Bill Hader Isn’t Interested in an Emmy Battle, So He Might Just Vote for ‘Fleabag’

After "Barry" snagged 17 Emmy nominations, its co-creator and star spoke to IndieWire about the weirdness of artistic competition.
Barry Season 2 Bill Hader
Bill Hader in "Barry"
Isabella Vosmikova/HBO

Bill Hader was “just kind of getting up and around” when his publicist texted him Tuesday morning, and he remembered, “‘Oh, right. That’s happening now.'”

“That” would be the 2019 Emmy nominations, where Hader’s HBO series “Barry” was up for its critically hailed and well-rated second season. Most analysts expected the show to do quite well, but it was a tight race with lots of strong comedy contenders in the mix. Still, the rest of his text exchange followed a similarly casual pattern, as Hader recounted for IndieWire later that afternoon.

Publicist: “You got Lead Actor! Congrats!’
Hader: “Oh, wow. Cool.”
Publicist: “You guys got [Best Comedy] show!”
Hader: “Wow. Wow! Two years in a row. That’s cool.”
Publicist: “Holy shit. You got 17 nominations!”

That’s when Hader paused — “Wait, what?” — learning his series had racked up the second most nominations of any comedy series and four more than it landed the year before. In addition to Hader and Henry Winkler, who both won last year, “Barry” actors Stephen Root, Anthony Carrigan, and Sarah Goldberg all got their first nominations ever.

“We’re just incredibly be honored — everyone else getting recognized is what made me so happy,” Hader said. “Seeing Anthony, Sarah, and Stephen get nominations really made me happy.”

With even more skin in the game, no one would blame Hader for getting swept up in the moment. After all, “Barry” is now the heir-apparent to “Veep” at the Emmys: a perennial nominee from an elite network with a respected ensemble and the accolades to push it toward more significant victories. “Barry” could win it all — now. This year! It’s the kind of scenario many in Hollywood crave, but Hader isn’t interested in the race itself. Or if he is, last year’s Emmy winner deserves another trophy for this phone call.

“I’m not the biggest fan of that kind of competition thing. Just, competing in art in general I find very strange,” Hader said. “I’ve been doing a lot of interviews today, and a couple people are like, ‘Hey, you’ve got some tough competition in this or that,’ and I’m just like, these are all great shows. I feel crazy honored to be [nominated with them]. I mean, I thought ‘Fleabag’ was one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. I think Phoebe [Waller-Bridge] is a genius. And Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are two of my idols. I wouldn’t be doing what I’ve been doing if it wasn’t for their work. So, why would I be competitive with them? It’s not sports.”

But eventually, Hader is going to have to cast a ballot. He’s not just nominated at the Emmys, he’s a Television Academy member, so he’ll get to vote in many of the categories “Barry” where competes. When asked how he decides his picks, Hader said, “I just try to be as honest as possible. Did I like that? What did I like and not like? That’s all you can really do.”

But how does he approach the daunting choice between his three supporting actors, Winkler, Carrigan, and Root? Isn’t it harder to choose when your own show is on the ballot?

“Yeah, but I’ll come to that when I get to it,” Hader said with a laugh. Then, ever the film buff, Hader better illustrated his strategy with an example from Alexander Payne’s 1999 film, “Election,” in which Matthew Broderick’s conniving teacher tries to wrench a student council presidency away from Reese Witherspoon’s over-ambitious student by running a popular jock (played by Chris Klein) against her. But [spoiler alert for a 20-year-old film] the teacher’s plan backfires when the QB refuses to vote for himself because it’s dishonorable, and loses the race as a result.

“I’ll be like Chris Klein in ‘Election’: ‘Oh, uh… ‘Fleabag!'” Hader said, pretending to be deciding his vote. When seeing his own name — “‘Oh, that’s not nice.'”

You gotta admit: That’s a pretty cool way to approach TV’s biggest awards show, especially as the race is happening right now.

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