×

Bill Hader, Alec Berg on How ‘Saturday Night Live’ Inspired New HBO Show ‘Barry’

While it seems that Bill Hader wouldn’t have too much in common with his hitman-turned-actor character in new HBO show “Barry,” it turns out his tenure on “Saturday Night Live” actually helped inspire the story.

“We started talking about the idea of Bill’s experience at ‘Saturday Night Live,’ where he was clearly ridiculously skilled at that job but it was really hard for him,” explained Alec Berg, who co-created the show with Hader. “He was really stressed out all the time. We thought it was interesting that dilemma of ‘How long do I stay in a job that I derive no enjoyment from just because I’m really good at it?'”

In the show, Hader plays Barry, a low-rent hitman who is sent to Los Angeles for a job and after stumbling into an acting class, decides he wants to give up his life of crime for the spotlight.

While Berg was initially resistant to the hitman concept, saying he thought “there are probably more hitmen in TV and movies than there are in real life,” Hader won him over with the idea of relating it to his own path in comedy. As they continued to develop the idea over the last four years, “all this interesting stuff started happening where if you’re a hitman you have to live in the shadows, and you have to be anonymous and you have to cut off all of your emotion. If you’re an actor, you have to live in the light and if you’re successful, you become well-known and you have to tap into all of your emotions as a performer, so all these interesting parallels started popping up,” Berg told Variety at the premiere of “Barry” on Wednesday night at NeueHouse in Hollywood.

The premiere brought out stars Henry WinklerStephen RootD’Arcy CardenSarah Goldberg and Hader, who not only acts but also executive produced and directed a few episodes. Hader said in the future he would like to do more work behind the camera. He describes his cast as “super talented and very collaborative,” adding, “The best thing I could do as a director and writer was just to stay out of the way.” Hader also said he would love to incorporate some “SNL” alum and close friends into the show down the line.

Winkler, who plays Hader’s acting coach, said he immediately knew he wanted to be part of the show. “If you read the script and if you heard the name Bill Hader, if you heard the name Alec Berg, you ran, you didn’t walk, to the audition,” he joked. “I actually carried my car to the audition.”

He added, “It was inclusive, warm, talented, well-written. It was like you were reading cashmere and not a nylon-blend.”

“Barry” premieres March 25 on HBO.

More Scene

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Mick Jagger

    Mick Jagger Makes First Post-Surgery Appearance at Rolling Stones Ballet Premiere

    Rock legend Mick Jagger made his first public appearance post-heart surgery on Thursday night to catch a glimpse of the world premiere of the Rolling Stones ballet “Porte Rouge.” “I hope you are going to enjoy this wonderful new ballet, and, of course, the music,” the frontman declared in a pre-recorded message to the audience [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

  • Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna

    Katy Perry and Anita Hill Honored at the DVF Awards

    Katy Perry was among the honorees at the 10th Annual DVF Awards on Thursday night. The singer was recognized for her advocacy work with both UNICEF and the LGBTQ community. “Music has opened the doors for so many opportunities for me,” she said while accepting the inspiration award. “The ability to meet people and champion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content