Henry Winkler approached his role as “Barry” as Gene Cousineau a little differently for Season 3 of the HBO comedy-drama, returning to HBO on Sunday after a three-year hiatus.
“Bill and Alec have two main premises,” Winkler, 76, told the Post of series co-creators/writers Bill Hader and Alec Berg (Hader stars as hitman/rookie actor Barry Berkman) . “You’re not allowed to have holes and they literally pick everyone. …and the crew and cast form this delightful bond on set.
“Their other mantra is [that] they don’t want to repeat themselves. So in the second season, I read the scripts and I went to see Bill and Alec and I said, ‘Can I have a meeting with you? I really like this gift you gave me but I don’t recognize the man you wrote in season 2. It was Gene in season 1 but that guy, his name might be Bob – I don’t don’t know who he is!’ he said of the pedantic Los Angeles coach, who won Winkler his first Emmy in 2018.
“They said, ‘We hear you, we’re going in this direction, we’re going to consider some of the things you’ve told us’ and season 2 was awesome. For season 3, I didn’t even take the hard to meet Bill and Alec are amazing leaders, they are gentle and know what they want, and in their structure comes freedom.
“So I just showed up, brought a Bundt cake from home, gave it to the team and went to work.”
Season 2 ended with Gene’s startling realization that his girlfriend, LAPD Det. Janice Moss (Paula Newsome), was killed by Barry when she focused on him as the man responsible for the murder that opened the series. “The scene in bed when I sit up and say ‘My God!’ and I realized Barry Berkman did that was shot on Stage 19 at Paramount where for nine years we shot ‘Happy Days,’” Winkler said. “I thought there was something symmetrical about it.”
As Season 3 opens, Gene is determined to avenge Janice’s murder, while Barry, who is working as a freelance hitman (old habits die hard), deals with NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and the Chechen mafia and tries to smooth things over with Gene. Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) hides in the mountains of Chechnya while Sally (Sarah Goldberg) films her TV show – (very) loosely based on her stage show – and deals with the intense pressure cooker environment in an unusual way .
“What I can tell you is that the global umbrella [of Season 3] is, “Can you change no matter where you are in life?” said Winkler, who is sworn to secrecy on plot details. “It’s the theme of every character. I don’t know if [as Gene] In fact, I succeed or not, but this is the train in which everyone is mounted.
What is revealed in the first two episodes of Season 3 is the enmity his Hollywood brothers feel towards Gene. (A casting director’s response to hiring Gene for a small role: “Life’s too short.”) “We find out there’s a litany of swear words people have used about Gene that would make blush a sailor,” Winkler said.
Winkler said the two-and-a-half-year layoff between “Barry” seasons (Season 3 began filming last summer) ultimately benefited his portrayal of Gene.
“It’s like riding a bike,” he says. “When you do a piece and then it enters the repertoire or you don’t play it for a while or you do a revival years later, that piece lived in you and the character lived in you. It is gestated into a richer form.The material this year [on ‘Barry’] no joking or exaggerating… was the most intense material I have ever done in my entire career, beginning on June 30, 1970, when I showed up at the John Drew Guild Theater in East Hampton for repertoire.
“At [Season 3] premiere, we were both watching the first two episodes at the HBO party, and after it was over, I watched each of these actors and I was like, ‘I’m so lucky and I’m so proud to be here and I am with them.”
The Season 3 premiere of “Barry” airs Sunday, April 24 at 10 p.m. on HBO.
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