Anthony Carrigan handles murders and quips with ease as Chechnyan mobster Noho Hank on HBO comedy Barry and as psycho hitman Victor Zsasz on Fox drama Gotham. Before season 2 of Barry begins on Mar. 31 (10 p.m. ET) — and the final season of Gotham ends April 25 — we asked the 36-year-old scene thief about his abilities to break bad, what to expect when Noho Hank dons a wig this season, and what would happen if Hank ever crossed paths with Victor.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are your three tips for playing a charismatic criminal?
ANTHONY CARRIGAN: Find the ways that they are kind and considerate, because there’s nothing more terrifying than a nice bad guy. It’s very unnerving. Shave your head because being bald certainly helps. Always have a shovel in the trunk of your car. You don’t have to use it, but just so they know. Just be like, “Oh, hey, sorry, just have to get something from the trunk of my car.” Bam. Open it up. Oh, shovel. You know what I mean? It’s the things left unsaid.
Of the multiple reasons why you signed on to Barry, what was the most important one?
It’s very rare that you get an opportunity to play characters that’s so multi-faceted, with so much personality, and so much of its own unique style. And it’s really refreshing when that’s coupled with brilliant whip-smart writing. I relish in that. That’s the kind of thing that I went to acting school [at Carnegie Mellon] for — to build these characters from the ground up, and literally put so much love and care into it, up to the point where you can just kind of put on the character’s clothes, and then just go. You can just let the character just run free. And that’s a testament to how well it’s written.
Working with Bill [Hader] and Alec [Berg, who created the show with Hader], it’s extraordinary, but also working with Henry Winkler, Stephen Root, and Sarah Goldberg — everyone is just so, so good. Everyone brings their A-game, and it’s so wonderful. On top of that, everyone’s so lovely.
Who or what was an unlikely influence for you in shaping Hank?
All the heroes of ’80s machismo action movies: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren. I had this idea that Hank had all of those movies on VHS tapes, was obsessed with America, and thought that that’s what America was. He wanted to emulate these kind of super-jacked male icons.
What shadings of Hank can we expect in season 2?
There’s a lot of new sides to Hank that you’ll see. You see Hank under a lot of pressure because now he’s the one who’s in charge and that pressure leads him to some desperate measures. And in desperation, Hank goes from a soft and sweet character to showing a dark side, for sure.
There’s a wig involved at one point. What should people brace for and how does he pull it off?
Malibu Barbie’s Ken is maybe what he was going for — or at least what I think he pulled off. In his mind, he nailed it. But in reality, not so much. I think that’s a recurring theme for Hank…. That was a really fun scene. We could not stop laughing while we were filming it. It’s a miracle we made it through.
In the season 2 trailer, Hank invites Barry to join him in forming Team Badass. Exactly how badass do things get?
Starting off on a scale of zero to badass, it’s closer to zero. They’re in desperate need of Barry’s help and assistance. But as the season progresses, they become more and more badass — and scarier and scarier.
What is his dream scenario, besides being universally liked and going on a vacation with Barry?
To have a fully functioning business with a great online platform. [Laughs.] Maybe dipping his toes into the virtual reality world — while moonlighting as a front-desk concierge at a Disneyland hotel.
Are you huge in Chechnya?
I don’t know. I haven’t been. We’ll see.
What is the strangest place in the world that you have been recognized?
You know what? I was on the Amalfi Coast, in Italy, at this amazing beachfront restaurant, and you have to take a boat to get to. It’s the coolest place in the world. We’re sitting next to this group of people, and they turned over and they were like, “Oh my God, I know who you are!” It was like “Hey, you speak English, wow, okay.” And all the way over here, that’s pretty cool. To be recognized at a place where you feel like James Bond would be hanging out, I mean, that’s pretty rad.
If Victor and Hank were ever to meet — if we bent the laws of reality, time, physics, space, whatever — how would that go down?
Oh, wow. Hank would probably try to employ Victor and I think Victor would immediately get frustrated with how Hank runs his business, because Victor is extremely efficient. I think Victor might immediately try to kill Hank and Hank would either flee or find whatever he had within him to put up a fight. He would try to employ him. It would certainly work as a multi-cam sitcom. They’re roommates, and they work together. How’s this going to work out? [Laughs.] They find out that they’re twins and it’s like oh, boy! Crime will never be the same!
What will you miss most about playing Victor, and what won’t you miss?
Putting on the suits was great. I loved all the wardrobe choices that were made on Gotham. I feel like I always looked fantastic, very streamlined. And yeah, just embodying that character — the style of him — really kind of came through with its wardrobe. So, I’ll definitely miss that. What will I not miss? The makeup making me look like I have been drinking embalming fluid.
What is one thing about Victor that we probably shouldn’t know?
A lot of my music on my playlist for Victor was ’90s R&B.
I listen to a lot of Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails, so I feel like that side really came through. But, there’s also En Vogue, and SWV. And even Wham! and George Michael. So, maybe that’s going to ruin it for everyone, I don’t know. [Laughs.]
Okay, now, I’m wondering about the playlist for NoHo Hank.
A lot of Huey Lewis and the News. I love Huey Lewis and the News. I feel you’re always in a good mood after listening to that…. Definitely “Power of Love.” And “I Want a New Drug.” Well, he’s literally dealing drugs. And then maybe “Hip To Be Square.” I feel like that’s a fun one to bop your head to…. And then what else? Sting.
Like.. “Soul Cages”?
“Fields of Gold.” Hang on, I know there’s more…. Aretha [Franklin]. “I Say a Little Prayer.”
I love this playlist.
I feel like that’s kind of Hank to a T.
You wrote in a notebook years ago that you wanted to play a fun and unique character on a compelling series, and you even wrote letters to HBO multiple times. Clearly you can see the future. What else do you see for yourself, say, five years from now?
I haven’t gone back to that notebook, which is funny. I’m a little bit spooked by it now. I’m like, “Uh-oh, If I write it down, it’s going to happen.” I would love to just continue playing characters that break the mold. I like making interesting decisions when playing characters, so taking something that would seem one way and then playing it a different way. I would love to play a romantic lead at some point. I would love to play the hero at some point. It would be fun to be in a huge franchise blockbuster based on a series of books, whether it’s fantastical or science fiction. I love that stuff. Five years. Easy. Done.
And where will humankind be in five years? Are we okay or do we not make it? It’s kind of touch-and-go right now.
It’s not looking great right now. It’s really not. But I happen to think that when we’re the underdog, we perform at our best. So, we’re the underdogs with everything going on, and now we need to step up and make some changes.
Don’t count us out, is what you’re saying.
Exactly. I’ll just write it in my notebook and then it’ll be fine.
You were told that you’d never act again because of your alopecia (which causes hair loss). It must have been very demoralizing to hear that. Yet here you are, doing quite well. How did you rebound? Did you use that as fuel?
That was the thing I was most afraid of hearing. To hear your worst fear said out loud is awful, but it’s also actually kind of freeing. Because then it’s like, “Oh, okay, now I don’t have to be afraid of that anymore, because I can move on. I can do things my way. And it took a while to actually do it my way. But I was resolved. Getting back to the underdog thing, when someone tells you you can’t do something, all of the sudden a fire gets lit, and so I think I definitely had something to prove.
Should we put a hit on that person? I mean, you know a guy….
I definitely know a guy — and a girl as well — but no, I think honestly the best revenge is to just keep succeeding. Why kill ‘em when you can make ’em watch what they turned down?