If Barry ever gets to be too much, you can count on Anthony Carrigan’s NoHo Hank to interrupt the show’s violent murder sprees with some cheerful flamboyance. The tattooed, unexpectedly bubbly member of the Chechen mafia has quickly become a scene-stealing fan favorite on HBO’s dark comedy, which follows a disillusioned hit man who moves to Los Angeles and joins an acting class. From the mind of Alec Berg and Bill Hader, the last season reveals the titular Barry (Hader) cruising towards disaster in a nail-biting finale, while Hank nabs a promotion to HCIC (Head Chechin in Charge), and a massive shoot-out tears loyalties apart.
When Carrigan’s Chechen gangster NoHo Hank was initially conceived, he was supposed to be killed in the pilot. Thankfully plans changed, and Carrigan’s Emmy-nominated performance as Hank has become the show’s secret weapon, with fans proclaiming Hank as Barry’s best character—a sentiment Carrigan finds “really sweet.” For the Massachusetts-born actor, who has previously starred as the sadistic serial killer Victor Zsasz on Gotham and appeared as an assassin in The Flash, he’s had plenty of experience playing villains. Barry’s NoHo Hank, however, has allowed Carrigan to delve beneath the usual criminal persona and investigate the sunny disposition of a character who wants to be friends with everyone, he just happens to be the leader of a criminal mob.
On a recent Zoom call, a smiling Carrigan discussed NoHo Han’s journey in Barry’s third season, working with Bill Hader, and the joys of being typecast as a villain.
Season three’s filming schedule was shut down due to the pandemic. With an elongated gap between seasons, was it hard to get back into the mindset of Hank?
I didn’t rewatch the show. I probably should’ve. Though, throughout the pandemic, I would dip back into Hank momentarily, maybe once every few months to make sure he was still there and alive. It would also brighten my day. He’s so chipper and upbeat, so it was a nice change of pace from me dealing with the pandemic. I was a little worried about whether or not I was going to be able to come back to playing this character: whether I was too rusty or if my brain would’ve slowed down to the point I couldn’t improvise or be on the same level as Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg, and Stephen Root. But getting right back into it, I picked up right where I left off.
Hank has an iconic fashion sense. Does his wardrobe help you get into character?
The clothes are a huge part of it! The process is funny; we’ll have a whole assortment of clothes, and some of the stuff is almost, but not quite, Hank. It’s like the sorting hat: as soon as I put something on that’s tight and bright enough, this is Hank. Immediately I put my hands on my hips, and that will be something that makes the episode.
Hank is also covered in so many tattoos. Is it a long process to apply the fake tattoos before filming?
It’s a science at this point, placing them all on and in the right places. They do tell a story too, each of them has a certain meaning. They’re essentially the same types of tattoos as what you’d get from a bubble gum machine; the stick-ons you then peel off. It’s the exact same process, but these ones cost $500.
The audience is slowly beginning to see inklings of Hank’s backstory. Did you know about Hank’s past from the start, or have you developed your own backstory to get to know him better as a character?
It’s a really important aspect of the process when it comes to finding a character that is fleshed out. The danger with fleshing this character out too much is that if you get a backstory going, and you know everything about them then all of a sudden, in the next season, someone could write something for you that completely contradicts what was done up until that point. So you have to have some malleability and create some space. As Hank, I have certain memories that are very specific that help comprise who he is. At the same time, I like to keep a certain openness just in case they go somewhere new.
In the new season, we’re seeing more emotional dimensions of Hank and his relationships with those around him. How have you found navigating his emotional character arc in season three?
As an actor, it’s the coolest thing when you get creators who want to invest in exploring who this character is behind closed doors. It’s been an absolute gift to navigate this emotional terrain of what Hank is going through and who he is apart from all the other situations that we’ve seen him in. But then, to go into a different area of his life has been so surprising for me.
It’s been so cool to take a character who really does wear his heart on his sleeve, who has been so trusting, naive, and so sweet, and [have] things happen to him where he gets burned. Things go wrong, and he loses trust in people. It’s an interesting journey to watch him go from a place of people-pleasing to understanding, “My happiness is important too.” That’s something we see Hank do more of in season three. It’s a fascinating part of the arc.
What is it like to work with Bill Hader as both a scene partner and director?
The best! I feel really spoiled with Bill. He’s so chill. He’s such an effortless person you don’t realize how much is going on behind the scenes. He’ll be doing a scene with you, and he’s not only doing a scene opposite you as an actor, but he’s also keeping in mind this other awareness as a director. There was one scene we shot where we’d done my coverage, and we were on him, he stops and is like: “Take it back two lines.” He just had to give me one moment. He did and then yelled “cut” because he knew what he was missing in that scene and how it was going to fit in with everything else. This guy knows what he’s doing.
So much of the show feels so organically comedic. Is there much improvisation on set?
Oh yeah, we definitely riff. It’s just one of those things where you almost feel bad about doing it because what’s on the page is so good and pristine you could frame it. But when it comes down to it, there’s nothing like what you find in the moment. Sometimes you just get the best stuff when you’re playing around. Bill’s background on SNL and flowing in the moment is a huge part of what makes Barry pop. It’s very smart writing and very deliberate, but at the same time, they make sure to create a space for a lot of life and organic stuff to come out.
Hader has said he’s already written season four. If Hank survives, what are your hopes for his future on the show?
In a potential season four, I think thus far, we’ve seen this really cool arc that Hank has had and the new developments with who Hank is becoming. I trust Bill and Alec inherently in terms of finding new flavors and aspects to explore. I have no doubt finding Hank in crazier situations will be the case.
You’ve spoken before about being typecast as villains due to your look, which comes from having alopecia. Do you think playing Hank, who is such a multifaceted villain, has opened up doors for you to play other roles?
Absolutely. Barry is so nuanced and clever, and a character like Hank is, out of all the characters on the show, the nicest one. Everyone on the show is arguably a villain and quite awful. Hank really means well, so that aspect shines through, and I love that because I want to continue to play multifaceted characters. It’s important for me to break through this idea that bald guys always play villains. I love playing villains. I think part of it comes with understanding why someone becomes a villain, and it’s usually to do with someone brewing hurt and getting angry and this emotional journey. But there are so many types of other characters I’m excited to play. I do think my range of characters so far is opening a lot of doors.
You acted opposite Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in Bill & Ted Face the Music. What was that like?
Working with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter was phenomenal. Those guys are such pros. I had a blast, and I got to carry that flavor of what we do on Barry onto that set and improvise every once in a while to keep them on their toes. Making Keanu and Alex crack up was so much fun.
Barry features some fantastic guest star appearances. What actor would you love to see in the Barry universe?
Only because I’ve mentioned him so much in terms of Hank’s idolatry and how I prepare for the role: Jean-Claude Van Damme. That would be an amazing “Wait! what?” moment for Hank.
Everyone talks about the Eastern European accent, but Hank’s catchphrases are just as important to the character. Out of all the Hank-isms, which is your favorite?
That’s one of my favorite parts; finding those things and just missing the mark. My favorite of late has been, “You know what Sonny and Cher would say: that’s on you, babe.”
We’ve seen Hank’s journey to L.A., but what was your introduction to Los Angeles as an actor?
My introduction to L.A. was coming here for a television show. I’m not a Hollywood type of guy, I came from living in Brooklyn. I knew pretty early on that the Hollywood lifestyle of trying to play the game and get in certain doors and behind velvet ropes was not my style.There’s something really iconic about the Los Angeles portrayed in Barry, and that’s very real; it’s very gritty and not a polished veneer that people see. It’s a real interpretation of what is a little embellished.