In the spring of 2020, during the first phase of the pandemic, production on “Barry” Season 3 was halted before it could even begin. But co-creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg — along with HBO’s dark comedy writing staff — would soon put that time to good use. They wrote the fourth season of “Barry,” then went back and rewrote the third in the series, which still hadn’t started filming.
As Hader and Berg wrote Season 4, they began to realize that “a very clear ending was coming up,” Hader said. Variety in an interview last week. On April 16, the eight-episode final season of “Barry” will air – and Variety can exclusively reveal that date, as well as unveil their first teaser and first look.
The teaser shows the aftermath of the Season 3 finale, with Hader as Barry Berkman – a hitman from Ohio who comes to Los Angeles for a job, but ends up looking for redemption after finding a community in an acting class – now in prison, thanks to his former acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler).
Even after the idea of ”Barry’s” ending came to Hader, he said during that time he would find himself thinking, “but we’re having such a great time doing it!” Hader, the “Barry” creative team, and HBO certainly have plenty of reasons to keep the show going. Season 3 of “Barry” premiered to rave reviews in April of last year, and overall the show was nominated for 44 Emmys, winning nine. Hader won two of those Emmys for playing the titular character — and last month he won another DGA award for directing Season 3 episode “710N.”
Hader didn’t want to prematurely say goodbye to a show that had formed its own community since HBO first picked it up in 2016 (“Barry” premiered March 25, 2018). “We didn’t want to admit it to each other, you know what I mean? Hader said.
And so, according to Hader, it wasn’t until season 4 began filming last summer that he broke the news to Amy Gravitt, who, as HBO’s executive vice president of comedy programming, had worked with him on “Barry” since its inception. “I feel like the story ends naturally after Season 4,” he recalled telling her – mimicking Gravitt’s anguished sigh upon hearing the news.
Gravitt said she nonetheless implicitly trusts Hader’s judgment. “Every decision he made about the story, or the jump between seasons, made sense — so I had to go with his instincts on that,” she said. “Obviously now that we’re here we’re feeling sentimental about it. But I really feel like it’s a good time to end the show.
In the teaser, Barry, arrested in the third season finale, is incarcerated. Set to the Walker Brothers song “After the Lights Go Out”, the clip opens with Barry in jail, making a series of phone calls. His former friend and mentor Cousineau said meaningfully, “Hey Barry – got you.” Then, seemingly mind-blowing in the prison yard, Barry imagines watching ex-girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg), Gene, and his hitman Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) pass by. As the teaser continues and builds, we see a concerned Sally as she steps onto a set, Barry banging his head against a wall, Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan) walking purposefully, Jim Moss (Robert Wisdom ) approaching Gene in his dressing room, Fuches smirking — and Gene, looking scared, clutching a gun.
With a battered face, Barry growls into the phone, “So help me God, if I get out of here, I’m coming to get you.” Is he talking to Hank? To Jim? In Gene? Fuches? We’ll start finding the answer on April 16.
Gravitt was loath to tease spoilers, but said of the end of “Barry”: “I used the word ‘satisfy’ a plot.”
In his only interview announcing the final season, Hader explained what prompted his decision to end ‘Barry’, why he directed all of Season 4, whether Barry Berkman can ever be redeemed – and why the show was a “change of life”. experience.”
You just told me “a very clear ending presented itself” to conclude the story of “Barry”. So you and the writers headed for that?
Yeah! It was a lot in the writing and the storytelling. I mean, a lot of people after last season were like, ‘Why are you doing another season? It should have ended.
But for me, there are still so many questions with the other characters and with Barry – and there are so many things left unsaid. What happens in Season 4 is structurally radical in some ways, but it made sense for what I think the characters had to go through, and what I think the whole show is still heading towards.
You realize, well, we could stuff a lot of stuff, and just do a story. But if we go Beforeit ends in season 4.
You said you went back and rewrote season 3 – Season 3 was pretty dark. What did you rewrite?
Well, Season 3 has always been pretty dark. In fact, in some parts it was darker and we reduced it! I think naturally the show gets darker because of what’s going on with the characters and people knowing this thing that Barry kept hidden. This whole show has been about him trying to improve and change himself. And I think a lot of people — maybe us included — thought, ‘Oh, that’s going to happen.’ And then while you’re writing it, you’re like, “Oh, no, it’s never – I don’t know if it’s going to happen!”
Season 3 was consolidating that and then setting up things that we wanted to see happen in season 4. So for us, 3 and 4 felt like one big season – those 16 episodes were all designed together. And then, like I said, something happens in 4 that’s kind of weird, although thematically it makes a lot of sense.
Will it be around the start of season 4?
You will notice it! It’s funny. It was great fun, but it was also incredibly bittersweet.
The last two episodes, while we were shooting, weren’t fun. It was very sad.
You directed all the episodes of season 4. How was it? And why would you do that to yourself?
At the start of Season 1, I always wanted to direct, and then while I was directing the first two episodes, people like Alec Berg and Liz Sarnoff, and some really good directors that we had — like Maggie Carey and Hiro Murai, in particular – were coming and I was learning a lot from them. As the series progressed, I became much more confident as a director and as a writer.
I’ve always seen each season as a movie. Like every season, it’s two films, or a four-hour film. It’s like a giant story told in four parts. Basically, what happened in Season 3, (executive producer) Aida Rogers, was like, “You have this all in your head, and whoever realizes it – you’re driving them crazy.” I continued, “Hey, man, I think it should be here, and I think it should be this and that.” And luckily, Alec was directing the remaining episodes of Season 3.
So they were like, “I think you guys should lead them all in Season 4. It’ll make it easier for everyone.” Because I’ve been chomping at the bit to do this for so long. But it was exhausting. It was very exhausting.
Sseason 3 ended with Barry being arrested, finally. Can you give us any clues as to where we’ll find him at the start of the season?
He is in prison.
Jail or Jail?
He’s in jail, I can tell because I think it’s pretty obvious from our marketing materials. But that’s all I can say.
You alluded to this question earlier, but can there be redemption for Barry Berkman, or have we passed that possibility?
I mean, we wondered until the end. Me and the writers, we were talking about it. I don’t know. I’m interested to see what people think of how this ends. I don’t think he gave up.
What are some series finales you’ve admired over the years, and did any of them help explain how you wanted to end “Barry”?
To be honest, I don’t watch much TV. But I’m excited about good book endings – things that have a really satisfying ending.
I’ve never seen it in terms of a TV show, I guess – even though it’s a TV show. Even when we’re cutting right now, I don’t think I ever even called it a “series finale” when we were working on the last episode. That’s just the end of the story, you know what I mean?
What was that last episode to film like?
Well, it’s on – we’re doing covers! That’s not a bad thing. You go into the edit bay and you start seeing things. And HBO is kind enough to say yes when I say, “Can I please come out and have this?”
You can write something, and it seems so clear to you. And then you pull it, and it’s so clear. And then you modify it together, and it’s so muddy. Often when we go back and retake photos, it’s for clarity. There are so many twists and turns, and people’s allegiances change, and things like that, it can be confusing.
Given this, do you find yourself in a delayed catharsis or is this just a continued goodbye?
It’s kind of a continuous farewell right now. I mean, we’re all friends. You know, it’s weird: like, you say goodbye, and then people come and do the ADR. I’m going to see Stephen and Henry tomorrow at ADR. And like I said, we do reshoots.
But the whole, very last day of principal photography – yes, it was incredibly sad. It was an incredible experience that changed my life, personally. So I was happy to have been able to say that to the team, to these people who have worked for so many years. Being able to thank them was very important to me.
When you picture yourself finishing the show, sending it to HBO, and putting it to bed, what do you think about in terms of what playing Barry and creating the show has done for you?
I don’t know. This is something that will probably hit me years from now. It’s like when I left “Saturday Night Live”, I was so giddy, and I had just had two young children, a young family, and we moved to Los Angeles. It wasn’t until I did “Barry” that I was like, “Man, ‘SNL’ really taught me a lot about how to do this stuff.” Because you have to produce your own sketches there, and that gave me a lot of confidence as a performer. Or, like, working with people – or taking an idea on paper and working with a group of artists and technicians to see it come to fruition. It’s usually the next project, whatever it is, that I go, “Oh, my God, you know, ‘Barry’ really affected me that way.”
Right now it’s like, “Oh, the story is over.” I just wanted to tell this story, and the story is over. I told Hiro Murai, though, and he was like, “I’m telling you, when the last episode airs, it’s really sad.” Because when the last episode of “Atlanta” aired, he was like, “Oh man, I’m really sad!”
So I have This to look forward to.
This interview has been edited and condensed.