The effortlessly funny and compelling nature of Barry may make the HBO series look like a deceptively straightforward show, but Season 2 Episode 6 is a prime example of how the best laid plans can sometimes still need course-correcting. Following last week’s short-story-like standout episode “ronny/lilly,” Episode 6—titled “The Truth Has a Ring to It”—finds the relationship between Barry (Bill Hader) and Fuches (Stephen Root) coming to a head, while Barry hones in on a particularly traumatic moment from his past to deliver a show-stopping performance in class.
As it turns out, the first version of the episode didn’t quite hit upon these two ideas as cleanly as the finished version does. During my exclusive interview with Hader about the making of “The Truth Has a Ring to It,” the co-showrunner revealed that they actually reshot key moments of this episode mere weeks before Season 2 premiered, and those reshoots ended up tying the whole episode together. It’s a bit of fascinating insight into how television is really made, and how even some of the most critically acclaimed shows go through a process of trial and error before sticking the landing.
During our interview, Hader also talked about working with Stephen Root and Fuches’ his arc for this season, how Barry actually felt about killing Moss in the Season 1 finale, why Noho Hank can’t be the boss, and how improv works on the series. Hader also talked about the reaction to Episode 5 (which he directed) and teased some dark stuff ahead for the final two episodes of the season.
Check out the full interview below.
I wanted to talk about Stephen Root for a minute. He’s so great in this show, but these last few episodes have really given him a chance to shine. What’s it been like working with Stephen and crafting Fuches’ arc over the course of the season?
BILL HADER: Well Stephen’s just the consummate pro. We always wanted him to play Fuches and it was this real circuitous way of getting to him, because we talked about what if Fuches is a woman or what if Fuches is younger or a person of color. And then when Stephen came in and read it was just like, ‘Oh yeah he’s the other father. You have Henry on one side and Stephen on the other, that works.’ He brings a freshness to every take, he keeps you on your toes, he is so kind, and he really cares about the work. He’s just a guy that’s seen it all, so you can’t really throw anything at him that he doesn’t know how to play. He can kind of turn on a dime, you know he plays it one way for comedy and you say, ‘I think this take can be more serious,’ and then he goes ‘Oh okay,’ and then he just does it.
In this episode in particular it feels like we’re starting to understand the damage he can do to Barry, and Barry’s starting to realize he can ruin him if he wanted to.
HADER: Yeah I think Barry has come around to the idea that Fuches is wrong to him. I don’t think Barry ever really views Fuches as dangerous, because Barry’s the muscle in the relationship. I remember talking to Stephen in Season 1 and I was like, ‘You know, when you’re dealing with Barry it’s kind of like a lion tamer. You know how lion tamers are just really harsh with the lion, like they’re just kind of fearless because they have this status with the lion? But the lion at any moment can just demolish them. I think that’s kind of how you are with Barry. You’re tough on him, even though Barry could kill you no problem.’
And as far as Fuches’ arc this season, we had the tooth, and that’s kind of where we started and then this idea that they make up and Fuches starts to realize how much Barry means to him, and then against his own greater judgment, he ruins those things when Loach is listening in during that scene in Lululemon at night. Part of that is he wants Barry to keep working for him, but part of it is he does care about him. We talked about it a lot as like—especially in this episode—Fuches becoming like a jilted lover. I remember writing “spite” on the board when we were talking about Fuches in Episode 6. What he’s gonna end up doing is driven by emotion as opposed to some sort of big plan.
At the beginning of the episode Barry basically decides to spur one father figure and run right into the arms of another, but that seems easier said than done. It feels like Barry is starting to realize that the fact that he killed Moss may prevent him from truly opening up to Gene.
HADER: Yeah. It’s really funny, as written initially you saw Barry and Cousineau in this big acting exercise where Barry kind of delves into his past. And to do the scene with Sam where he has to play a violent person, it was kind of flashes to Barry’s life. I don’t wanna tell you what they are because we might use them later, but we had these flashes to his life and his past where you kind of understand aspects of where Barry came from, and that helped him play Sam. We shot it, we edited it, and I remember Alec Berg after he finished his first cut came in and looked like he was gonna throw up. He looked sick and he just said, ‘I fucked up, it doesn’t work,’ and I was like ‘Oh I’m sure it’s fine’ and I watched it and I was like, ‘No you didn’t fuck up, we fucked up in the writing.’ The scene with Barry and Fuches by the bathroom, that scene initially was under a bridge, and we shot it where it’s me and Stephen and the breakup, but it was about like five different things. It wasn’t just Moss, it was their past, it was all this other stuff. So even when we were shooting it we were kind of like ‘This isn’t really tracking.’
So it was like these two sequences that just didn’t work, so we called HBO and we said, ‘We need to reshoot some stuff,’ and this was in February. So we need to reshoot some stuff and the show’s airing in like a month. We did the reshoots in mid-March, like two weeks before we aired the first episode.
HADER: (Laughs) Yeah. Alec and I sat and talked about it and what we realized was we were trying to make it about Barry’s past and everything else when maybe what it wants to be is what we already have, which is ‘Tell him you killed Moss.’ This is a thing Alec and I run into all the time, which is you have the simple answer looking you right in the face but you need to explore all the ideas it could be, then you end up coming right back to where you started. Our initial idea was him saying, ‘Did you tell him about Moss?’ and Barry using killing Moss to play Sam, and so that was the initial idea and then we completely got off of it and did this whole other thing and then realized we were right the first time. So the scene with me and Stephen at the bathroom, that was a reshoot and we just made it about Moss. And then we reshot the scene with me and Henry where I come into the class workspace and say, ‘Can you help me?’ and then we’re sitting across from each other and he says the whole thing about, ‘Sam was a violent person, you were not, this is the worst thing you’ve ever done.’
And then onstage with Sarah, that is what we shot until I turn away. That is an edit trick where in that scene, the reset—so I turned away, and then we took that and we shot, a long time later basically, my closeup of looking down, and then we shot on a stage Barry shooting Janice. So yeah we shot all of that like March 15th or something, like one day of shooting.
I had no idea. How do you make that blend so seamlessly? Is that stressful?
HADER: No you just shoot super specific coverage, and it’s actually kinda nice, you have the scene cut together so it’s just putting in the stuff that’s not there. You say, ‘Oh I need a closeup of Barry here and it’s down to three shots of Janice.’ You just shoot what you need.
I did want to ask about the look on Barry’s face when he kills Moss, which is almost relief of sorts. It was interesting to me because this season he seems very tortured over what happened to Moss, and connecting that with the evil nature of his deeds in Korengal, but then we finally get to see that moment when he did kill Moss and it wasn’t one of anguish or regret, it was kind of like ‘Okay. It’s over now.’
HADER: Yeah it’s like you wanna surprise people’s perceptions of what was going on in Barry’s head, and it’s kind of like a private moment of ‘You can’t get me.’ Because in the scene with Sally, it’s him exerting his power over her through violence. You have to be able to make that work. So it’s a nice moment of you think he killed Moss and he felt terrible, and it’s like, ‘No it’s complex.’ He did feel terrible, but in that moment I think there was a feeling of, ‘Don’t fuck with me.’ In his mind, Moss had a gun on him and he gave her a clear way out. And that scene at the end of the finale last year, he’s basically telling her like, ‘I just don’t wanna kill you.’ There’s no version in Barry’s mind that he’s ever going to prison. It’s a double meaning when you watch it, like oh he’s not saying ‘Please no’ because he doesn’t wanna go to prison, he doesn’t wanna kill her. So there’s a little anger there of like, ‘What the fuck did I tell you?’ And then in the acting class, getting in touch with that side of him allows him to play Sam.
And it works! It works really well.
HADER: Yeah so thank God we were able to reshoot that because it really did not work (laughs).
I had no idea. That’s the power of great editing.
HADER: Also the initial cut of that episode was like 50 minutes. D’Arcy Carden had this amazing scene in it where Natalie did her truth scene and it was amazing, but we had to cut it for time and it really killed us. She was so good.
She’s so funny. Does it happen often that episodes come in really long like that?
HADER: No, and that one did and it was a massive bummer because we had to cut a lot of really great stuff. There was this whole thing with the Chechens where they didn’t just dance for Barry, they performed these different rituals for him. One was like this slap fight where it’s like a chess match where these two guys are studying each other and then somehow the guy who gets slapped is the winner, and the guy who slapped him is like “Oh no!” and Barry’s just confused (laughs). But we had to cut all that.
Then the accordion player.
HADER: If you watch that scene, I have my back turned away from camera because Anthony was making me laugh on every single take. When he was like ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ he had a different improv every single time and I would start laughing.