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Bill Hader gets in touch with his dark side for “Barry”

Bill+Hader+and+Sarah+Goldberg%2C+who+plays+his+main+love+interest+Sally+Reed%2C+in+a+scene+dressed+as+Meryl+Streep+and+Philip+Seymour+Hoffman+from+the+film+%22Doubt.%22%0A%28Image+courtesy+of+IMBD%29
Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg, who plays his main love interest Sally Reed, in a scene dressed as Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman from the film

Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg, who plays his main love interest Sally Reed, in a scene dressed as Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman from the film "Doubt." (Image courtesy of IMBD)

Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg, who plays his main love interest Sally Reed, in a scene dressed as Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman from the film "Doubt." (Image courtesy of IMBD)

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What if the thing you were best at was slowly killing you? What if the only way to be happy was to do something you’re terrible at? These were the questions in the minds of Bill Hader and Alec Berg as they were crafting the new HBO comedy “Barry.”

Hader strays from his sketch comedy background and portrays a cutthroat hitman.
(Image courtesy of IMBD)

Hader is perhaps best known for his work as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” for eight years, creating and playing hilarious sketch characters on live television. But what may come as a shock to many is that Hader actually struggled with the pressure that came along with the job.

“When I was on SNL I had this ability to do impressions and faces but I was not very emotionally or mentally equipped to be doing live television. It was really bad for my anxiety and I ended up having a lot of panic attacks,” said Hader. “I just thought it was funny that the thing that you’re good at is slowly killing you.”

In collaboration with Alec Berg, one of the most accomplished comedy writers today with shows like “Seinfeld,”“Silicon Valley,” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” under his a belt, they were able to craft one of the best new shows on television right now.

“Barry” follows Hader as the titular character, a depressed Marine veteran who earns a modest living as a hitman. As he follows his current mark, he stumbles into an acting class and decides that acting, rather than killing, is his true calling. From then on, the show follows Barry as he tries to navigate both of these aspects of his life as he tries to become an actor. The only catch is, he’s not all that good at it.

That premise allows for what might be Hader’s best performance yet, where a man that has proven himself highly skilled at playing zany characters now must convincingly act as a man that is bad at acting. What’s even better is that Hader is amazing at it. Prior to filming, Hader watched plenty of examples of bad acting to prepare for the role.

“I watched true crime shows and I watched a lot of reenactments because the acting in that is usually terrible,” Hader said, laughing. “I like to underplay it a bit and be a little more subtle.”

Steven Root plays Barry’s partner in crime, manager and family friend Fuches.
(Image courtesy of IMBD)

Behind the scenes, the creation of this show is exhaustive and sometimes dark. As the writing staff was writing the more violent scenes, prior research was needed in order to ensure authenticity. In order to do that, they watched real videos of people being shot or tortured. While this may not be what many people have in mind coming from the writers room of a half hour comedy, “Barry” is able to perfectly balance the comedy and drama within the world that has been created. In the context of this show, that is no small task.

“It all comes back to, what is the story? Is it about something real? It’s really just structure and story and a lot of experimenting,” said Berg. “Sometimes you have to cut really good stuff because that part doesn’t work in the whole.”

That mentality explains why “Barry” is one of the tightest-written and structured shows on air right now. Each line of dialogue is carefully written and performed, always quickly moving the story forward within the 30-minute runtime.

“We want to make sure everything is causal. You want that to happen thematically too,” said Hader. “I view the show not so much as episodes but as one big story.”

Throughout the first few episodes viewers can begin to tell that each individual episode is only one part of a much larger narrative. Berg says that is by design.

“We zoom out to look at the whole season as one movie,” said Berg.

While the world is just becoming familiar with “Barry,” the writers and producers are already working on the second season of the show.

Essentially, “Barry” boils down to the question about what direction to go in with your life.

“It’s about being very gifted at something that you hate and loving something that you’re terrible at,” said Berg. “Which one you should go with?”

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Bill Hader gets in touch with his dark side for “Barry”