Anthony Carrigan just received his first Emmy nomination for playing the scene-stealing Chechen mobster NoHo Hank in HBO’s “Barry.” Carrigan was also nominated as part of the show’s ensemble cast earlier this year at the SAG Awards.
Carrigan spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria before the Emmy nominations about playing such a fun character as NoHo Hank, being some of the comedic relief of “Barry” and what he hopes to see in Season 3. Watch the exclusive video interview above and read the complete interview transcript below.
Gold Derby: Anthony, do you like being called a scene-stealer or do you not like it?
Anthony Carrigan: Oh, I don’t know. It’s a really lovely thing to be called. There’s way worse things to be called honestly. Scene-stealer is not too bad, as far as it goes but I don’t know. I guess I get a little uncomfortable sometimes but I guess it comes with the territory.
GD: ‘Cause it kind of infers that you are literally stealing scenes from other people but you are one of the big stars of the show now so I don’t know if you’re a scene-stealer. You’re in the scenes and you are a feature of the scenes.
AC: I like to think a scene contributor because everyone’s so wonderful at what they do on the show. Every single character just brings such life and such a wonderful performance to it. I’m in great company, that’s for sure.
GD: This wasn’t obviously your first project but it’s a big one. How has “Barry” changed your life to date?
AC: It’s been kind of the coolest job I’ve ever been on. Every job has been special in its own right and I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of all of them but “Barry” is very special. It doesn’t come around often where you have such wonderful creators with such a clear vision about something and a cast that is so, so talented and the crew. Everyone just brings their A-game to it. It’s one of those unicorn jobs that never really shows up but when it does you just know that it’s incredibly special.
GD: This season, Hank is up against a bunch of killer Burmese gangsters who see through his polite, polished exterior and want nothing more than to kill him and get rid of him permanently. Has it been fun to see Hank on the back foot of it this season?
AC: Yeah, it has been. That’s what’s really fun about the show is they take these characters and put them in situations in which it just really, really tests who they are. With this whole alliance with Cristobal and it being threatened by Esther, it gives “Barry” a really hilarious and interesting kind of arc for Hank.
GD: He’s a mix of opposites, isn’t he? We talked about this last time but he should be this big, scary Chechen thug of a guy and instead, you obviously play him as really gentle, emotional, he’s often very flamboyant. He’s just so complete opposites of what you’d expect and I’m wondering whether you dialed up that aspect of his character this season, ‘cause I feel like you have a little.
AC: I think any time you go onto a second season of something you obviously feel more comfortable in the character’s skin and I think I certainly felt like I could take some liberties. I feel like Hank is really envisioning the role of the leader as exactly as Hank could, which is exactly that kind of flamboyant, over the top with a very stylized idea of what it means to be a crime boss.
GD: In between some of the very violent and shocking scenes that we’ve seen so far, I found that your role has been a bit more prominent and no disrespect to anyone else in the cast but I think you’re doing some of the heavy lifting on the comedy side. Do you agree that Hank’s a bit more front and center this season?
AC: Yeah, they certainly have given me some wonderful, wonderful stuff to play with. Bill Hader and Alec Berg, the creators, they’ve created such a rich world in the first season and now this season they’re letting it flourish. Who would’ve thought that you’d leave a lot of the comedy stuff to the Chechen mobster? It’s certainly welcome and I certainly do have quite a good time with all the comedy stuff that they throw my way. There is a ton of comedy in the performance of Henry Winkler and the whole acting class and Stephen Root, all of these guys are just absolute stars in their own right. There’s comedy peppered in but it’s nice to know that the Chechen side of things is bringing some laughs.
GD: Absolutely. I was thinking this through, actually — what makes Hank so likable? In other words, what do you have to do to get the audience to empathize with a mobster that is essentially not supposed to be a good guy but is so well-spoken and upbeat and so ultimately likable?
AC: First of all, it’s the writing. The writing is so good and so seamless and the other thing, too, is that all these characters are very, very deeply human. Sure, they’re loud and sometimes over the top but at the end of the day, they’re just people who are struggling with the situations that they’re in. They’re clumsy and they get their feelings hurt and they say the wrong thing sometimes. That’s a really beautiful thing to play. No matter what the storyline goes, as long as you’re anchored into the humanity of it, it’s the most fun in the world.
GD: What are your main influences for playing Hank? I’ve seen it asked a few times in some of your other interviews but I’m curious to know, you had to develop the guy. You took this seriously, you got the role and you wanted to make the most of it. Are there influences that you take from other people in how you’re going to portray this guy?
AC: Yeah, funnily enough, I watched a lot of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies and there was this element to it, just this cool action star guy, which I think Hank just so desperately wants to be. He wants to create this sense of what the crime world is about is what is exemplified in an ‘80s action movie, which is the spectacle and the coolness of it and the spy gadgets. It’s all very blown out of proportion in Hank’s mind and that’s a joy to bring to the table and also, I grew up loving ‘80s action movies, too, so it’s kind of partly me as an eight-year-old.
GD: What’s Bill Hader like as a director as opposed to just a scene partner?
AC: It’s funny, and I’m gonna try not to mean this as an insult, but you can almost barely tell that he’s wearing all these hats. I think it’s ‘cause he wears them so well. He kind of shifts pretty effortlessly and fluidly between being an actor and scene partner and into behind the camera knowing exactly what he wants and exactly what he’s looking for. Also, when he speaks to you as an actor in terms of a note or a different direction to go in, he really is an actor’s director. He knows how to speak to actors and he knows how to get what he wants, so that’s very refreshing.
GD: How do you shoot the series? Do you get the scripts week to week not knowing what’s gonna happen to Hank at the end or do you pretty much know what each season-long arc is going to look like?
AC: A lot of the time you don’t know. So it’s kind of a surprise when you read. It’s always cool. It’s like unwrapping a Christmas present whenever you get the script. You can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen and you’re really excited about where each of these characters is going to land.
GD: So if you have the choice to say what you wanted Hank to do next season, what would you suggest to the writers? Has it occurred to you, “Oh, I’d love to see Hank do this?”
AC: Well, I love the idea of just stretching Hank in different directions and obviously in this new role as a leader, he’s certainly having some trouble with it. To push the envelope even further next season would be pretty cool and I also find it interesting what makes Hank tick. Where is he from? Obviously Chechnya, but I guess what’s his backstory and whatnot? We’ll see. I really do have absolute trust in Bill and Alec to create something really fantastic for the third season, as they did with the second and first.
GD: I would like to see why Hank is the way he is. He’s obviously a very unusual character and also, for example, it’d be really cool to see Hank in a serious romantic relationship. Do you ever envisage that happening?
AC: I think about that happening sometimes, yeah. It’s a trip. I’m very curious to see who that is. That remains to be seen.
GD: Who on the show have you not had much to do with that you would like to do some scenes with eventually?
AC: That’s a good question. Obviously Henry is just so incredible on the show. I love, love, love watching his stuff. It’s absolutely fantastic but really anyone from the acting class. Sally would be really fun. It’s an interesting kind of thing and I think something you do have to tread lightly because those worlds are separate for a reason and when those worlds become a bit too close, everything becomes very volatile. I would just relish any opportunity to work with Henry or to work with Sarah [Goldberg].
GD: Yeah, that would be fun but I can’t ever imagine it happening. You never know. Hank might want to take an acting class. We just have to wait and see.
AC: Trust me, that thought’s crossed my mind. I’m like, “What monologue is Hank gonna… or what song? What show-tune?”
GD: I think that’s probably more appropriate.
AC: What dance number?
GD: What dance routine from “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 3 would he do?
AC: Exactly. Yeah, for sure. Totally. I might pull that exactly from this interview.
GD: Could we do that? Could we just get Bill onto that? That’d be really good. This show has won a ton of awards to date including at last year’s Emmys where both Bill and Henry. It was such a highlight for so many of us fans of Henry’s and Bill’s and of the show and then it was nominated as an ensemble at the SAG Awards. How much fun was it to be at the Emmys around the time of the Emmys when it won and also to celebrate with your cast-mates when you were nominated as an ensemble?
AC: It was a total dream. It was the first time I’d been to the Emmys and all of those award shows. It was a total trip for me and also to be there repping something that you’re so proud of and also the people have really taken a shining to. People I really, really respect and admire coming up to me and telling me that they really love the show, it takes it from this thing which almost seems like a bit of a vacuum into the world where you’re like, “Oh wow, people are really enjoying this. This is fantastic.” I’m all for it and I’m all for seeing Bill win again, Henry win again, the whole cast getting major props.
GD: Who’s the most famous person so far that’s come up to you to talk about Hank on the show?
AC: The creator of “Game of Thrones,” David Benioff, that was a really cool one. I was like, “I like what you do as well. I also enjoy your work.” John Oliver, too. That was a really amazing one. There’s no shortage of people who are really getting a kick out of the show and it’s just been an absolute blast. Ron Howard, too. That was nuts.
GD: That is nuts. It’s really cool. Do you ever just sit back and think, you’re on a very successful show and you’re doing well and people love it and people really enjoy your work? That doesn’t really come around very often, does it?
AC: No, it really does not. Like I said before, these jobs, they never happen where it lines up so beautifully. I’m just relishing it. We’re having such a good time. So excited for the third season and I’m excited for the last two episodes.
GD: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Anthony, for your time. I really appreciate it.
AC: Thank you so much. Always good to talk to you.