NoHo Hank, the Chechen gangster with a heart of gold and a closetful of skintight polo shirts, has been the MVP of Barry from the start. Anthony Carrigan plays the dissonance between his profession and his personality with a pitch-perfect affability and an accent that steals every scene. (“I know you look at me and see hard-as-nails criminal, stone-cold killer, ice man. But, uh, this is lie.”) He was famously so funny in his audition that, even though NoHo Hank was initially supposed to be killed off in the pilot, creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg decided to keep him on.
Which brings us all the way to season three. At the start, NoHo Hank is revealed to be in a star-crossed relationship with Bolivian gang leader Cristobal Sifuentes (Michael Irby). They seem genuinely happy, sweetly cuddling and watching TV together in bed, alit by the soft glow of a laptop screen. They even talk about running away from their criminal responsibilities to start a life together in New Mexico. (Yes NoHo Hank! You deserve this!) But then Cristobal’s father-in-law comes to L.A. and, realizing that his son-in-law is cheating on his daughter, has his men kidnap Cristobal and bring him back to Bolivia. Though NoHo Hank is blindsided by the revelation that Cristobal is married, he goes looking for him in Bolivia, at which point he gets incapacitated by a blowgun shot (an objectively hilarious scene) and chained up to a radiator in the crime family’s basement to be eaten by some mysterious animal (less hilarious). He miraculously escapes, only to find Cristobal being tortured upstairs by his enraged wife. Hank kills her, but the season still ends in the most tragic moment we’ve seen for NoHo Hank so far, with an incapacitated Cristobal collapsing and seemingly dying in his arms.
Carrigan spoke to GQ from L.A., where, when he’s not working, he spends his time cooking, climbing, and meditating. “My days are hilarious,” he said. “I think my eight-year-old self, who never wanted to go to school or do any of that stuff, is high-fiving me today.” In his jarringly regular speaking voice, he broke down his role in the Barry season three finale and the arc of NoHo Hank and Cristobal’s relationship for GQ.
Anthony Carrigan: They’re very surprised when I have the normal speaking voice. I don’t want to say disappointed, but they’re like, “Wait, where are you from?” I’m like, “I’m from Massachusetts.” And they’re like, “Oh, okay.”
I mean, am I an eternal optimist? I’m not sure. I certainly try to be, but that’s why it’s always so refreshing and wonderful to play Hank is I’m always in a much better mood after playing him. He’s just so open and curious and excited. So I’m always left feeling quite buoyant afterwards.
There was a long break between seasons two and three of Barry. What were your first thoughts when you got back and learned about Hank’s relationship with Cristobal?
It made total sense to me, if you go back and trace these little moments that Hank has with Cristobal. Even from the very beginning, when Goran and Cristobal have that phone conversation, and he brings up The Four Agreements, Hank’s ears perk up immediately. And he says, “Wow, that’s such a great book.” So off the bat, he and Cristobal are meant to be together. When I knew that was where the story was heading, I was just so excited. And working with Michael [Irby] is so much fun and we play really well together, so that was just a joy.
You guys had such great chemistry. I was re-watching the end of season two and caught the scene where they’re in the monastery and make up after being on the outs, and they hug really intensely. Do you know if Alec Berg and Bill Hader already had a sense then that that’s where their story was heading?
That’s why they’re so good at what they do. They’ll just whisper something in your ear that you think at the time is really funny and sweet. For instance, “Hey, during that hug, wrap your leg around him.” And you think, “Oh right. Yeah. Okay.” But then what they’re actually doing is they’re setting the stage for this whole intricate storyline.
Not really. We talked a little bit about what point in the relationship they were in. They’re still in this kind of honeymoon phase, but I think they’re at that point where things have settled down. They’re very comfortable with each other and they’re not trying to put anything on for each other. They’re just very relaxed and at ease. Which is a really beautiful stage where they’re quite vulnerable with each other and you get to see the inner workings of it. The scene where Barry essentially breaks into their house and needs relationship advice, there’s this really wonderful moment where Cristobal talks about making him this wonderful Bolivian dinner and you just get to see the inner workings of their relationship. So that nuance was talked about and really, that’s what we were going for.
In the finale, Hank starts off chained to a radiator in a dungeon while, on the other side of a wall, there’s an animal mauling the other prisoners. But we never get to see it. Did you know what it was in the script?
I had no clue as to what was going to happen between them. And it is constantly changing because Bill will tell you something and … I don’t think he’s got this master plan to just give you all these red herrings and then at the end give you the final truth of what’s going to happen. But I think he just gets excited and then changes his mind. And same with Alec. They’re constantly looking for the best possible outcome. So there were some alternate versions. But when I did learn about what was going to transpire, I was so excited and I couldn’t wait to shoot that final sequence.
I think up until that point, Hank has existed in his own fantasy and almost has fallen upward and relied on his luck. When he goes to Bolivia to save the love of his life, he’s literally going around saying “Cristobal Sifuentes” to anyone who could possibly point him in the right direction. He has no plan whatsoever. And he ends up getting in big trouble and meeting this very harsh reality and possible death.
To be able to go from this place of, “Everything’s going to work out, I don’t know how, but I’m just trusting that true love will take over,” and then to be brought down to this place where he’s handcuffed to a radiator and he’s next to be eaten by this thing on the other side of the wall, just as an actor is just a wonderful thing to be able to play.
When you talk about red herrings and alternate versions, was there ever a point in time where it seemed like Hank and Cristobal would escape to New Mexico and live happily ever after?
Where do you think Hank will go from here? He’s obviously seen and done some horrible things, but he’s such a cheerful guy. Will this be the thing to finally change his demeanor?
I think that a theme for most of these characters is trauma and how trauma doesn’t just dissipate when you get what you want. It doesn’t just go away at the end of the story, when the hero wins. I think what’s being shown is that trauma just sticks around. I’m very curious to see how that’s going to unfold in the coming episodes as well.
Listen, his wardrobe has always been just something that I look forward to. I don’t walk, I run to my costume fittings. And it’s really funny, too, because when I go into my costume fittings, I know instantly when I put something on whether it’s Hank or not. I’ll put on a polo that’s just very tight. And if I just start moving like Hank, then it makes the cut.
I want to go all the way back to the beginning of Barry for a second. I know your character was supposed to be killed off in the pilot and, after seeing your audition, they wanted to keep you on. Once it aired, when did it start occurring to you that he’s the fan favorite?
When people just start yelling the lines that you said to you, down the street, from a window in New York City, it’s pretty cool to be able to think that, “Wow, all right, this character’s made quite an impact.”
It started happening almost immediately. The first episode that I shot the first day, my scene where I’d come out and say, “Hey, man,” was a big hit around set. Then on the second day when I showed up, everyone was saying, “Hey, man.” Even the sound guy who came over and clipped my microphone on me came over and very quietly said, “Hey, man.”
source: GQ Magazine