With the unveiling of the 2018 Emmy nominations, Bill Hader is riding high. Picking up five total nominations—four as the writer, director, star and executive producer of HBO dark comedy Barry, nominated for best comedy series, and one as a guest host on Saturday Night Live‘s most recent season—the SNL alum saw the fruition of a longtime creative dream.
“Not to sound too corny, but I moved out here in 1999 to be a filmmaker, and a writer and everything. I was a PA and an assistant editor and a crew person, and it was just because Megan Mullally saw me in a show that I got on Saturday Night Live and all this stuff,” Hader told Deadline this morning. “What I always wanted to do was something like Barry. That’s my sensibility. To get a chance to finally do that and play that kind of character, I’m super proud of that.”
In the HBO series, which he created with Silicon Valley‘s Alec Berg, Hader stars as Barry Berkman, a hit man from the Midwest who longs for a new and entirely different life as an actor.
Certainly, it’s difficult for any new series to break through at the Emmys in its first season. Hader wasn’t anticipating such a strong showing for Barry—which made today’s results all the more satisfying—though he did have a sense early on that the series was working, even with the difficult tonal balance it pursues. “I feel like after we did the pilot and HBO watched the pilot, I felt very comfortable in knowing what the tone was,” Hader recalled. “Then once we got in the writers’ room and started writing Season 1, we were feeling like, ‘Okay, yeah. This is really working.’”
Having worked on SNL for many years, Hader adjusted easily to the multitasking involved with creating and starring in his own series. As an artist, the ability to engage in all aspects of a project’s creation was one of the most invaluable lessons SNL could offer. The other? “Just try to relax and have fun,” Hader shares. “Which I do.”
“On the set of Barry, in even the most sad scenes, I like to try to keep it light. I think everyone does their best work when they feel confident, when they all know what’s happening and what we’re doing,” the multi-hyphenated added. “The more relaxed we can be, I think people do their best work in that environment.”
As surprised as he was by the success of Barry today, Hader was perhaps equally taken aback by his nod for SNL—a series which still makes him nervous, despite his wide-ranging comedic abilities and the recognition the show has brought him.
“It’s the live TV aspect of it. I don’t get nervous on set at all, and even in front of a big audience, I’m not that nervous. It’s just the red light above the TV, and knowing the whole nation’s watching, and I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, you have to land this,'” Hader reflected, laughing. “That really makes me terrified, and when I get really nervous, I laugh. So there you go.”
Without disclosing much about Barry‘s second season, Hader shared where he’s at with the series’ next run, and a bit of what to expect going forward. “We’ve been writing since March, and it’s going good,” he said. “It does feel like it’s a bit darker than last season, which I’m digging.”
Looking ahead towards what should be a more diverse creative future as a multi-hyphenate talent, Hader is taking today in stride, without setting too specific of expectations. “You kind of want to go in a direction, but if you try to plan it too much, it doesn’t work in my experience,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t think I’d be on Saturday Night Live.”