Everyone Is Obsessed With NoHo Hank
As HBO’s Barry comes to an end, breakout star Anthony Carrigan reflects on his murder-filled rise to the top and what comes next.
The origin story of NoHo Hank begins in an extremely on-brand location.
“I remember getting a call from my manager,” Anthony Carrigan, who plays the incompetent wannabe crime boss on HBO’s Barry, tells Inverse. “I was in a Bed, Bath, & Beyond perusing kitchenware, which, honestly, maybe that was just the birth of NoHo Hank right there.”
If an inept Chechen mobster obsessed with bougie status symbols (the high-end pots and pans) and a desperate need to be loved seems absurd, then welcome to the twisted murder-and-ennui-filled world of Barry. When we first meet NoHo Hank, he’s a glorified henchman with big ambitions and a bigger heart that’s painfully out of sync with his grizzly line of work. Hank has a penchant for shouting “Sweet Baby Jesus!” and a weakness for hot, shirtless dudes. As a brutal killer, he wants to be powerful and feared. But he also wants a friend. “He’s not the best criminal,” Carrigan admits.
Hank finds that friend (or, rather, frenemy) in Bill Hader’s titular Barry Berkman, a mentally unstable hitman who chases a mark to Hollywood and gets bit by the acting bug. After Barry kills Hank’s boss in the Season 1 finale, the henchman is elevated to “HCIC” (that’s head Chechen in charge). And over the course of three seasons, he charts a new path for his international crime syndicate based on friendship, fun, volleyball tournaments, and soon (in Barry’s fourth and final season) a trip to Dave & Busters — but also lots and lots of murder.
Carrigan, 40, infuses NoHo Hank with a strange brew of mafia-born confidence and new-age self-awareness. Throw in a thick Chechen accent that the Boston-born Carrigan slips in and out of seamlessly during our interview, and Carrigan’s completely bald head (a result of alopecia), and you get a character who’s gone from bit part to series mascot. Which is ironic, given NoHo Hank was supposed to die almost immediately.
“When I got the script, I immediately fell in love with it,” Carrigan recalls. “I saw it all unfolding. You know when you read something and the pages disappear and you're just in it?” There was only one problem: “Hank was supposed to die in the first episode.”
That NoHo Hank managed to earn a stay of execution is a testament to Carrigan’s commitment (with some help from Hader’s SNL-honed improvisational brilliance). He honed the character’s unique physicality and developed Hank’s chipper Chechen-by-way-of-the-101 accent by watching “lots of YouTube videos.”
“Even though he was gonna die in that first episode,” says Carrigan, “I was like, might as well go for it.”
At the end of the show’s pilot episode, an agreement between Barry and the Chechens goes south. NoHo Hank orders his men to shoot to kill, but their incompetence is no match for Barry’s assassin skills. (If there’s one thing the show makes clear, it’s that Barry is a very good killer.) Barry walks up to their car and shoots all three of them. In the original script, that was curtains for Carrigan, until Hader (who’s not only the star, but the show’s co-creator) made a last-minute adjustment that changed NoHo Hank’s — and Anthony Carrigan’s — life.
“Bill was like, just open the door and fall out,” Carrigan says. “So yeah, that was a literal door being opened to my character's survival.”
In the ensuing three seasons (spread out over five years), Hader’s bet on Carrigan has paid off. NoHo Hank is a funhouse reflection of Barry Berkman and an irrepressible source of LA sunshine in an increasingly bleak story. Where every murder Barry commits seems to shatter his psyche into smaller and smaller pieces, Hank remains cheerful, chatty, and completely at peace with the career he’s chosen even as the bodies pile up and the consequences become impossible to avoid.
“You can’t go into a life of crime lightly, and some of the consequences do show up for him.”
And while Barry’s romance with his fellow acting student, the narcissistic Sally (Sarah Goldberg), feels more like two losers settling for each other, Hank’s managed to find the one thing that seems unobtainable in the show’s grim universe: love. In Season 3, NoHo Hank fell for a rival crime boss turned ally, Cristobal Sifuentes (played by Michael Irby). The relationship was played as a twist — especially since Cristobal was married to a woman — but Carrigan says the clues were there all along, even as far back as the first time the characters interact in a phone call declaring war between the rival crime syndicates.
“He says, ‘Have you read the Four Agreements?’ And Hank immediately says, ‘Wow, that's a great book,’” Carrigan quotes. What felt at the time like a classic Barry joke (banal, specific, dryly delivered) was the beginning of something beautiful. “I love working with Michael Irby,” he adds. “We've got great chemistry.”
Barry Season 4 begins with the duo still in love and trying to escape their respective lives of crime. But within the first few episodes of the new season, Hank and Cristobal hatch a fresh plot to get rich — and kill whoever gets in their way.
Organized crime aside (and with the finale in sight), does NoHo Hank deserve a happy ending? Carrigan seems unsure.
“I love Hank so much and I want everything for him. I have such a soft spot for this character,” he says. “But there's something interesting about the progression over the seasons. Hank has slowly started to realize that his naivete and his foolishness have gotten him into major trouble. You can't go into a life of crime lightly, and some of the consequences do show up for him.”
Before then, Carrigan gets to do a scene with legendary director Guillermo del Toro, who makes a rare cameo in front of the camera to supply Hank and Cristobal with a small army of mercenaries. In typical NoHo Hank fashion, the exchange devolves into a debate over the merits of a gadget-focused podcast. It also gave Carrigan the opportunity to pitch himself.
“I tried to be specific about what questions I was gonna ask him,” he says. “What are you working on next? And is there a role for a bald hairless person?”
Obviously, Carrigan doesn’t hide his alopecia. At the start of his acting career, Carrigan was told by multiple people to give up because of the way he looked. Undeterred, he shaved his patchy head of hair completely. He’s since filmed awareness videos, waded into the Will Smith-Chris Rock slap controversy (remember, that was about Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia), and talked about it extensively on Marc Maron’s podcast.
“When I first shaved my head and decided I was gonna go for it, I literally could come up with just two examples of things that I could play,” he says. “One was Igor from Frankenstein, the other was an alien.”
One career-making performance later, he’s at peace and wouldn’t change his looks for all the Rogaine in the world. “It feels like having a rug on your head when you're used to it being smooth,” he says, reflexively rubbing a hand over his sleek dome.
Beyond Barry, the next time you’ll see Carrigan is as a “really fun character” in Adulthood, a comedy crime drama (according to IMDb) directed by Alex Winter and also starring Evan Rachel Wood and Josh Gad. Carrigan met Winter (aka Bill) on 2020’s Bill & Ted Face the Music while playing a time-traveling robot with a shiny white head, and the two hit it off.
“Alex is a genius,” he says. “Keanu as well. Most people would look at those guys and be like, oh, they're just like stoner idiots. Those guys are so brilliant and so erudite and so well-spoken that I felt like a complete idiot around them.”
There’s also the mysterious new film I-35, which stars Carrigan, Brett Gelman, and Tracy Letts, and just wrapped, according to Carrigan. He’s tight-lipped on the details (and there’s almost no info about it anywhere), but according to local reports the movie was filmed in Kentucky and is a “character thriller linking historical events from the 1990s to today.”
But that’s all in the future. For now, Anthony Carrigan is trying to channel some of NoHo Hank’s better traits. There’s gratitude: “This whole experience has been one of the biggest gifts of my life,” he says. “To play this character, to have this kind of family of a cast, and to get to do this level of storytelling is so rare. I've just been soaking in every minute of it.”
“You’re allowed to be an idiot sometimes.”
And there’s Carrigan speaking his vulnerabilities aloud, like when I ask how he’s handling the end of Barry and his time with NoHo Hank.
“Honestly, really sad. I was really bummed out for a while after it ended,” he says, before admitting that it’s better to “end on a high note” than overstay your welcome. (Though he has some thoughts about where NoHo could land in the extended HBO Universe: “He belongs in, like, hospitality. He belongs at the White Lotus.” When I ask if that’s an official pitch, Carrigan doesn’t hold back. “I think [White Lotus creator] Mike White is a genius. Also, it's basically like going on vacation while working. So I would not say no. And that is official.”)
And of course, there’s a bit of relentless optimism, as Carrigan takes one very on-brand piece of life advice from NoHo Hank.
“Allow for the possibility that you can just fail upward,” he says, laughing.
Then, like Barry, he veers straight from a punchline to a moment of clarity.
“Sometimes things just work out and you're allowed to make mistakes. You're allowed to be an idiot sometimes. You're allowed to just dive right in.”
Top image credits: Moschino coat and pants, Calvin Klein T-shirt, stylist’s own sunglasses
Photographs by Flaminia Fanale
Styling by EJ Briones
Grooming: Jennifer Brent
Photo Director: Alex Pollack
SVP Fashion: Tiffany Reid
SVP Creative: Karen Hibbert