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Barry star Anthony Carrigan says goodbye to NoHo Hank: 'Every day has just been like sunshine and rainbows'

Barry star Anthony Carrigan says goodbye to NoHo Hank: 'Every day has just been like sunshine and rainbows'

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first few episodes of Barry season 4.

NoHo Hank was supposed to die in the pilot.

When Anthony Carrigan joined the cast of HBO's Barry, all the way back in the first season, his flamboyant Chechen gangster was supposed to bite the dust in the very first episode — until co-creator Bill Hader found himself so charmed by Carrigan's performance that he decided to keep him around.

Since then, NoHo Hank has become a fan favorite, whether he's sending bullets by mail or delivering memorable soundbites — highlights include "Fly like Bugs Bunny in Space Jam" and "Well, you know what Sonny and Cher would say: That's on you, babe." Now, Barry is wrapping up its four-season run with a finale airing Sunday night on HBO, and Carrigan is finally saying goodbye to everyone's favorite scene stealer.

Here, Carrigan opens up about his final days on the set of Barry — and Hank's emotional final arc.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know that in the original pilot script, NoHo Hank was supposed to die in the very first episode. Now, here you are five years later, talking about the final season. What's it like when you think about the journey you've been on with this character?

ANTHONY CARRIGAN: Well, I'm happy I survived, first of all. [Laughs] That was great. But the journey has just been a really special one. This character is so unique and so different. He could have stayed as that one thing from season 1, which is this kind of loveable goofball, where everything goes over his head. Instead, there's been this interesting progression. He's gained this awareness of when he screws up and how bad it can go. Especially in this final season, he's coming to grips with the reality of being a mob boss. Once it was just kind of an idea. Now it is a stark reality, and it makes for some interesting circumstances.

There really has been an evolution. I know you've talked about playing him in season 1 as this incurable optimist, and season 3 and 4 deal some heavy emotional hits to Hank. What was it like to tap into some of those heavier moments?

I mean, it's a joy. As an actor, you can only wish for something like that to come along, where you get to do all of it. Sure, it's heavy subject matter, but it's comedic, and then you go to a really intense, dramatic scene within the same episode. That alone is one of the things that I will forever take with me from the show. It's a true gift, and I have just wanted to do it justice.

Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank in 'Barry'
Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank in 'Barry'

HBO Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank in 'Barry'

It's not every job where you get to balance such comedic highs and such dramatic lows.

You really don't. But it's also a testament to the show that it's able to do both, with a group of actors who can handle it and lift each other up.

I wanted to ask specifically about working with Bill Hader. You've obviously worked with him so much as a scene partner, but he directs every episode in season 4. What's it like to work with him as a director?

He's so accessible. He's so open and responsive, and you know that you're in really safe hands. If you have a question or something you don't understand, or even something that you maybe want to try out, he's all ears. He really is open to all of it. He's juggling so many balls, and he still takes the time to really be present with you. It's a comfort to know that he's got such a vision and such a specificity of vision. I'm kind of astounded by what a genius that guy is. I mean, it's bonkers.

I imagine especially with a character like Hank, it's gotta be fun to find those weird little moments and try new things.

For sure. I'm so spoiled by this show, getting to have someone like Bill be on the other side of the character. He's like, "Do whatever you want now! Surprise everyone!" And I'm like, "Okay!" I'm like a golden retriever, like, "Yeah, okay, cool! Whatever you want!" [Laughs] But Bill knows how to tap into that part of myself. I think that's why we work well together.

One thing I love about this final season is Hank's wardrobe. You've always had great costumes, but there are some pretty good looks — like Hank's Santa Fe outfit with the sunglasses and the hat. How much are you thinking about what Hank's wearing?

Look, it's a highlight. I will say that. [Laughs] The looks are just joyous. But it's funny because the more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that all these looks make such sense to Hank. He dresses for the occasion. He's basically incognito in his mind. When he's at the gun range, he's dressed like he's from the Island of Dr. Moreau because he's like, "Well, this is what you would wear to the desert for target practice, naturally."

The relationship between Hank and Cristobal, played by Michael Irby, is such a key part of this show, and Cristobal's death is such a heartbreaking moment. At first, Hank rescues him from the sand, but later, Cristobal tries to walk away and is killed. How did you want to approach that scene?

It's a brutal, brutal thing that happens, and it's heartbreaking. But my hope was that we do it in such a way that it's going to make sense, and it's going to track for people. This idea of having a kind of crime utopia where everyone gets along and no one hurts each other is really beautiful in theory. But when the Chechens get involved, they're like, "No, you're not going to do that. We will kill all of you." Hank is put in a really compromised position, and in a way, Hank thinks, "Well, this is the only way we can do it. I have to be a tough guy, and I have to be a mob boss." That is ultimately why these things all fall apart.

Later in the season, there's the time jump, and we learn that Hank has built this empire, but he's still mourning Cristobal. What was your reaction when you first read the scripts with the time jump?

I was so surprised. I was like, "How did they do that! What?" [Laughs] But I was so on board. Now, having seen it, I'm like, Oh, this is so cool. And it's such an interesting choice. I think you gain so much information from seeing these characters progress in this way. You're finding Hank in this place where he's convinced himself of something. He's convinced himself of an identity that isn't real, necessarily. But that's a major theme of this show, isn't it? It's not who we're trying to be and who we're posturing as, but who we are truly underneath.

What was your last day on set like?

It was pretty overwhelming. After having almost been killed off in the first episode, literally every day has just been like sunshine and rainbows. Even when I'm almost getting eaten by a panther, going to work every day has just been such a gift. [Laughs] I made a point to really soak in every moment of that last day and not take it for granted because this job is so singular, so special. I don't think there's anything like it on television. So, you appreciate the unicorn when it shows up in the forest because it's not going to be there forever.

Is there something you learned working on Barry that you want to carry with you to future jobs?

That's a good question. Funnily enough, it's something that Hank has taught me, which is: Go ahead and fail because you might just fail upwards. [Laughs] Before the show, I was really intent on never making a mistake. What I've learned is that mistakes sometimes lead to the coolest stuff. So, allow yourself to go for it and fall on your face. Take a big leap.

I like the idea of learning from Hank because he really has shared some pearls of wisdom over the years. Do you have a favorite Hank-ism?

What's a favorite? I like: "You guys are like Fleetwood Mac. You break up. You get back together again. And then you go out and make a great album, like The Best of Fleetwood Mac." There's something very zen about that. [Laughs]

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