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How HBO’s Barry Manages Its Crazy Tonal Shifts, According To Sarah Goldberg

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Barry actor Sarah Goldberg, who plays struggling actor Sally, talks about the challenges of switching between the show’s sometimes wildly different tones. HBO’s hitman comedy is past the halfway mark of the first season, and it’s proven adept at being both a lighthearted comedy focused on a group of hungry, maybe even desperate actors, as well as a sometimes brutally violent show about people killing other people for money. But within those two worlds there are unexpected layers to the characters, particularly Sally, and the personal and professional challenges she’s faced in the first season. 

In the season’s best episodes so far, Barry has switched between seeing Sally, Barry (Bill Hader), and even acting coach extraordinaire Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) at some very low points. Whether that’s being sexually harassed by a smarmy agent, auditioning for a measly one-line part, or taking part in a violent stash-house raid, the show somehow manages to find a way for each moment land on a different emotional spectrum.

More: Barry’s Sarah Goldberg Discusses The Brutality Of The Show’s World Setting In

In a recent interview with Screen Rant, Goldberg discussed how it is that the series is able to maintain those wild tonal swings, and still come away week after week feeling like a sharp, witty comedy. She spoke to her experience dealing with Sally’s storyline, saying it all begins with the writing. Goldberg said:

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“I've got to be honest: It's not hard when the writing's good. I try to really hear it in my mind when I read the first draft. You can hear the rhythm. I feel like if you kind of yield to what [the writers] are doing, the work is almost halfway done for you. Plus we have great directors and it's such a collaborative atmosphere. I mean working with Henry Winkler for God's sake, it's like he's the mensch of mensches, they just don't make them like that anymore. He brings babka on a Friday; he’s just the loveliest man. So the energy on set was so positive. That was really helpful because we had to be quite vulnerable, and you have to shift very quickly from comedy and something really light to something quite heavy. I feel like we were given a lot of freedom to find those moments and a lot of time and space to do it. It was hard, and you do try it a bunch of ways but I feel like when you're in the right hands, you do get a lot for free.”

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So far, the show’s dramatic shifts in tone seem to be working. As mentioned above, Barry is coming off its two best episodes so far, with ‘Chapter Four: Commit… to YOU’ and ‘Chapter Five: Do Your Job.’ With three episodes left in the season, it will be interesting to see where the story is headed and how co-creators Hader and Alec Berg plan to use the wildly shifting tone to the series' advantage. 

Next: Ash vs Evil Dead Series Finale Review: The End Brings With It A New Beginning

Barry continues next Sunday with ‘Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going’ @10:30pm on HBO. 

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