Although it’s often times a very funny comedy, HBO’s new series Barry is no stranger to sequences of extreme violence and moments that weigh heavily emotionally. The latter is especially true of Sarah Goldberg’s Sally, whose dream of becoming a movie star seems to be quickly slipping away, as the reality of her situation and the brutality of the world around her gradually sets in.
The series explored as much over a recent three episode arc, starting with ‘Chapter Three: Make the Unsafe Choice,’ which saw Sally auditioning for a small role on a project where the lead was one of her contemporaries. To make matters worse, Sally wound up sexually harassed by a potential agent, and a romantic interlude with Barry proved regrettable after he exhibited some odd and possessive behavior. Needless to say, Sally’s not having a great time of it in the second half of season 1.
Goldberg spoke with Screen Rant about Barry and Sally’s arc in the first season. The discussion turned to Sally’s experience with the agent in episode 4, which is not only topical in this era of the #MeToo movement, but has proven to be something of a turning point for the character. Goldberg said:
“I think [Bill Hader and Alec Berg] wrote that scene in a brilliant way and they had a lot of input from their female writers. There was an earlier draft where Sally was gonna have some sort of moment of vindication where she would be defiant and she would be able to stand up to him. But the truth is these moments when they happen you're so caught off guard and she's in such disbelief that he actually said what he said that she ends up apologizing for him and not standing up for herself, and I find it just very tragic but very true to life. And it's not until later that she kind of wakes up and realizes that 'Oh, no that actually did happen.' Once she realizes she's not going to have the audition anymore and I think that the brutality of her world is setting in for her.”
Golberg went on to discuss the changes seen in Sally since episode 4, and how she’s revealed a “crueler” side of herself as perhaps a reaction to the things she's experienced.
“She's somebody who -- she can be really narcissistic and she has extreme tunnel vision, but at the end of the day she's also a small-town girl who has big dreams and I think she wants this so badly and doesn't understand a reality where she doesn't get it or the brutality and reality of what's happening in her life and how this is not going anywhere -- not only is it not going anywhere but she's being sexually harassed. I think the cracks start to show and her mask starts to drop a little. That's why, I think in episode 5, you start to see a much crueler side of her, because she's just starting to crumble a bit with the pressure of what this is and the amount of rejection. She's a birthday party princess act. I mean, that's not the dream when you leave Missouri, so I think the reality is just starting to settle in. But at the same time I think she's a little bit delusional and she won't let go. Even saying to Barry, 'Do you think I'm gonna be a star?' There's something very naive about that.”
Season 1 has been filled with plenty of terrific performances, from Hader to Henry Winkler’s Gene Cousineau to Stephen Root’s Fuches. There’s even a memorable pair of Chechen gangsters played by Glenn Fleschler and Gotham’s Anthony Carrigan. But Goldberg has been one of the show’s biggest standouts, turning what could have been a one-note joke about a struggling actor into a role with some real substance behind it.
Barry continues next Sunday with ‘Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going’ @10:30pm on HBO.