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May 23, 2019

The Good Bad Guy

Anthony Carrigan plays the nicest bad guys.

Melissa Byers
  • Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank in HBO's Barry.

    HBO
  • Bill Hader and Anthony Carrigan in Barry

    HBO
  • Barry

    HBO
  • Anthony Carrigan as Victor Zsasz in Fox's Gotham

    Fox
  • Carrigan with Robin Lord Taylor as The Penguin in Gotham

    Fox
  • Gotham

    Fox

Anthony Carrigan is a nice guy. No, really. He just plays one of Gotham's nastiest assassins and a Chechen mobster in Barry.

Even when he is playing truly mean guys, you can't help but root for him a little. He explains, "I think that's kind of the challenge with any character, whether it's the villain or whatever genre you're playing, you want to have characters that have a lot of dimension to them. Because otherwise, it's just kind of boring, and you're essentially playing a cardboard cutout.

"Specifically with a villain, I always find it way more interesting to find the humanity with them. To find where you can kind of relate to them because ultimately then if you understand why they're doing what they're doing, it makes them being the villain all the more kind of disturbing."

Carrigan has played DC Comics assassin Victor Zsasz in every season of Fox's Gotham. Zsasz has been "killed" several times, but always turned up alive. Now, however, since Gotham aired its last episode, Carrigan really must put Zsasz away.

He says, "It was really bittersweet. I was really happy the scheduling worked out in such a way that I could go back to it. It's just always, always so cool to step into the world of Batman, and that whole canon.

"I'd been playing this character since the beginning. It was like a family at that point. I was the weird, bald, crazy uncle who would show up every once in awhile. You know what I mean? But I'm really, really happy that I was able to participate in the final season, and contribute a little bit more Zsasz to it."

His role on Barry, however, goes on. NoHo Hank, or, when he's being upscale, North Hollywood Henry, is a Chechen mobster who worms his way into the orbit of Bill Hader's Barry, causing no end of complications and humor.

Like Zsasz, Hank racks up a pretty good body count, but you just can't help but like the guy. He's polite, and he's kind to his friends, especially Barry, whom he respects because Barry is a far better assassin than Hank could ever be.

Hank is very open and even effusive in his admiration. When Barry is going through an existential crisis wondering who he really is, he asks Hank, "Am I evil?" Hank, ever helpful and supportive, responds with, "What? Yes! You are the most evil guy I know! Don't I tell you that enough?"

But Hank goes through his own existential crisis toward the end of season two. He and his gang of mobsters are about to be incinerated in a bus by a rival gang, and Hank finds himself questioning his life as he faces what he thinks will be his death. As his fellow gang members free themselves and leave the burning bus, Hank has a moment of clarity.

Carrigan says, "It was a really intense scene. That scene on the bus, there's a lot going on. It was really wonderful, and I think that each character this season has their own specific moment about kind of understanding their true nature. Whether it comes in the form of an epiphany or just hits them all of a sudden, it was just a really lovely moment to kind of have while all of this kind of chaos is unfolding on the bus.

"While literally the bus is being lit on fire, and Hank is coming to the realization because he thinks he's going to die. Because of that, he kind of takes that opportunity not to save himself or do anything like that, but to realize that maybe this isn't who I'm truly meant to be."

Like Zsasz, however, Hank is hard to kill. He does get off the bus, and then has to face his fellow gang members after baring his soul to them.

Carrigan says, "I think you can already kind of tell that once you show your cards as someone who's a little bit more sensitive and that doesn't take charge in the moment when the pressure is on. It's almost like you lose your status, and I think you can see that when his men start to walk away from him. He'll certainly have his work cut out for him to get them back in line."

When approaching a character, Carrigan looks for ways to make it his own. He says, "I like to stretch myself in different directions as an actor. I feel like a lot of the decisions that I make on upcoming roles are based on the role that I just played, and wanting to steer it in a different direction.

"Take Victor Zsasz and Hank. Victor Zsasz is kind of this crazy, loopy assassin dude. Hank is, yeah, he's a Chechen mobster, but he's so bright and naive, and considerate and polite. It certainly played into my wheelhouse of playing a villain, but it also gave me an opportunity to showcase these other aspects of myself. The silliness and sweetness of the character."

Carrigan also appreciates the material he's given to play in Barry. He says, "I think what's super cool about it is that for instance after the first season, a lot of people were like where can this go? They assumed that it could go nowhere. That they wanted to stop it. They wanted to stop the train right there and be like, 'That was perfect. Leave it alone.'

"But it's such a credit to Bill Hader and Alec Berg, and the strength and clarity of their vision that they were able to go deeper and create an even cooler storyline I think in second season. With that as evidence, I think the third season is just so exciting.

"I think that's what the show does really well is it flips all these characters and all these expectations that you have the character on its head, and kind of surprises you.

"You'd never really think, 'oh, I'm going to root for the guy who's constantly murdering people,' or 'I'm going to really want to defend the Chechen mobster.'

"At the same time, I feel like Sarah Goldberg is doing such an incredible job with Sally, and so many people are like, 'Oh my God, that character. She's just ... I can't stand her.' But she's doing such a good job. She's doing such a good job of creating a character that I think closely mirrors people way too well, and that's why they can't deal with her because everyone has these parts within themselves.

"But yeah, it's an example of taking characters that you assume you wouldn't root for and you actually do.

"The casting is really, really wonderful. [Casting directors] Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas are the best in the business. Seriously, they just are so, so good at what they do, and they comprised a cast that is just next level good."

Until Barry returns, Carrigan has some things coming up, but he's not allowed to say what.

He does have some interest in trying new characters, though. He says, "I think it's got to be the role, and it's got to have some real kind of weight to it. But I would love to play a character that gets really, really dark. I think at the moment, essentially coming from these crazy characters, it'd be fun to just tone it down and play just a normal dude. That sounds very refreshing."

But he knows his strengths, as well. He says, "I think more my true nature is that of a naughty nice guy. Everyone's always very surprised when they meet me. They're like, 'You're not? You're not a psychopath?' I'm like, 'Well, I was acting.' A lot of fans refuse to let that be the truth."



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