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Interview: ‘Barry’ Star Sarah Goldberg Deconstructs Sally, Her Fate & Complexity

Barry has no shortage of colorful characters. Most of which are involved in international drug trade, blowing up buildings, or shooting their way through tough situations. Unlike them, Sally Reed’s biggest weapon is her drive. She is played by Sarah Goldberg, a Canadian actress who trained for theater acting in London and brings a lot of depth to the role.

Sally is the girlfriend of Barry (star and co-creator Bill Hader) is the trained assassin with a taste for the theatre arts. So, as you may have guessed this is not your standard love interest side car role. She’s a complex character who, while often kind-hearted, is so focused on herself and her relentless fight for a successful acting career she seems to forget there are other people or things going on around her.

From early in season one, which gave us a teary, gut-wrenching performance by Goldberg, it was obvious there was much more to the character. Fast forward through seasons two and three and we have witnessed Goldberg not only find a place for herself, she has elevated Sally’s storyline with the narrative and emotional weight for it to be just as intriguing as those going on around. That says a lot when you look at the madness and literally explosiveness of the rest of the series.

Photograph by Merrick Morton/ HBO

Goldberg discussed the duality of the series, “It’s so funny, like the acting class side of it. We’d all be like prancing around in tights doing Shakespeare. And then, the crew would come back after like three days in the desert, windswept and sunburned and having blown up cars and motorcycle accidents.” She continued, ‘It’s only when we see the show that I realize, you know how violent and kind of wild it is”

The performance Goldberg has delivered in season three has been her best on the series – a wild roller coaster ride of career ups and downs, betrayals and revelations – ranging from elated awkward pauses to elevator tantrums. Through it all Sally seems like someone you might know – not sure if you would like her (the jury’s still out on that), but you certainly believe her.

“It is kind of the luxury of having multiple seasons. This is the first show that I’ve been a regular on where we’ve gone more than one season. And the beauty of that is being able to deepen the storylines, and get into the backstory of characters. It makes the viewing, going back to season one, all the richer when you start to understand why people are operating the way they’re operating,” said Goldberg.

Unlike Sally, Goldberg has the full ability to see beyond her own needs to appreciate the Barry team. “I’m devastated that I don’t get to work with Stephen Root and Anthony Carrigan more at all, because I love them so much, and we don’t get scenes together. But they’re just heaven.” She spoke about Henry Winkler (who plays Sally’s acting coach Gene Cousineau) with great appreciation, “Henry, he’s been doing this much longer than any of us. He’s seen the business from all sides, and the humility of that man and the kindness, you know, he comes to work every day with enthusiasm and joy, like it’s his first rodeo. And it’s totally contagious.”

Then there’s Bill Hader. “Bill has to wear all the hats on that show and somehow has the ability to be a team player with all of us incorporating all of our ideas, to be present for all of us. He keeps things really light and buoyant,” said Goldberg. “I think that we’re all really lucky that we’ve been able to build this thing together. I think his background and sketch comedy makes him a real best idea wins kind of boss and same with (co-creator) Alec Berg.

Photograph by Merrick Morton/ HBO

With such a tumultuous season for Sally on a show where major characters are not safe from being killed off, is Sarah worried about Sally’s fate?  “You know, you kind of can’t think in those terms. Otherwise it’d be too scary to go to work or open your latest scripts. I worry about Sally in general, but so far, I’ve not worried about her death, if that’s what you’re asking.” But that does not mean she is safe, “You don’t want to get called into the office. You get called to the office. You have that chat – that ‘thank you for your work’ chat. So far. So far, so good.”

It has recently been announced that Sarah will create, write and star in dark comedy series, SisterS, for IFC. We hope this doesn’t mean she was since called into the office. Fingers-crossed.

Be sure to watch the full interview with Sarah Goldberg (below). It covers much more about her career, who Sally is in her eyes, and other insights into what it is like being part of the crazy world that is Barry.

The season 3 finale episode of Barry airs tonight on HBO.


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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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