[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Barry” Season 4.]
“Barry” Season 4 is effectively split in half. The first four episodes take place in the regular flow of the three seasons that came before it, however ominous things have gotten for the people at the center. But the end of Episode 4 brings quite the cliffhanger, with characters suddenly living in a visibly different future. It’s the classic farewell season time jump.
That big storytelling swing led to some dramatic physical changes, too. In Episodes 5 and 6, when the show catches up with its main characters, they’ve each transformed in their own way. Sally (Sarah Goldberg) is going by Emily, Gene (Henry Winkler) has flowing locks and a thick beard, and Fuches (Stephen Root) has a whole body’s worth of elaborate tattoos.
In some cases where hair changes to show the passage of time, it’s an opportunity for an actor to really grow things out and get physically connected to the character, as it was for Winkler. In other cases, also for Winkler, it’s a chance to face your greatest fear.
“Here’s a production secret: I grew long hair. Extensions were added. They asked me to start growing a beard. I grew it for two or three months before we shot those scenes. And then we were done shooting. I forgot about reshoots. Got a haircut. And I shaved,” Winkler said. “Now I go to the depths of the Valley to an incredible beardmaker. I’m fitted with Saran wrap on in every inch of my face except my nose, and he builds the beard. I now have the beard pasted on. One of my deepest, saddest nightmares is to have something pasted on my face. In ‘Click,’ I had 12 pieces of rubber cemented to my face. But I saw the scenes in Episodes 1 through 7. I’m looking and you can’t tell. Amazing. These people are are like artists.”
He wasn’t the only one whose new environment came with a key hair change. As Sally goes about her job at a local diner, a dark wig is a lingering part of the new life she’s made for herself.
“It’s so love-hate. You put it on, so you look like a completely different person and you get so much for free. But the itch factor is so vivid. I would walk around with one of those long combs so I could do a good head scratch,” Goldberg said. “But Katherine Kousakis, who’s our hair head of department, she was unbelievable. She had such a cool vision for that look. There’s something so performative and theatrical about it, but also tragic. Sally didn’t go for a ‘Pulp Fiction’ wig. It’s sad and it sort of meets the world that they’re in.
Meanwhile, Fuches emerges from prison having fully embraced becoming the man behind the criminal mastermind alias The Raven. Gone is the sometimes-tentative go-between who dabbled for a bit as an FBI informant. After the time jump, he’s a changed person. And that starts with the tattoos.
“They’re beautifully done and very quick to go on,” Root said. “Our makeup person [Leo] Corey [Castellano] had them specially made. He drew and did everything himself. But the process for all the arm tattoos and neck is an appliqué. The whole thing probably only took about an hour-ten to get them all on, which is not bad. With any kind of stressful makeup like that, it takes more time to take it off than to put it on. So the day didn’t specifically end until that was all gone.”
Each day filming his Raven scenes meant another 70 or so minutes getting a brand new version of the stars on his shoulders, the cross/rose combo on his bicep, and his namesake bird right across his sternum. Much like the built-in benefits of the Sally wig, that extra time in the makeup chair led to a bigger sense of focus. (That doesn’t even count the time spent preparing for the scenes earlier in the season when Fuches’ face is bruised and bloodied, an application process that took about twice as long as the tattoos did.)
“It’s time to take the tension out. It’s a great time to meditate, which I do, for 20 or 30 minutes,” Root said. “But it’s a process that I’ve done through my whole career that I don’t feel that it’s any strange part of myself. I did a Klingon on ‘Star Trek’ once that took three and a half hours. But you’re always relaxed and in the hands of a professional. So it’s not a big thing.”
Some of the character transformations ended up in an entirely different form of physicality, down to how they speak at this vague point in the future.
“We talked a lot about whether she speaks in the accent at home in front of her own son. Ultimately we decided that in the home space, she speaks in her voice and at work and out in the world she speaks in the accent,” Goldberg said. “There’s obviously an element of it that they’ve been undercover for so many years, and that’s a part of it. But that’s not what Sally’s doing, I don’t think. It’s a chance to act. And she’s really decided she’s gonna give the performance of her career, even if there’s no one there to witness it. There’s no critic. No one can cancel her show. She’s in control of that performance of Emily. That’s her one solace and her one thing in this bleak existence that they’re having.”
Of course, the production demands of a show like this sometimes involve working at elaborate locations like the prison where Barry and Fuches are being held. In those cases, block shooting meant hopping around the timeline, sometime all in a single day’s work.
“What was challenging was to play both of those, the Before Fuches in the After Fuches, in the same day. We would do a Before Fuches scene and then do a makeup change, come back to do somebody else and then do another makeup change and go back to another,” Root said. “Doing the variations of that character in this season has been challenging. But sometimes the clothes make the man, and when Fuches is in the latter part of the season, the clothes very much do make the man.”
“Barry” Season 4 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.