Watch Barry Season 2 Trailer
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All five of Barry‘s series regulars are Emmy-worthy. Two of them — Bill Hader and Henry Winkler — already have the hardware. Anthony Carrigan steals every scene he’s in, and Stephen Root is doing some of the best work of his quietly extraordinary career. But this story isn’t about these men. It’s about Sarah Goldberg, who, with less fanfare than any of her co-stars, gave one of the year’s best performances in Barry‘s second season.
Goldberg plays Sally Reed, Barry’s acting classmate who becomes his girlfriend. Sally’s defining characteristic is her narcissism. She’s not a bad person, at least not compared to Barry or Fuches or even Cousineau, but her inability to see past herself keeps her from being actually good. She’s too self-absorbed to notice the fact that her boyfriend is a hitman. And in Season 2, which was about characters trying and failing to change, the self-destructive nature of Sally’s narcissism became depressingly evident through Hader & Co.’s artful writing and Goldberg’s complex performance.
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Over the course of the season, Sally struggled to be honest with herself and others about the end of her abusive marriage. She wrote an autobiographical scene for her and Barry to perform, but it was dishonest at first. She wrote herself as confronting her husband Sam (Joe Massingill) and leaving him after he choked her one night, but that wasn’t what happened. What really happened was she left him in the middle of the night while he was asleep. But after meeting with Sam and seeing that he hadn’t changed, she rewrote it to tell the truth. Her newfound artistic courage even inspired her to turn down a sexist TV role. It seemed like she was making progress as a person.
But when it came time to perform the scene in front of an audience, she couldn’t allow herself to be vulnerable or seen as what she perceives as weak. She went off-script and told off Barry-as-Sam before he choked her. At the moment of truth, she reverted to type. The audience in the theater loved it, and the audience at home was heartbroken. It was like watching someone relapse.
Goldberg does an amazing job of making you care about and understand Sally even if you don’t like her. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Goldberg described Sally as a “lost soul” who never learned how to cope with the world. “I always said to Bill and [co-creator] Alec [Berg], I really don’t care if you like her, you just have to know her, and I feel like I know her,” Goldberg said. “I feel like I’ve met her in so many bars in Los Angeles.” Barry is a show with very heightened characters that run the risk of getting too out there — Noho Hank is amazing, but Noho Hank does not exist in the wild. Sally is the one who always keeps the show real.
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And Goldberg can go off when called upon. In Episode 7 of Season 2, she unloads every fear and insecurity and resentment she’s carrying onto Barry. Goldberg doesn’t take a breath for the whole cut-free, two-minute monologue.
Hader told TV Guide that he and the writers (and Goldberg herself) created a huge list of things for Sally to say, and then had to figure out how to fit it all into a scene. “And I said, ‘You know what? Sarah could do a three-page monologue and not take a breath,'” he said with pride in his leading lady’s ability. “She can just rattle it off and that’s in character. ‘What if we did that and never cut away from it? You’re locked on it the whole time.'”
“That’s one of those things where you’re almost kind of waxing your car, like, ‘Look at this cast member we have that can do this cool thing,'” he said.
When an Emmy-winning comic genius like Bill Hader is bragging about you, you know you’re good.
Barry is available to stream on HBO GO and HBO NOW. Emmy nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 16. The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Fox.
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