Bill Hader on Why He Was “Very Nervous” to Play a Hitman in 'Barry'

Barry Premiere - Getty - H 2018
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

The 'Saturday Night Live' alum also makes his directorial debut with the dark dramedy about a assassin who moves to L.A. and enrolls in an acting class.

Bill Hader plays a hitman in the new HBO series Barry, but he does not like playing with guns.

“I don’t like shooting guns,” the Saturday Night Live alum told The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s premiere Wednesday night in Los Angeles. “I was very nervous. It’s not my thing. It’s just weird.”

Hader, who created Barry with Alec Berg (Silicon Valley), plays the dark dramedy’s titular character, a hitman from the Midwest who moves to L.A. and enrolls in an acting class.

“When Bill was on Saturday Night Live, he was incredibly stressed out by the work,” Berg said. “He was like, 'I’m a sketch actor and a comedian and this is the place to be if you’re one of those' … but at the same time, it was really stressful for him and it was hard. I thought that was a very interesting idea, somebody who has a gift for something and feels they have to honor that gift, but they’re not deriving a huge amount of pleasure from it.”

Hader recently revealed in an GQ interview that he suffered extreme anxiety and stage fright during his time on SNL. He was the first to suggest he play a hitman who wants out of the business.

“I hated that idea,” Berg said. “There are more hitmen on TV and in movies than I think there are in real life, probably.”

But Hader convinced Berg they should go for it after explaining how he thought that a hitman who works anonymously and in the dark, contrasted with a bunch of self-obsessed actors wanting to be famous and in the spotlight, made for perfect comedy.

Henry Winkler co-stars as the school’s acting teacher; Stephen Root plays Barry’s uncle-like figure who coordinates all his hits; and Anthony Carrigan is a scene-stealer as NoHo Hank, a people-pleasing Chechen mobster.

“I was like, 'Sign me up,'” Carrigan said. “It was such a gift to read a script that was so different and so unique, this great dynamic of comedy and drama.”

Watching Hader kill people, Carrigan admitted with a laugh, “is weird. It’s a little odd.”

Billboards for the series show Hader holding a gun in front of a theater dressing room mirror.

D'Arcy Carden plays fellow acting class student Nathalie. The actress first met Hader years when she was his kids’ nanny for about four years. “I’m excited for people to see how dark this show gets,” she said.

As if starring in and co-writing the show with Berg wasn’t enough for Hader, he also makes his directorial debut with the series.

“It was a lot of work,” Hader said. “It was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of  work.”

Barry doesn’t even premiere until Sunday, but the creatives behind it are already thinking of a second season. “We’re going to start writing soon,” Berg said. “They haven’t officially ordered more, but hopefully that will happen soon.”

In other words, Hader’s probably going to have to fire off more bullets. “He doesn’t enjoy that,” Berg said. “It’s hard for him. He’s not an adrenaline junkie like that.”

The premiere’s afterparty at Neuehouse in Hollywood was decorated with shooting range silhouette targets and bulls-eyes and also featured “sketch artists” creating caricatures of guests and a photo booth for making cliched black-and-white actor headshots. The menu included roasted salmon, macaroni and cheese and crispy potatoes as well as vegetarian chocolate chip cookies, vegan carrot mini-cupcakes and butterscotch pudding shots.

Fellow castmembers on hand included Glenn Flesher, Sarah Goldberg, Andy Carey, Rightor Doyle, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Alejandro Furth.