HBO can't get enough of traumatic TV deaths lately. On the heels of those major demises in White Lotus and Succession, Sunday's episode of Barry joined the network’s most morbid ranks after a breakup between crime couple NoHo Hank Anthony Carrigan) and Cristobal Sifuentes (Michael Irby) ended in the worst possible way. Cristobal was killed by the Chechen mob after a plan by Hank went horribly wrong.
The two had hatched a plan to unite Hank’s Chechen criminals with Cristobal’s Bolivian men to sell sand and profit off Southern California’s sand shortage. However, Episode 4 reveals that Hank was lying about the sand business so he could kill the Bolivian gangsters, gain the Chechen mob’s loyalty, and ensure he and his partner would be safe.
Hank does this by tricking Cristobal's men into entering an indoor sand pit in Los Angeles, where they sink to their death. However, Hank's plan backfires after he loops in Cristobal, who promptly leaves his partner for betraying him and his team. Later, Hank finds Cristobal bleeding out of his head with armed soldiers standing over him.
“When I initially read it, I had to take a beat. I was so devastated,” Carrigan told BuzzFeed News. “When I really thought about it and I unpacked it, it made total sense. They are in a life of crime, and there's no way to ever have a really gentle ending when you're surrounded by such danger.”
Carrigan has received two Emmy nominations for his breakout role as Hank in the HBO dramedy series, which stars Bill Hader as Barry Berkman, a professional assassin turned aspiring actor turned killer once more. Hader co-created Barry with Alec Berg and is also a writer and director on the show; in fact, he directed every episode in the currently airing fourth and final season.
Below, Carrigan breaks down the show’s arguably most heartbreaking scene so far and shares how Barry helped him grow as a performer as the series nears its end.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Did Hank’s decision to murder Cristobal's people surprise you?
Hank has been a gentle person who just happens to be a crime lord. I think it's really going to throw people off when they see Hank really step into that crime lord role and do something atrocious and brutal. Even I was surprised by that. I was surprised that he was able to commit such an atrocity behind Cristobal's back. But at the same time, I felt like it was justified.
Once I connected the dots, I was like, “Oh, of course Hank would do this.” He went from a place of being told that he was soft and being told that he wasn't capable of being menacing or intimidating. Hank just goes overboard with this act of violence, and it really does scare Cristobal. That being said, he was just ultimately trying to keep them safe.
Why doesn't Hank just tell Cristobal that he's going to be killed if he leaves the house? Because he's not very clear.
I think Cristobal would have never gone along with it. Hank knew Cristobal would have a problem with it happening. Hank wanted to take matters into his own hands. Also, Hank wanted to prove himself as someone who was not soft, who was willing to make hard decisions, and who was able to actually be the crime boss that he was always posturing himself as. The unfortunate by-product of that is that's not who Cristobal fell in love with.
Is it fair to say he ultimately chose his career over Cristobal?
He chose mutual self-preservation for both of them. Hank moved them ironically closer to the danger in siding with the Chechens. The stakes are then raised, because they have to be on board with this more dangerous aspect of it. That's what he did not see. He actually did not plan this out as much as he thought he did.
Bill Hader directed every episode this season, including this episode. Do you remember any input he gave in crafting Cristobal's death scene?
I do know that that was a particularly tricky scene for [the writers] to write. They had to pull off something really difficult in explaining, “How do we get there? And how can we make the audience understand what's driving these characters?” The real tragedy when you look at both [Hank and Cristobal’s] sides [is] neither of them are wrong. It just doesn’t fit.
It was maybe one of my favorite things to film ever in my life, if not [my] most favorite thing I've ever done. It was an exercise as actors. Me and Michael Irby, really trusting each other to find all of this life in that journey. The second anything ever became constructed or not organic, we had to then shift gears and find what was authentic.
At the end of the day, it's a breakup scene, and those are just really painful. One of the things that I really love about Bill is that his number one priority is that it all has to make sense. If you say something that sounds like it's written, it's gone. The only thing is dialogue that rings true.
Do you feel like you've changed as an actor being on this hit show, and do you think you've grown since appearing on the 2009 show The Forgotten?
Yeah, it's night and day. Not just because in that show I was wearing hairpieces and putting on makeup to make it look like eyebrows. Now I'm bald and feeling great about myself, but I think it also taught me how to really trust my instincts and impulses. I don't think I've ever really trusted myself to truly be seen, whereas now I'm excited to stretch out in different directions.
You're very open about your experience with alopecia and how that's affected your career. In The Forgotten, you wore hairpieces. In Gotham, you're playing Victor Zsasz, who actually was bald in the source material. In Barry, the appearance of the character is not relevant at all. What's your takeaway from that?
I can appreciate both things. From Gotham, Victor Zsasz is a bald villain, [and] I love lending my talents to bring a character like that to life. That being said, I also love working on something where the question is never asked, “Where's that dude's eyebrows or why a bald guy?” He just is who he is.
Do you worry about getting typecast as murderers based on your roles as Victor Zsasz and NoHo Hank?
Well, I'd be lying if I say that I didn't really enjoy it. That being said, I can do so much more. I guess it's weird to say that playing a murderous kind of psychopath is a touchstone for me, but I'm excited to venture away from that. I can always come back to it, for sure.
What kind of characters do you hope to play next now that your career is soaring?
It's not necessarily the types of roles but the types of worlds that I want to be existing in. Barry is obviously a hard act to follow when it comes to dark comedy. So in that genre, I'll be very judicious about what I choose to do. But I love the idea of being in very expansive worlds, and I think that would be very cool to participate in next. Whatever form that takes.