HBO’s Darkest Character Twist of 2023 Was a Long Time Coming

For three and a half seasons, Stephen Root had the rare distinction of playing one of TV’s most manipulative characters: Monroe Fuches. But halfway into Barry Season 4, Root has an even rarer opportunity: playing his scheming antagonist’s second life. Having evolved dramatically during his time in prison (which lines up perfectly with the final season’s eight-year time jump), Fuches emerges in Episode 6 as a ruthless crime boss known as “The Raven,” finally embracing the pseudonym foisted on him back in Season 3.

“We’re playing different characters, and what a joy,” Root tells Inverse.

It may be a joy to play Fuches’ most dangerous version, but it’s certain to bring danger to Barry’s world. And even if The Raven is a changed man, he shares one thing in common with Fuches: an obsession with vengeance seemingly programmed into his DNA.

“Fuches’ problem is that he has a revolving revenge button, unfortunately, that he can’t push the ‘off’ on,” Root says, adding that his relationship as the handler to Bill Hader’s assassin is complicated at best. “It always seems to come back that his love for Barry is eternal, even if he wants to put a gun in his mouth the next day.”

“He was a surrogate dad. He was the uncle. He was the guy Barry looked to.”

These divergent traits come to full fruition in Barry Season 4, which jumps forward almost a decade into the future to show how the lives of characters like NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg), and Barry himself have all changed and diverged — before they intersect for one final showdown.

Inverse sat down with Stephen Root to chat about Fuches’ final-season evolutions, his Shakespearean influences, and the long monologues he’ll miss the most.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Stephen Root emerges from prison as The Raven in Barry.

HBO

Fuches’ history with Barry is always perilous, but every aspect comes to a head in Season 4. He tries to take Barry down, but in a key moment, his emotions for Barry come out. Tell us about their complex relationship as it evolves into Season 4.

He’s just hurt. He’s hurt that he’s not being paid attention to. The thing that makes it interesting to me in this season is that you learn for the first time that he’s known Barry since he was 7 years old and playing soldiers in the dirt. So you can feel the love that he has for such a long time.

It colors everything differently when you know that he’s not just a manager. In a way, he was a surrogate dad to Barry.

He was a surrogate dad. He was the uncle. He was the guy Barry looked to. He wasn’t a guy that plucked him out of the army and made him into a hitman. He was family from a long time back, and that was huge to me.

“I’ve gotten all that I needed for this character from doing Shakespeare in my 20s.”

He’s also an interesting repeated foil for Barry because he’s not always the greatest planner, but he’s an extremely effective schemer and a manipulator throughout the series. What is the secret to playing one of the most manipulative characters on TV?

Good writing! I’ve gotten all that I needed for this character from doing Shakespeare in my 20s. You play a conniver clown in a lot of the comedies that I did. All of that comes into play later on, when you’re doing even the most modest CBS show, but fortunately, I got on a show that is really well-written and can show the subtleties of that kind of character.

And it is fantastic. You have someone who has a complete vision, as Bill [Hader] did in this season because he’s directed all eight episodes. We’re just kind of puppets trying to ask “Does this help your vision?” That’s been great about this cast. They’re not looking for their own stuff. They’re looking for the good of the show. That’s what this whole thing has been about and why it’s so well received and why we love it so much.

That really comes across, and Fuches is such a great character, real Iago in Othello vibes.

Yeah, absolutely. All through it, and so much stuff. The clown in Winter’s Tale! I could use a lot of that in there.

Henry Winkler’s Gene also looks dramatically different after the time jump.

HBO

Fuches also continues to evolve. Earlier in the series, he becomes fingered as The Raven, and he gradually dons the title, eventually claiming to discover himself through Season 4. What is it that he discovers?

The biggest thing to me, to be able to play it, was that he had to resign himself to being a killer, that he said, “OK, this is what I am,” as Barry is doing throughout this show, saying, “What is my purpose? What is my purpose?” At the end of this season, [Fuches finds] “I have found my purpose,” which is to do what he’s always wanted to do. [He] gives himself a family, immediately, something that he’s wanted to have forever. He gets it immediately because he’s sure of himself. He has power, and in that power, he can do what he wants to do. So, it’s very much that he just self-realizes, finally.

And what a great thing to be able to play! Like the other characters in this show, we’re playing completely different characters than we played for the first three seasons of the show, by the last four shows of the fourth season. We’re playing different characters, and what a joy.

Root with Anthony Carrigan’s NoHo Hank (right) in Barry.

HBO

There’s a specific line where he talks about how the tattoos tell the story of his evolution: He “went through a gauntlet of pain, pain turned to pleasure…” That’s a very Hellraiser-esque, Cenobite-style statement. What would Fuches 2.0 be like as a Cenobite?

[Laughs.] That’s… wow, I don’t know. It would’ve been fun to see if NoHo Hank had let him continue with this “pleasure calls pain, and the pain that I did was this, and this, and this,” but he can’t. I would’ve liked to see him answer that question fully, but I fully respect that that’s not possible.

That’s fun to imagine. Thank you for entertaining that thought. In the series’ four seasons, what is your final takeaway?

In each season of Barry, there’s come a point in the season where I have some sort of a monologue where I have to tell you what I’m thinking. We shot each of those long monologues in maybe just two takes, so Bill could use as much of that very close-up take as he wanted to do.

What I’ll miss is doing almost a theater-like experience with those really long takes, like the long take that Sarah does at the beginning of Season 3. I’ll miss the theater-like experience of Bill’s directing those kinds of long monologues.

Barry Season 4 is available on HBO and HBO Max.

For three and a half seasons, Stephen Root had the rare distinction of playing one of TV’s most manipulative characters: Monroe Fuches. But halfway into Barry Season 4, Root has an even rarer opportunity: playing his scheming antagonist’s second life. Having evolved dramatically during his time in prison (which lines up perfectly with the final…

For three and a half seasons, Stephen Root had the rare distinction of playing one of TV’s most manipulative characters: Monroe Fuches. But halfway into Barry Season 4, Root has an even rarer opportunity: playing his scheming antagonist’s second life. Having evolved dramatically during his time in prison (which lines up perfectly with the final…