In Which We Talk Memes And The End Of ‘Barry’ With Stephen Root

Ask again in about 10 days what Barry was all about, but the idea of love keeps coming up, and not in a chocolates and sonnets kind of way. Does Sally love Barry, or is it about the feeling of security that he provides in the absence of literally any other person in her life that’s supportive or sane? Did Barry love Gene and the idea of being an actor or is he just an empty, rudderless killing machine in search of programming?

The show kinda hates real love. Janice and Gene’s relationship had to end in tragedy, ditto Hank and Cristobal’s. I don’t think we’re heading for a Mary Tyler Moore Show group hug before the end credits with this one, fam.

The toxicity of one relationship is particularly fascinating for the damage inflicted as both characters — Barry and his former handler turned rival turned ally turned rival Fuches — refuse to let go of the electrified chain that connects them. “Cycles of revenge” is a phrase Stephen Root used when we spoke a few weeks ago about the messed-up love of Barry and Fuches. As has been proven time and time again, it doesn’t seem like these two are ever going to be able to let this thing go, though a series finale might bring some clarity.

Below, Root and I talk about this union of pain, Fuches’ killer tattoos, envying the character’s clarity, what makes him such a magnetic force, and his favorite moment from the show that he absolutely views as meme-worthy.
I don’t know of another TV show that I’ve seen in recent memory that has been so clearly driven by, “What’s the right choice for the show,” and so this endpoint (after four seasons) makes sense.

Yeah, it does. It does to me, and the fact that he (Bill Hader) directed all the episodes this year, he’s got a clear and precise vision of exactly how it should end, and I completely agree with where he went with it.

Part of the bonus this season, getting to finally show the world all of your tattoos that are naturally on your body. Those are real, right?

(Laughs) Oh, absolutely. I have them in real life, of course. Of course, I do. Yeah, that was an ordeal. Our makeup person actually created all those himself. They’re appliques that actually don’t take that long; probably about an hour, hour-ten at the most. Like everything else, it’s almost harder to take things off than to put them on.

Spiritually for you, because of how closely you felt in line with the character, right? Like, it was hard for you to remove them, is what you’re saying, right?

That’s right because then I didn’t feel like I was me anymore.

It’s like you’re naked.

I’m naked! I’m naked! Oh my god! (Laughs)

It’s always been so fascinating to me, the sort of tractor beam hold that your character has on Barry, and that Barry’s character has on your character.

Well, what interested me that he revealed in this season, at least to the audience, is that we’ve known each other a lot longer than you thought. I didn’t just pick him out of the army and make him a hitman, I’ve known him since he was seven years old, playing army in the dirt. And his love, of course, comes from that longevity of knowing each other.

Barry’s love, or Fuches’s love?

Fuches’s love for Barry, which is why I think, no matter what happens, and no matter how much Fuches wants to kill Barry at any particular time, the overwhelming love that he has for him will always win in the end. I think Fuches is damaged in the revenge part of his psyche. He can’t get out of that. It’s a cycle, it’s a cycle, it’s a cycle. Even if, like in season three, he’s in an idyllic situation with a girlfriend, and living in a beautiful place, and he sees the newspaper talking about what Barry did and it’s like, “Got to go!” So, no matter what, he’s going to keep going in and out of that revenge cycle. But, does it affect his love for Barry from the bottom of his soul? No.

I was going to say, is the love a driving part of the revenge, the hurt of it?

Yeah, you’ve hurt me. You’re not doing what I want. I’m what’s best for you, and you’ve hurt me by not doing it. And that’s how we start the first season, and that’s how we’re ending in the last season. You’re not doing what I want you to do, and you’re hurting me. So, Fuches is hurt.

Is it a proximity thing also? He just has to be near Barry. I don’t even know if it’s a subconscious thing of trying to fix him even when he’s trying to kill him. It’s such an interesting dynamic.

Yeah. That’s true, too. I hadn’t thought about that, but yeah, I think there is a need to be near him so that he can impose his will upon him, and it has to be in his presence. I think that’s a good observation.

Do you judge Fuches and his actions, and do you root for him to win out or to face consequences?

To be reformed? (Laughs)


I see him as non-reformable. I think he’s just as damaged as Barry is through different circumstances, and I think he will continue to repeat his actions throughout eternity until he is taken out. So, I don’t think he’s redeemable. I don’t think he thinks he’s a bad person. He thinks he’s a good person that can help you, but again, that’s his world to live in; round and round revenge.

Is it refreshing to have the clarity to play a character that you know isn’t redeemable?

There is, because he believes in himself totally, and you see in this season him actually saying to himself, “I’ve found myself. I know what I am. I’m a killer. I’m okay with it. I’m fine with it now.” And he hadn’t been. I think he had felt guilty about it. By the end of the season, he does not feel guilty about it. He is relaxed and ready to get on with his life.

I find myself envying that kind of clarity; not to reach that end, as a killer. I’m not going to acknowledge that part on a taped call…

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah, no.

Do you envy that clarity?

Sure. I think anybody would. To actually know what you wanted to do in life finally, and he finally was like, “I know what I want to do. I don’t care how I get there doing it, and it’s fine with me.” But it’s, I think, applicable to if you find something that you love to do, i.e. acting for me, or taking pictures for a photographer, then it’s not work anymore, you know? Just the love of doing what you do. So, if you find that early, that’s the best.

Is that confidence that comes from that clarity part of the appeal of what makes him such an effective Svengali kind of character, where he can just get people to latch onto him and kind of fall in line and be soldiers for him?

Yeah, confidence is part of it, but the majority of it is being able to take a beating and still not rat out anybody, and that’s what you see in the prison scene, is this engenders respect, and respect engenders power for him. Because once he feels the respect and he feels like the man, then he is the man.

I thought, at the banquet table, with everyone gathered around (in episode 6), you’re almost verklempt over the family, and having a family. That’s such a powerful moment. And yet, the Barry thing still looms. Even then Fuches can’t be happy.

No. Can’t do it.

He has the family dynamic, but still can’t let it go.

I think there’s no possible way he can get out of that cycle. But, yes, he is (verklempt). I think that’s a thing for him. He’s never had one. He has had other people have it, and he’s gotten to be close to it, but he’s never had it, and this is just extremely fantastic for him. Plus the fact that it was so easy to do. “Let’s see, I’ll stop by the baristas, get a girlfriend, and then the girlfriend will have a daughter, and I have a family.” Very easy for him.

But it’s still not as good as Barry.

No. Still not as good as Barry, and still jealous of Barry, and will still love Barry until the end of time.

What is your favorite scene that you’ve played with this show?

It probably has to be the Ronny/Lily episode.

“What are you?!” That’s my favorite.

What are you?! Yeah, that little girl (Jessie Giacomazzi) was just fantastic. I mean, she is the daughter of a stunt performer, and she can do amazing things, but she was a tremendous actor as well as a stunt person. I mean, you believed every word and every piece of furniture that she threw at anybody, and her leaping. She was just amazing! And shooting that episode was so hard because it’s a lot of intricate stunts, car work, even the biting of the cheek.

We went through an enormous amount of ways to do that until finally Bill said, “Just do it!” Boom. And there we were, and then that was the take. Yeah, that was probably the most fun to do, because it was a day of driving and stuff that I didn’t know I was doing, and I did it, and we had a great, great time.

That’s funny. I watch so much television that some of it just seeps into my brain and sometimes I’m reading the news or watching something, and I come back to the, “What are you?!” moment. Not when I’m reading the best stories. I’m not going to get political. You understand what I’m saying.

(Laughs) I understand what you’re saying.

It comes to mind a lot.

I don’t understand why it’s not a meme! (Laughs)

It should be! We’re going to make it a meme. We’re going to put it in the article. I promise.

There you go. Let’s put it out there. If we put it out there, it’ll happen.

Fuches Meme

The final season of ‘Barry’ continues Sundays at 10PM ET on HBO