Bill Hader has always had a tendency to laugh opposite his scene partners. As Stefon on Saturday Night Live, he made an art form out of breaking — and it turns out, he struggles just as much on scripted television. At least when his scene partner is as funny as Henry Winkler.
The star and co-creator of HBO’s Barry joined EW’s Lynette Rice on the first episode of the new podcast Chasing Emmy to discuss his work on Barry and take a deeper look at the show, which was recently renewed for a second season. During their chat, he confessed that he has a lot of trouble keeping a straight face when acting opposite Winkler, adding that it’s easy to spot cuts in the editing just before he’s about to laugh. “That scene of us in episode 3 about the soup and everything, I ruined a lot of takes on that because Henry kept cracking me up!” he revealed.
In addition to talking about his problem with breaking character, Hader discussed the challenges of portraying Barry’s mental state as a hitman turned aspiring actor. Despite having zero ability as an actor and an affinity for killing people, Barry tries desperately to get accepted into an L.A. acting class in the first episode. He succeeds when he gives an impassioned monologue (in a parking lot) about his life as a hitman, which teacher Gene Cousineau (Winkler) doesn’t realize is true. It’s a crucial scene — and one that wasn’t easy to shoot.
“I don’t want Barry to be a robot, but he has to be emotionally dead inside,” explained Hader of his titular character. “And that was something we had a hard time grappling with in the writing [of that scene] and for me, personally, in performing it. In that monologue, we can kind of get across where he’s at in his life. And you, as the audience, can understand and maybe weirdly relate to his predicament…that feeling of, ‘I’m so lost and I know [this acting class] is something I need.'”
Hader noted that he actually reshot the scene after the pilot was picked up. “We didn’t really nail it in the pilot,” explained Hader. “The scene is me in 2017, and when we cut to Henry it’s me in 2016!”
Check out the new EW podcast Chasing Emmy above to hear Hader’s full interview.