Bill Hader explains that insane Barry episode
Barry finally met his match — and she might not be human?
On Sunday, Barry delivered its wildest, and most fascinating episode. After last week ended with Loach (John Pirruccello) threatening to arrest Barry (Bill Hader) if he didn’t kill his ex-wife’s boyfriend, “ronny/lily” picked up with Barry breaking into the target’s house. But instead of going through with it, the ski-mask-and-goggle-wearing assassin attempted to convince Ronny (Daniel Bernhardt) to run away to Chicago. The quiet smoker seemed to be going along with the plan, until Barry discovered that Ronny is a taekwondo master and an epic 4-minute-plus brawl ensued via one continuous take.
Barry prevailed only after Ronny dropped to the ground with a broken windpipe, but he didn’t get away clean, as Ronny’s daughter Lily (Jesse Giacomazzi) came home. Like her dad, she knows martial arts, but she also appears to have supernatural abilities. She stabbed Barry before running off and easily jumping over a lot of fences.
After Fuches (Stephen Root) stitched Barry up, they searched for the girl and found her sitting atop a house like a gargoyle. She later made her way down and latched onto Fuches’ face, eventually running off for good. This latest injury sent Barry to a local store, where he encountered Ronny, still very much alive. Another fight began, with Ronny on the verge of winning, only for Loach to show up and shoot him through the side of the face. Loach then seemed prepared to kill Barry, but Ronny again survived, wheel-kicking and killing Loach. More cops then arrived and fatally shot Ronny, giving Barry the chance to run out the back. Once outside, he made a long walk to a waiting Fuches, which served as a callback to the episode’s earlier desert dream sequences.
To learn more about what the hell just happened, EW chatted with Hader about the origins of this story, that unique girl, and why he wants to punch himself in the face.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Starting from the very beginning, what was the genesis of the idea for this episode?
BILL HADER: During season 1, our stunt coordinator, Wade Allen, said, “I have this little girl who can do karate, and she’s an amazing stunt person. Her parents are stunt performers, and I think she’d be great on the show if for some reason you ever need a little kid.” And between seasons 1 and 2, I have a little notebook that I keep a lot of ideas and thoughts for the season, and I had written down just, “Barry fighting a young girl in a house.” I didn’t know where or why. [Laughs] But they were fighting and she stabs him, and I had also written out that Fuches and Barry try to find her like a lost dog in a neighborhood and they see her sitting on the street corner, and when Fuches tries to get her, she runs up a tree and onto the roof of a house. So I just had those five sentences written in a notebook.
And then the first day of writing season 2, we said that Loach is going to want Barry to kill someone for him, so let’s have that in the middle of the season and we can build up to this moment, emotionally from Barry’s standpoint, and also plotwise for the Loach character. I said, “Who is this guy that he has kill,” and then it was like, “Oh, his ex-wife’s new boyfriend.” And then I immediately went, “He should be the dad of the little girl!” And everyone went, “What little girl?” [Laughs] So Barry goes in to kill this guy, and initially she’s hiding in the closet and he opens the door and there she is. You as an audience go, “Oh no, Barry is going to have to kill a kid,” and then immediately she kicks the sh— out of him. We didn’t really table this script, it really was kind of me alone writing it and showing it to [Barry co-creator] Alec [Berg]. His two thoughts were to make sure there was an emotional through-line, so I came up with those flashbacks of him coming home to Fuches and making the episode about a turn in his relationship with Fuches. And then the other thing was that we need to lay in that Fuches learns about Barry training the Chechens and the monastery, which figures in big at the end of the season.
This show is very grounded in reality, and you made a conscious decision to cross into this other world. What can you tell us about the conversations of deciding to do this? Anyone try to talk you out of it?
I can’t describe it. It just morphs into that as you start writing it and you get into it with Wade and the stunt performer and you’re watching rehearsals. Her not being fully human was kind of happening very slowly; it was very intuitive. It was like, “How far can we push this before it gets too crazy?” And it was one of those things where the episode and what she was doing could hold that. A little goes a long way. Initially, the first time she jumps at me, we added her roar, her kind of otherworldly scream when she first lunges at me in the house. Franky [Guttman], our assistant editor, goes, “I don’t know if it should go here.” And he’s the like unsung hero of Barry. I used to be an assistant editor, and your job is just to do the legwork and stay out of the way but you don’t have any real creative say, and I just remember Franky being like, “I think it works best being at the end because this will come as more of a shock,” and me and the editor, Jeff Buchanan, went, “Yeah, you’re right, let’s take it out.” So it’s just trial and error; it can come from anybody.
And as I was writing in the script, you followed Barry as he broke into the house and waited until Ronny came home, and then one of our writers, Taofik Kolade, said I should follow Ronny and start from his point of view, and that was way better. Then, the idea of the little girl biting Fuches’ face, I initially just had him frozen scared and the writers said, “Wouldn’t he just grab her off of him?” I just thought it was funnier if she was just latched onto his face. We talked about it and came up with the idea that he glues himself to the steering wheel, and we all started laughing. It was those two ideas, and then as I was writing it, you’re like, “There’s Ronny, he comes, says he’s going to have to kill this guy, Ronny has to go get his bag,” and I just think, “What is the worst thing that Barry can walk into? What if that room is filled with taekwondo trophies?” And I start laughing, so let’s do that. And then they get in a fight, let’s make this just one shot, and the fight should be kind of rough. Ronny breaks his throat but gets these nunchucks, and I’m like, “Okay, the fight is going to continue,” and then I was like, “Oh, it would be funnier if he just collapsed because his throat is busted.” [Laughs] It’s kind of purposefully watching a lot of action movies and going, “Well, what would really happen here?” You would see all these action movies where the guy is mortally wounded but he still kicks ass. Yeah, that’s bullsh—. The idea of the show is to knock down those machismo moments.
In addition to starring in it, you also directed this episode. What was it like balancing the fight as an actor and director?
The way you do it is you put yourself in a mask so a stunt guy can do the fight. [Laughs]
Was that the reason for the outfit?
Yeah, it was like, this works out great. And honestly, I wouldn’t have a big fight if Barry had to be in full gear. The plan with him working at Lululemon was to have him wear like this weird bodysuit that they sold at Lululemon, but they don’t sell things like that, so we just had to have him in a ski mask and goggles.
You talked about trying to be more believable than most action movie fighting, so what was your specific inspiration?
There’s something about it… they just get tired. Growing up in Oklahoma, I’ve seen my share of fights in bars and high school and parking lots, and they’re usually over very fast and it just quickly devolves into two people out of breath and holding on to each other. My direction to Wade was that I didn’t want this to be a fight that is basically about fight scenes in movies. Just base it on fights that you’ve seen. It should feel kind of silly. That’s why I like that camera movement on it is like, “What the f— are you guys doing?” And somehow that would enhance the brutality of it. It was all meticulously timed, and we did it in four takes.
One last question on the girl: Did you ever definitively decide what her deal was? Even just to know for yourself.
It’s more interesting not to know. You want to see it from Barry and Fuches’ point of view. You don’t want to know what the hell her deal is. I always had in the script that the last time you see her is in the karate uniform with the blood all over her mouth, kind of like a coyote in your headlights looking at you, and her just screaming. That took forever to get the right sound for her and the right sound for Ronny’s throat being busted, that whistle. When she screams, Fuches says, “What are you?” To me, that was the only movie reference in my head. All of these movie references are subconscious. It’s not even one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies, but I always remember Geoffrey Lewis in High Plains Drifter, the way, he’d go, “Who are you?” at the end of that movie. We were watching the edit and I was like, “This is like High Plains Drifter,” and the editor said, “That’s what I was thinking!” And then when we were in ADR with Stephen Root, he’s like, “This is kind of like High Plains Drifter, remember the guy going, ‘Who are you?’”
You mentioned that you went back and added the desert scenes. Other than the emotional through-line, what is it that you wanted to convey there?
It’s hard to talk about this stuff without sounding super f—ing pretentious. Alec and I always talk about the desert being this place where Barry does a lot of his killing. In the first season, the bum-rush scene happens in the desert, and then he trains the Chechens out in the desert. Where he’s in his element is this place where things can’t grow and it’s desolate and kind of a wasteland. This sounds so f—ing pretentious, but we do talk about water playing a big part in moments of freedom in the show. Like, him and Moss at the end of last season, there’s water and it’s like she’s in between him and water. And there’s a moment where he’s looking out at the ocean before he goes back to save Fuches. Again, just saying this stuff makes me want to punch myself in the face. [Laughs] It’s like, “Oh, f— you, man.” If I heard someone else saying this, I’d roll my eyes. And Alec will fully kill me for saying it in an interview, but it’s true. It’s almost like we’re talking about having an affair but we can’t tell anybody about it. “Don’t breathe this to anyone, but we have very conscious symbolism in our show!”
The thought I had was he came home from the war into the arms of a devil. That’s why I wanted Stephen to be dressed in black, and it would be nice if he almost looked like a little demon. I don’t think that when he came home it took place in a desert. The image felt right, and then if I’m being totally honest, the producer side of me was like, “We’re going to be out in the desert anyway, so we can do this while we’re shooting something else for later in the season.”
There were the wild and supernatural elements, but this also felt like an important spotlight on the Fuches-Barry relationship. Did you view it that way?
This is a big turning point. It would have been very easy to make this episode just about a fight and make it a technical thing, but that’s if like the whole track was just a guitar solo. It needed an emotional pull to it. The first four episodes, he’s trying to choose between these two fathers, and at the end of episode 4, one of those fathers betrayed him, while the other one accepted him. Because that happened, this episode had to be about Barry realizing that Fuches was always only in it for his own best interests. And you see that throughout the episode. He has to go to the hospital, he’s dying, but Fuches is like, “No, I’ll stitch you up, because there’s too many people at the hospital.” It was very important that Barry go, “Fuches, I’m dying.” Writing it, it was very conscious for me to make sure that that was in there. Moving forward, we will see how it plays out.
We only have three episodes left, so what would be your short tease of what’s to come?
You learn Barry’s truth. The beginning of the season, the assignment was to do a truth exercise, about getting to your truth, and you’ll see what Barry’s truth is.
Barry airs Sundays after Game of Thrones on HBO.