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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.

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