‘Barry’ dials up the pressure on NoHo Hank

A man poses for a portrait in front of a women's clothing stand.

Anthony Carrigan strolls down Santee Alley in downtown LA, which recently served as the Bolivian marketplace in a scene in “Barry.”

(Annie Noelker / For the Time)

HBO’s “Barry” is one of television’s most unpredictable half-hours, serving up a chaotic mix of violence, barely suppressed trauma, and full-on observational comedy. Despite the presence of Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader in the title role, the most consistent source of laughs — and the show’s biggest revelation — was Anthony Carrigan’s NoHo Hank, the buoyantly upbeat, North Hollywood-based leader of LA’s Chechen mafia.

Dressed in his signature skin-tight polo shirts, Hank spent the first two seasons of the show serving as the comic book likeness of Barry’s haunted hitman. But over the course of three whirlwind seasons, Carrigan has transformed Hank into a multi-layered, emotionally complex character. If he survives the rest of the series, he’s in for a Better Call Saul-style spinoff.

Now, after a season in which NoHo Hank finds an unhappy love with a Bolivian gangster, Cristobal (Michael Irby), and faces new extreme pressures, 39-year-old Carrigan has earned his second Emmy nomination for the role.

Over breakfast in downtown LA, Boston-born Carrigan spoke about the art of bringing chill vibes to a stone-cold killer.

What was going on in your career when you auditioned for “Barry”?

The role was extremely life changing. I wasn’t sure what exactly was in store for me after making the decision to embrace my alopecia and just rock my new look. I was kind of resigned to playing Aliens and, you know, Pulver. When “Barry” came along, I knew I could make something really special out of it.

NoHo Hank was supposed to be killed in the pilot, right? How has that changed?

I remember being told that this role would probably be toasted in the first episode. But my manager, bless her, said, ‘Who knows? Doors can always be opened.” Then, lo and behold, at the end of that first episode, Bill and [co-showrunner] Alec [Berg] liked what I was doing, so in the scene where I get shot in the car, they said, “Why don’t you just open the door and fall out?”

How does someone like Hank become the leader of the Chechen mafia in LA?

Blind luck. But I think Hank has a vivacity that’s kept him alive so far, and that kind of winning charm and sense of denial that propels him along so quickly and so surely that he doesn’t really have time to doubt himself. He lives in a realm of imagination in terms of his own abilities and how sophisticated he is. But one of my favorite things about the show is that these fantasy sequences give a little glimpse into what this character thinks about himself and who he would like to be.

A man in sunglasses poses for a portrait in front of a stall selling patches.

“What Los Angeles represents to Hank is hope and that kind of nice, sunny lifestyle in contrast to where he’s from and what he’s been trying to escape from all along,” says Anthony Carrigan of his “Barry” character.

(Annie Noelker / For the Time)

Did you know his backstory from the beginning, or did you have to work it out yourself over the years?

I had a certain amount that I’m sure has been worked out, but you shouldn’t go too far in any direction because you never know if that will be fully refuted. My way in is always little details about the past that can be true no matter what.

Tell me the origin of NoHo Hank’s name. Was he turned from LA?

I can’t say anything about the exact origin of this name. But I think LA has been very transformative for him. What Los Angeles represents to Hank is hope and that kind of nice, sunny lifestyle, as opposed to where he came from and what he’s been trying to escape all along.

I know there was a long break between seasons 2 and 3. How did you deal with that and how did you maintain your connection to the character?

Well, we were lucky enough to have a spreadsheet read just before the shutdown. It gave us something to hold on to and look forward to.

I’ve definitely popped into Hank every now and then just to see if he’s still around, just to keep the voice alive and things interesting during the pandemic. When I got too mad, I tried to let Hank’s optimism shine through.

In Season 3 he’s in a relationship with Cristobal – did you ever think that was a possibility?

I didn’t know exactly which direction Hank was going. But when I read those scripts, it made so much sense. And if you look back on past seasons… the first time Cristobal calls [Chechen crime boss] Goran and talking about the book The Four Agreements, Hank immediately lights up. And then there’s the volleyball game and the camaraderie they have, and you get to see how those little breadcrumbs lead to a meaningful relationship.

You’ve already talked about your alopecia and how you needed to learn self-acceptance. Is there an element of that in Hank as well?

For most of my life I’ve tried to be someone who agrees with myself when I just haven’t. I was not okay with my alopecia and I tried so hard to cover it up. And all the time when you’re trying to cover it up, you’re telegraphing that fear. You know, Hank is trying so hard to be this tough guy who can take care of business. But when fantasy meets reality, it’s a far more dangerous and gory affair than he anticipated.

A man stands in front of a plant shop.

Anthony Carrigan says his “Barry” character Hank outgrew him as a Chechen gangster.

(Annie Noelker / For the Times)

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-08-09/anthony-carrigan-noho-hank-barry ‘Barry’ dials up the pressure on NoHo Hank

Sarah Ridley

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