‘Barry’: Anthony Carrigan on NoHo Hank’s Rescue Mission in the Season 3 Finale

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[This story contains spoilers for the season three finale of HBO’s Barry, “starting now.”]

Well, season three of Barry has come to a close, and somehow, again, miraculously, co-creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg have managed to keep all the main characters above ground.

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Perhaps none of the series regulars has more reason to be appreciative than Anthony Carrigan, whose self-conscious, deferential Chechen mobster NoHo Hank — a representative scene in this season’s penultimate episode finds him waiting patiently while a Bolivian shopkeep assembles a blowgun and fires a dart into his neck: “Yep, that’s what I thought you were doing, but I didn’t want to be rude!” — was originally supposed to die in the pilot.

“At the end of the [first] episode I get shot in the car. … I got my one episode as this weird, goofy character, and then that’s it, he’s done,” Carrigan told The Hollywood Reporter in a Zoom conversation before the finale.

Can you imagine?

At the very least there would have been one fewer castmember for co-stars Stephen Root and Henry Winkler to compete with for the outstanding supporting actor in a comedy Emmy. (Henry Winkler won the award in 2018 for season one — his first Emmy ever; then, all three were nominated in the category for season two. None won, likely the result of a split vote.)

But NoHo Hank is still kicking, barely, after an intense finale that saw him narrowly avert being mauled by a panther, then disarm a guard to escape the basement cell he’d woken up in after the dart poison wore off, and eventually make his way upstairs to rescue his boyfriend, Bolivian drug lord Cristobal Sifuentes (Michael Irby), who is being tortured — but in a kind of funny way, because this is Barry.

It’s the first time in three seasons Hank has had to resort to violence himself, and he is clearly not OK. Below, Carrigan talks us through Hank’s haphazard rescue mission and how that plays into what this season has been trying to convey about the nature of trauma, and also politely parries my suggestion about which specific Huey Lewis and the News song should find its way into next season’s soundtrack.

So my first surprise after watching the finale was that, once again at the end of another season of Barry, all of the main characters have managed to not die. I talked to Stephen before the season, and he gave some answers that made me think, “Oh well, it’s the end for Fuches.” But it wasn’t. So, first question: Are you constantly surprised at the ways Bill and Alec are able to keep everyone alive?

Yeah. I’m surprised by a lot of things. I’m surprised by just how they’re able to take all of these characters who really have no business being in the same story together and just sew them together in such an expert way. And yeah, the stakes are so high constantly that you really have no sense of job security whatsoever. There’s always a question mark in terms of, will your character meet his end in the next episode. That’s one of the things I really respect about Barry though, is it’s all in service of the story. It’s never going to fill out an entire season just because it can. It’s so lean, and it’s all intentional, and I’m just happy to be along for the ride. So you know, whatever happens with Hank, it’s been phenomenal.

And you were originally supposed to die in the pilot. Is that correct?

Yeah. I was supposed to die. At the end of the episode I get shot in the car, and that was supposed to be [it]. I got my one episode as this weird, goofy character, and then that’s it, he’s done. I remember Bill saying, “Why don’t you just open the door and fall out as you’re getting shot,” and so that was them opening a literal door for me to have this character go through the rest of the show thus far.

So in the finale, there’s this whole, I’ll call it a NoHo Hank genre film within the episode. And in a lot of his interviews, Bill mentions certain references that he’s making to other films. Was there anything you discussed beforehand about inspirations for that sequence?

We didn’t really talk about any kind of external references, and I’m kind of happy we didn’t. I mean, I had inklings in terms of watching it — what, you know, could have been drawn upon — but as an actor you never want to hamstring yourself by likening what you’re about to do to something that’s already been done because you could fall into a trap of emulating it. And as an actor, I was just very grateful to be able to kind of [play] this wonderful shift in tone from Hank choosing to go to Bolivia with this ridiculous scheme [of asking random people about the Sifuentes family to hopefully track down Cristobal] and meeting this really stark reality of being chained to this radiator and potentially meeting his doom. So I was just very curious in terms of how to go from this scene where, you know, he’s waiting to get information from this guy and then he gets a blow dart in the neck (laughs), to then hearing his friends being mauled and tortured.

I did make a comment to my wife about the assembled blow-dart gun. I don’t know if that’s a thing that actually exists or something that your prop masters worked up specifically for that exchange?

(Laughs.) Yeah. I’m not sure. There’s a lot of stuff you can order on Amazon. I’m sure it’s out there. But yeah, at least for the comedic timing of things, right? The fact that it had to be assembled was just the cherry on top.

As for the mauling scene, the screener of the finale that we were sent didn’t have subtitles. So, I’m not aware whether any of the, I guess, commotion in the other room was actually hinted at through the voices. For instance, do we know what type of animal it was that was attacking Akhmal and Yandar, or was it supposed to be a mystery monster?

Well, I know what it was. And, it’s guessable, for sure. But I think that’s one of the things that I love most about that scene is how much you don’t see and how much is coming off of Hank’s reaction to everything. And yeah, it was a challenge to convey all the stuff that’s happening on the other side of that wall with just what Hank is going through. [Note: In THR’s post-finale interview with Bill Hader, he referred to it, unbidden, as “the panther scene,” so: mystery solved.]

And so, after Hank escapes the dungeon, the scene transitions from more straight horror, where you literally have a guy in the dank cell chained to a radiator, then killing a monster — I would guess now, maybe a jaguar?

(Carrigan’s face betrays no signs regarding the accuracy of my guess, despite it being technically correct!)

— to maybe suspense horror, where he’s creeping down this hallway, and you even have the lights going in and out, right? And then we get one of Barry’s trademark tonal changes after Hank happens upon this farcical scene where Elena is trying to, I guess, shock Cristobal straight. And after saving Cristobal, we’re left with an expression on Hank’s face that to me evoked the end of The Graduate, which is just like, “Oh shit. What now?” What is going through Hank’s head at that moment?

Well, I think that one of the themes specifically in this season is essentially how trauma doesn’t get neatly wrapped in a bow and leave you once you get what you want, right? Trauma stays with you. There’s this element of what Hank does which is very heroic even though it doesn’t seem heroic, you know, because it’s so clumsy and so sloppy, and he’s so terrified. But there is something to him gathering up this courage and breaking free and going and saving the person that he loves. But that being said, what he just went through was extremely horrifying, right? And I think an audience is so quick to just dismiss what a character has gone through because they got to the end of it, because they’re no longer bound or they’re no longer in danger, but I think that’s something that is really interesting to me that Barry does, which is highlight that your past follows you, and you’re not out of the woods just because you save the damsel in distress.

I asked Bill and Alec a similar question after season one, because there was at least a little bit of a cliffhanger as to whether Detective Moss was really dead, right? So with Akhmal and Yandar, can we safely assume that they are dead?

I mean, I don’t know. And probably neither does Hank because, you know, there’s only a limited amount of what he sees after blowing a hole through [the wall] with the machine gun in a very non-action-hero-y way. It was very intentional that this sequence was not going to be cool. It was not going to be this kind of heroic display of machismo. In fact, it was the total opposite — someone who is just terrified and did not know what they were doing.

I watched your recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, and he asked about the real Chechen mob and you said, “You should YouTube it. … It’s absolutely terrifying.” So I did, and among the things I learned is that in the Russian mob, all tattoos like Hank’s are done in prison. So does that mean that at some point, Hank spent time in a Chechen or Russian prison? Has that ever been made, like, explicit backstory for the character?

It’s never been particularly solidified, right? And I am always very careful with what I construct as a backstory because you never know if you’re going to encounter something like a flashback that’s going to completely contradict whatever you came up with. But that being said, yeah, I think that, you know, the tattoos do tell a story, and I do think that Hank has definitely been through some shit. But he, up to this point, has managed to maintain his buoyancy and his optimism, right? But who knows how long that can last.

I read another interview where you said that now that you’ve had this big break-out role, you’ve been getting other roles offered to you that are very similar to NoHo Hank. And it always surprises me about the unimaginativeness of Hollywood, where instead of saying, “Anthony Carrigan is a great character actor. Look at this person he’s created!” they’re like, “Anthony Carrigan is great at playing a Chechen mobster, so let’s get him to do that again!”

Or Russian or mobster. For sure. Yeah. It’s certainly an industry that loves to kind of stick to a formula, loves to assume that if something that you’re doing works in one arena, then obviously, that is what you should be doing in every other project from there on out. But Barry is so unique and so singular, and it’s just so smart. And I think that’s my only thing, in terms of what I want to do next, is try and find characters to play that have the same kind of nuance.

You mentioned on Kimmel that you like to listen to a lot of Huey Lewis and the News to get in the Hank mind frame. I myself am a big fan of Sports, and feel like you might need to get with the music supervisor to secure the rights to “Bad Is Bad.”

(Laughs.) I mean, yeah, that whole album was pretty integral, but “Bad Is Bad,” that one’s up there, for sure.

Finally, do you have any idea what might be next for Hank and Cristobal? The immediate danger has passed, but they’re still in Bolivia and have just assassinated one of the largest drug kingpins in the country, so …

Right, as one does lightly. I’ve heard little things here and there from that little bird, Bill Hader. But I have to kind of take everything with a grain of salt because I’ve heard so many storylines that I would be so excited about, and then I would see the scripts and I’d be like, “Wait, what happened to, you know, them going here or this happening?” And they’re like, “Oh yeah, we scrapped that months ago.” That being said, what I have heard about in terms of next season has got me champing at the bit to get started because it’s so cool. And yeah, it’s yet another example of Bill and Alec painting themselves into a corner and seeing how they’re going to get out of it. I’m continually impressed with what they’re able to do. And they’ve certainly painted themselves into a corner this time.

Well, thanks so much for talking to me, and uh, enjoy your summer!

Thanks so much, man. I’m just excited people are finally able to see [season three]. I’ve had to keep so much under wraps for so long. So it’s nice to be able to share it after — God — such a long time.

I assume you and Tom Cruise have talked about this? Very similar situations between Barry season three and Top Gun: Maverick.

Oh yeah. (Laughs.) It’s basically the same project — at least in Hank’s mind, I’m sure there are a lot of parallels.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

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