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Anthony Carrigan Talks Playing NoHo Hank On ‘Barry,’ Rooftop Dancing, And Gaslighting Keanu Reeves

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Few characters on television in the past few years have charmed viewers as much as NoHo Hank on Barry. There are a lot of reasons for this. The writing is sharp (the writing is always sharp on Barry), and the show mixes drama and comedy in a way that sucks people in (it’s so good), but mostly it’s due to the performance of the actor who plays him, Anthony Carrigan. Perhaps you’ve seen Carrigan around before this. He’s popped up here and there, most notably as the sadistic serial killer Victor Zsasz on Gotham. But NoHo Hank is something else. Something more. A phenomenon. His recent Emmy nomination confirms it.

Carrigan was kind enough to speak to us about the role over the phone from a hotel room in Montreal, where he is currently filming a movie with Kevin Hart and on a break from filming the upcoming sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We talked about NoHo Hank and Henry Winkler and yes, of course, that dance. We had to talk about the dance. It’s very important.

First of all, I want to say congratulations on the Emmy nomination.

Thanks so much, dude, thank you.

Has it sunk in for you yet, or are you still swimming around in your brain trying to make sense of it all? I know in the past you’ve spoken about having alopecia, and some concerns about booking work, and now you’ve got this Emmy nomination. It has to be wild, right?

It’s totally wild. I honestly was really not expecting it all. I just … I don’t know. I didn’t even tune in for the announcements, because I just figured it was such a long shot. (Carrigan learned of his nomination via a text from Bill Hader.) I mean, I knew that people were enjoying NoHo Hank’s character and everything, but yeah, it threw me, completely threw me. But I’ve been so happy about it ever since. I don’t know, I’m just … Yeah, this has been one of the most fantastic summers of my life. I got nominated for an Emmy amidst just the most incredibly talented people.

You’re up against two of your co-stars in the category, Henry Winkler and Stephen Root. They both seem like really nice guys, but I’m wondering if you want to drop any dirt to try to kneecap them before voting starts.

Oh, man, listen, I mean … Oh, gosh …

I mean, we could make stuff up. You could say Stephen Root tips poorly. You could say you saw Henry Winkler kick a dog. We could throw it all out there.

Listen, yeah, okay, let’s do it. Listen, all right, Henry Winkler, he’ll give you a hug, and then tell you that you’re amazing, and…

What a jerk.

Oh, God, he’ll give you great recommendations as far as the best sandwich spots in … Nope, that’s not … Okay. Stephen Root? Yeah, I don’t know. What do you say about Stephen Root, you know what I mean? What has Stephen Root ever done in this industry, you know? What? Like, 230 credits?

No talent hack, right?

Literally, hasn’t been around for that long. He’s just one of my heroes. They’re both my heroes. This is incredibly difficult. All I know is that all of my experiences with Henry have just been so warm and so loving. He’s a mensch, he’s a total mensch.

He seems like such a sweet guy. I follow him on Twitter and half of his tweets are pictures of his dog and pictures of him holding fish, and he just seems like a ray of sunshine.

He really is. He’s such a ray of sunshine. Honestly, he’s always like that, he really is.

I find Hank’s journey on the show to be fascinating, both onscreen and behind the scenes because onscreen, he’s this badass mobster who came from Chechnya and turns out to be the sweetest guy. Offscreen, I know Bill Hader’s talked about how Hank was originally supposed to be killed off in the pilot but they built the character out a lot after seeing your performance. How much of that did you know going in, and how much were you aware of the changes that were made to keep you around?

I think I was kept in the dark for a lot of it. I think when it was pitched to me, me going in for Barry initially, they were like, “So he gets shot at the end.” And like any good manager, mine was like, “So, yes, he gets shot, but this can be worked around, you know?” And I was like, “Okay, yeah, let’s really think about this.” I mean, it was really fun. Off the bat, I started to see that everyone was taking a shining to my character. I mean, the scene where he opens the door for Barry is the first thing that we shot of all of it. And so, my first line was like, “Hey, man … ” And that started sticking, like a catchphrase. Everyone started saying that around the set. And so, I was like, “Oh, that’s kind of neat.” And so, from that point on, I think they started to get more and more excited about the character and wanted to give him more to do, which I was so game for.

I know you’ve talked about getting a lot of villain roles in the past, and this character on paper, tattooed up Chechen mobster, would not come across as the nicest man on the show. So you’re playing a little bit against type like that in two different ways.

It’s my favorite thing to do as an actor is play against type. They gave me so much to play with, and I think that’s just … the world of Barry is this weird juxtaposition and these weird juxtapositions of characters that you can just really identify with. These weird double-sided characters really work in this world.

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It’s funny to watch because the mobster elements of the show are where a lot the comedy is and the acting class is where a lot of the heavy stuff is being brought out. Like you said, it’s double-sided. It’s almost backwards.

Right, right, for sure. Yeah, leave it to the Chechen mobsters for a good laugh, you know?

How much freedom do you get to play with the character now? Do you get a say in Hank’s wardrobe and everything? Because I always find that so specific and hilarious.

Oh, for sure. I mean, everyone is really so, so good at their job, that you want to just leave it alone, but there’s such a great open dialogue with everyone. I mean, with Audrey Fischer, who’s the costume designer, she’s just done such an amazing, amazing job. For instance, in the first season, I was like, “What do you think about shorts?” And she lit up like a Christmas tree. And then she brought in some shorts, and I was like, “Okay, I’ve got two notes. I want these shorts to be tighter and shorter.” She was like, “I completely agree.” So everyone is so on board. Everyone’s brainstorming and collaborating, and it’s a great, great environment to flesh out the character. That’s what leads to really nuanced performances and nuanced details in the show that you can start to notice if you watch it more than once.

Do you think Hank dressed and acted this way when he was in Chechnya, or do you think this is him adopting the Hollywood lifestyle? I have this vision of his relatives coming over from Chechnya and meeting him now and just being like, “What the hell, Hank?”

Well, I think that Hank has probably always been this way, but if you grew up in a mobster family in Chechnya, then I imagine you have to assimilate and maybe push down your instincts to be jubilant, and I don’t know …

Offer people submarine sandwiches when they walk into the room.

Yeah, I was going to say something along the lines of just being a great host.

He really does seem like a great host. I think that was one of the first things that really I hooked on the with the character. He invited Barry in and they’re having these mob meetings out back, and the little girls are watching TV, and he’s offering someone a juice box.

There’s this funny aspect of mobsters, that you know you’ve really screwed up when they’re being nice to you, when they’re being really polite, and they’re offering you something. They’re like, “Have another glass of wine.” It means they’re going to kill you immediately. But with Hank, I think he just enjoys making people happy. He’s a people pleaser.

Let’s talk dancing. There was a scene in season two, after Barry agreed to train Hank and his men, where you did this dance on the rooftop. What I want to know is, is that something you had in your back pocket the whole time, or is that something that you developed specifically for that scene? Because that dance seems so perfectly like a dance Hank would do.

Yeah, well, funnily enough, that was not improvised. We had a dance specialist come in. It’s a dance called Lezginka. It’s something that Bill [Hader] and Alec [Berg] found. And it’s so funny, because as soon as they showed me the video of these guys dancing, I was like, “Oh, my God, that’s Hank. That’s Hank’s full expression of who he is.” And it’s just so funny that it’s these Chechen dudes, who are usually so hardened and closed off emotionally, dancing like peacocks. I was like, “This is it. This is the complete personification of what Hank’s all about.”

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There were a lot of great Hank moments like that in this season. The wig, obviously, when Hank shows up in disguise. How many did you look at before you settled on a winner?

I think just four or five, but once I put the right one on, it was pretty immediate. You know what I mean?

“Oh, yes, this is exactly what I would wear as a disguise.”

Totally, yeah. Once we had it, it was like, “Okay, cool. She’ll never recognize me now.” You know?

When an actor gets started, the first thing that they try to do is book a lot of work. Now that you’re booking work left and right, I guess it’s time to dream. What would be your dream role, or dream style of role, if you could book anything in the next year? Think big.

This is me dreaming big. I’m going to choose two, okay?

Yeah, you’re a big star now. You got the Emmy nomination, go all out.

The first one would be, it would be really cool to be in the Marvel universe. I’m putting it out there. It’s in the universe, it’s traveling to whatever phase four, or phase five, or phase 11. And also, I just … I don’t know, it would be fun to play a romantic lead in an offbeat romantic comedy. It would have to be the right thing, but it’s something that I feel would be really fun, especially when you’re viewed as a villain, you don’t really get considered for that kind of thing, but I feel like I could just knock it out of the park.

Oh, I’m sure. Okay, last question: Now that you’re doing Bill & Ted with Keanu Reeves, have you figured out a way to gently suggest, maybe just subliminally throw out there, that you would be good for a part in John Wick 4? Because it seems like that would be something you could sneak in there on the set.

Oh, that’s a good plan. Let me see, maybe I’ll wear a t-shirt or something that will just say, “Hey, Keanu, John Wick 4 villain question mark…”

Yeah, something real subtle like that.

Something super subtle. Maybe just engage him in conversation about it, too.

Yeah, or just wear the t-shirt and don’t say anything, and just act like it’s perfectly normal, and see if it just gets into his head that way.

And if he asks about the t-shirt, I’ll be like, “What are you talking about?”

“I’ve had this for years.”

Yeah, just totally gaslight it. Gaslight Keanu Reeves. That’s the move.

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