The hard work of moving an idea from your head to the page and then the screen was evident when I spoke with Bill Hader ahead of the season two premiere of Barry (Sunday at 10 pm ET on HBO) earlier this week. Hader, who co-created the show with Alec Berg (and executive produces, co-writes, stars, and sometimes directs episodes of it), talked about respecting “the process” of producing the show and enjoying “the ride.” Exhaustion was also mentioned. But Hader is not complaining. He’s just charting the evolution of a thing and explaining what it takes to keep it going.
Hader’s passion is clear. He wants to push himself as a director. He wants to showcase an amazing cast that sometimes has to suffer from the cuts and hard choices that get made in the name of striking a balance with a story that he is determined to get right. And while Hader isn’t closed off to other work, his career priorities are clear too: Barry is his job, and he really likes it.
Have you seen a change in the roles that you’re being offered since the start of the show? Are you being offered a lot of icy killer roles now?
No, actually. Not at all. [Laughs] It’s mostly kind of the same thing. Like comedies. I think you kind of get people go, “Oh, yeah, you’re comedies.” To be honest, I think people just assume I’m so slammed with the show. I get sent scripts, obviously, but it’s not like a ton, I think. But I mean, I got to do It: Chapter 2. That character’s funny, but it also has a big dramatic turn it. And so, that was nice. When I met Andrés Muschietti, he had said, “I really liked you in Barry, and I think you’d be really good in this.” So maybe. It’s weird, I don’t notice any of that stuff. I’m so focused on just making the show make sense. The acting stuff is always kinda secondary because the other stuff just takes up so much energy. So that’s probably why I wrote myself a very laconic guy.
Would that be the expectation for the run of the show, that it’s basically gonna be the primary focus of your career right now, and everything else is gonna be secondary in terms of roles that you want?
I mean, no. I shot It 2 while we were writing season two [of Barry]. And so, I mean, if something comes along that I get excited about and I definitely want to do, you try to figure it out. It’s not like I don’t want to do anything else, I do, but the amount of work it takes to do Barry, just eight episodes, is so all-encompassing that it’s hard to do other things.
I just spoke with Michael C. Hall for the season finale of Documentary Now!. Is that something where you’re looking to be more involved if there is another season?
I mean, I’d love to. It really is a combination of time and actually my HBO contract and things like that, but I can write and help out. You know what I mean? But being in this show precludes me from being in that show.
What were some of the lessons you took from season one that you poured into season two?
There are little specific personal things that changed [for me] as a director. Trying to just be a little bit more confident. Because, I mean, I never really directed anything before I had done the pilot and the first two episodes. So it was a bit of trusting myself and being a little more specific in my coverage and trying to take some more risks. You’re on HBO, so it doesn’t have to feel like a television show. You want to make sure that you’re utilizing that.
But to be honest, we kind of fell into the similar traps. It’s a 30-minute show, and we have a lot of characters, and the way we tell the story is in a very mousetrap type way in that it’s a tight story. When you’re doing that, you think you don’t have enough when you’ve written it, and then you shoot it. Then you get in the editing bay, and you realize, “Oh, I have way too much.” Which is… that’s a better problem to have, but that happens on a lot of things. On our episodes, they’re always are saying, “All right, well, the first cut is like 45 minutes. Oh, man, we gotta cut 15 minutes out of it.” And so, it’s always just a matter of finding it and trusting that this is the process, and the process is not neat.
I remember as an actor, me and other actors would get really frustrated at the amount of overshooting. You shoot a scene, the same scene, in three different locations, or you would do all this work, and then you’d see the project and go, “They only used like five seconds of that.” And you would get frustrated. And some of that, yeah, is indulgent, but I’ve learned now being on the other side of it, that some of it is just the process. It’s like you have to have all the pieces to then realize what pieces you don’t need to tell the story in a more interesting way.