Carl Herse (‘Barry’ cinematographer): ‘The chickens really come home to roost’ in dark 3rd season [Exclusive Video Interview]

“It’s really the darkest place the show has ever been,” exclaims Carl Herse about the third season of HBO’s crime comedy “Barry.” He serves as cinematographer for five of the season’s eight episodes, all of which were directed by the show’s Emmy-winning star, writer and creator Bill Hader. In our exclusive video interview (watch above), he discusses his collaboration with Hader and how he uses the camera to support the storytelling.

Herse argues that the joy of the current season of “Barry” lies in the show’s willingness to drift into darker territory, particularly as the season progresses. “For the first six episodes, we’re still dipping our toe between comedy and tragedy,” he explains. “Bill always liked to say that fun stops in episode six and then in seven and eight, the chickens really come home to roost.”

He describes several key moments of the season’s seventh episode, “candy asses.” The episode features two emotional explosions from Sally (Sarah Goldberg), a haunting confession by Fuchs (Stephen Root) and a purgatory-like dream world that Barry imagines after being poisoned. In each case, Herse argues that his only job is to support the actor’s performance. “A lot of times, when you’re working with performers, you don’t want to ask them to adjust their performance too much,” he explains. “If a scene is going to be written in an honest way…there’s no reason to gussy it up with too much visual flair.”

Herse may not believe in flair, but the current season of “Barry” has had more than a few epic sequences that show off the cinematographer’s skill behind the camera. The season premiere shows Sally walking through a sound stage and then filming a scene from her television series, all shot in one continuous take. The sixth episode, “710N,” features an elaborate chase sequence on the Los Angeles freeway ending in a dramatic shootout at a used car lot.  Herse describes the importance of making the sequence feel rooted in the show’s spirit and tone. “It’s not just throwing every dynamic convention at you. It’s a little bit awkward and it feels more real,” he says. “We don’t want it to feel like we’re manipulating things too much. and we also want the language of the show to feel consistent from the beginning to the end.”

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