If you asked “Barry’s” overly polite Chechen mobster NoHo Hank about actor Anthony Carrigan, he’d likely say he’s “super-nice.”
Carrigan plays the bald, tatted-up, enthusiastic gangster on HBO’s Emmy-winning dark comedy (already renewed for a third season) whose self-styled “NoHo” nickname refers to “North Hollywood” — and whose top priorities are ensuring the comfort of his house guests and social politeness.
“I would describe Hank as a Chechen mobster with a heart of gold,” says Carrigan, 36. “He’s someone who came from Chechnya and really ‘feels’ Los Angeles and really wants to acclimate. He’s trying desperately to blend in with the crowd, which is not going to happen.
“He’s a people-pleaser and wants to make sure everyone is happy by making sure they have a submarine sandwich or a juice box,” says Carrigan.
“He wants everyone to feel at home; I feel that hosting is his forte, but he also just happens to be the head of a crime syndicate. That certainly sets itself up for a certain conflict.”
Season 2 of “Barry” finds NoHo Hank turning to hitman/fledgling actor Barry Berkman (Emmy winner Bill Hader), a combat-hardened ex-Marine, to train his friendly-yet-inadequate gang of Chechen soldiers in the art of whacking Hank’s enemy, Esther (Patricia Fa’asua), leader of the Burmese syndicate. A jealous Hank fears that Esther is stealing the attention of his idol and partner in crime, Bolivian mobster Cristobal Sifuentes (Michael Irbe), who spouts Tony Robbins-type aphorisms through his headset microphone.
“Hank obviously has come more into the role of a leader,” Carrigan says. “It’s not Hank’s strong suit to be leading — he’s better off walking around with a tray of cafe moccachinos. So, I think because of that, the pressure is building and leads to him making some difficult decisions. He’s desperately trying to employ Barry to give him an army for leverage over Esther and to give him a fighting force he can rely upon … he’ll inevitably run into some trouble because of that.”
Carrigan, a Boston native, says he “worked really hard” on Hank’s Chechen accent — “We had a specialist come in and help me with it,” he says; unlike Hank, he sports no tattoos in real life, but says the ink (“essentially like gumball tattoos”) are part of Hank’s persona.
“This guy obviously has had a really rough upbringing, and if you’ve been through whatever the Chechen/Russian prison system is like you get tatted up,” he says. “It’s kind of a cool thing to share a little bit of that backstory [with the tattoos] and is a cool element, visually.”
Carrigan, who has alopecia (hair loss, including his eyebrows) didn’t need to alter his physical appearance to play Hank — and says his condition has helped him in his acting career. “It came in stages and at first I was like, ‘Oh no,’ and I kept it hidden for a long time with hairpieces or coloring-in spots or drawing in eyebrows,” he says of his alopecia. “People wouldn’t really notice but then it got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore, keep trying to cover it up, and it was a really stressful time because I didn’t know if I would be able to act anymore.
“It was pretty jarring and terrifying because I love acting,” he says. “I had people telling me I was never going to act again, so I came up with a game plan and it took a lot of faith and believing in myself and radical self-acceptance … to use my look, which I think is very unique. It lit a fire in me.”
So when did he notice that NoHo Hank was catching on as a fan favorite?
“It was actually when we were shooting the pilot,” Carrigan says. “The first scene we shot of the entire show was where Hank opens the door and welcomes Barry in and his first line is [he says in Hank’s voice] ‘Hey, man.’
“And that spread like wildfire,” he says. “It was like the new catchphrase everyone was saying. I’d be getting miked up [for a scene] and the guy doing the sound was like ‘Hey, man’ under his breath.
“It was like a sign — like an omen of good things to come.”
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