show, the better I was getting at doing it but that anxiety didn’t go away. It was actually getting worse,” Hader explains. “So, ‘Barry’ takes the idea that the thing you’re good at is destroying you, in some ways.”

Barry decides to hang around with a theater class in between stints as a trained assassin because acting provides the “healing” ability to drop one perception of yourself and pick up another, Hader explains.

“It’s also the polar opposite of being a hit man,” he notes. “Acting encourages you to explore your emotions, to feel them to their fullest extent, all the things Barry’s been avoiding for years.”

When we first meet Barry, his emotional range is seriously lacking … and for good reason. He finds friendship with a group of acting hopefuls who can go from hysterics to laughter at the snap of a finger while a look of apparent indifference remains plastered on his face. The hit man’s new theater pal and possible love interest Sally adds a vibrant personality to the monotone Barry that balances out the script.

“Sally gets all the goods. She’s suddenly got somebody there who’s worshipping her. She’s looking for a someone who’s looking to be the wallpaper while she shines,” Goldberg says.

Barry serves as the perfect sidekick for a self-involved actress with a big heart. When Barry first meets Sally, she’s is a bit too busy chasing her own dreams to dig into his violent past or even notice what danger may be lurking in the shadows.

“She’s got these two very polarizing sides and one is the really confident self-assured star of the class, and one is the girl lost in the world who’s floundering and being exploited,” Goldberg says. “We get to see her in public and private and see what sides of her come out in those episodes.”

Hader adds: “Barry’s never really hung out with actors before, and he thinks Sally is the greatest actress he’s ever seen. For Barry, he gets to hang around with Sally, and for Sally, Barry gives her the audience and the adulation she needs to help fight her own insecurities.”

That’s nice and all, but Barry’s Chechen mob ties are bound to catch up with his new pal eventually … right?

“Barry” airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.


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