Henry Winkler was an acclaimed television actor well before “Barry,” but his performance as Gene Cousineau, the acting coach who became something of a paternal role model to Bill Hader’s hitman Barry Berkman, brought him to all new creative heights.
In an interview with “Today” on NBC, the actor admitted that he wouldn’t have been able to take on the role in all its “texture” and complexity without first working with a therapist.
The actor has been open about the emotional toll performing the character took on him, and admitted to Willie Geist that he “could not have done ‘Barry’ without having met” a therapist who helped him unlock the emotions needed to pull off the part.
Winkler’s Cousineau is a challenging figure. Self-absorbed and even narcissistic, the character has managed to cut off industry friends and is teaching a group of acting students who worship him when he and Barry meet.
— Willie Geist (@WillieGeist) November 12, 2023
Winkler told Geist, “I could not have done that character with that kind of texture. I could not have heard Alec Berg and Bill Hader, and be able to translate what they said into the scene without that doctor. If I didn’t find a character piece to something I was doing before that, I was stilted as an actor.”
He added that getting the role was a case of being at the right place at the right time, mentally and emotionally.
“Still the old Henry, scared out of my mind. The new Henry, coming up against it and now tentatively pushing back, and the old Henry didn’t want to give in,” he said.
The “new Henry,” Winkler continued, “was able to do some scenes that [were] some of my favorite scenes ever.”
He also had plenty of positive things to say about the “Barry” team as a whole. Winkler told Geist, “The show was so original, and it had a point of view. When you see a show that kind of is mealy, the writers, they have a great idea, but the commitment is not there, the passion is not there to tell that story.”
Last year, the actor told TheWrap he was “nervous” when the “Barry” cast had their first reading. He said, “We were reading for all the executives at HBO. At one point, I called Sarah Goldberg’s character an asshole and I slapped the table. The executive at HBO jumped. And later, Bill told me the man said, ‘I never knew that was inside him.'”