Bill Hader on Barry’s final season, cinematic inspiration, and saying goodbye

by W. Andrew Powell
Bill Hader in Barry season 4

The final season of Barry hits hard, with some of the most intense moments that we’ve seen as the characters struggle with consequences, change, and their own misguided expectations.

Star, co-creator, and director Bill Hader delivers his best performance to date, with a more serious fourth season that is grim, and more chilling in so many ways. It’s a wild ride, and the season feels like the kind of conclusion we’ve waited to see.

Hader realized early on, when he was working on season three, that the writing was on the wall for Barry, and that the fourth season would be the perfect place to end the story.

“During the pandemic we had written season three and then we decided to write season four,” Hader said, “or at least outline it and break down the story.”

“As we were doing that, we were realizing, ‘Oh, it could end here,’ but we didn’t want to fully commit to that until we had written the scripts and really felt this is where it should end.”

HBO agreed with them, that it was the right place to finish, and Hader said he didn’t find it hard to say goodbye to Barry, but it was tough behind-the-scenes.

“[Saying] goodbye was [more about] the people you work with on the show and the crew and the other actors and things like that. That’s the hard part of ending the show, but the actual making of it, especially playing Barry and the writing, it’s a weird combination of pragmatically trying to tell a story and then also being intuitive and going, ‘I don’t know, that seems to make sense. It feels right here.'”

“Playing him this season, and even the final shot I did, they had to tell me. They’re like, ‘you know, that’s your last shot in Barry.'”

Bill Hader and Stephen Root in Barry, season four
Bill Hader and Stephen Root in Barry, season four

The series has evolved a lot since the first season, and so has Hader as one of the series’ main directors. And Hader directed every episode for season four.

“[It was a] huge learning curve. [Showrunner] Alec Berg really was the one that went to bat for me with HBO to direct the pilot, and so I will forever be indebted to him for that.”

“The biggest thing I learned was… it can be very overwhelming and you can kind of overthink things. So part of that was to try to keep it simple and to be pragmatic about things.”

“And the idea of each shot can tell a story,” he said. “You have the camera there for some reason. Why is it there? What’s it showing us? What’s it not showing us? Whose point of view are we from?”

Hader found that the process of shooting helped him when it came time to cut and edit the episodes, too.

“It’s a 30 minute show. We’ve got to be cutting, and we have to be moving. If someone’s doing an interesting performance, let’s see the whole performance. Let’s watch, and let them do their jobs.”

“But a lot of that just comes with a lot of practice and also messing up, and learning that way.”

As a film lover, and a fan of the art of cinema, Hader also had a lot of influences that he wanted to bring to the series, but he did find that one thing took over.

“What’s so funny, like the DP and I, Carl Herse, we’ll talk about certain visual things from photographs or movies. We would talk about the Andrzej Wajda movie Ashes and Diamonds. The opening of Ashes and Diamonds was a thing that I always showed the DP, Paula Huidobro in seasons one and two, and then Carl.”

“This is the kind of feeling, this very composed yet natural style and everything. Then you do all this kind of watching and stuff, and then it ends up just looking like a Coen brothers thing.”

“And then you’re like, okay, it’s just in our blood. We just love the Coen brothers so much, you know? So I could sit here and say all this highfalutin stuff, but then you watch, and you know we like the Coen brothers. It’s pretty unavoidable.”

Season four of Barry airs Sundays at 10 PM (ET) on Crave in Canada, and HBO in the U.S.

All images courtesy of HBO.

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