Bill Hader Says He Was A Basket Case On Saturday Night Live

Alan Bill Hader Saturday Night Live NBC

Before Bill Hader was the Emmy award-winning actor captivating audiences with Barry -- his series about an assassin-turned-actor -- he was one of Saturday Night Live's most prolific castmembers. As he's mentioned before, his time on NBC's late-night sketch comedy was tough due to the immense pressure he felt being on the show. The feverish pace of the program took a mental and physical toll on Hader, who elaborated more on the experience in a recent interview.

When I was on SNL, I was a bit of a basket case. It could not have been easy on my wife at the time. I was so consumed with work and anxiety. [He suffered panic attacks and migraines.] Sometimes I felt like people thought, 'Oh, he's just wanting attention or something.' It was like, 'No, man, I'm legit. I'm freaking out right now.'

Bill Hader was making America laugh with his roles in skits like The Californians or as his popular Weekend Update character Stefon, but he was not laughing behind the scenes. Hader said his first five seasons were especially tough, as his future on Saturday Night Live was never guaranteed. Hader told Variety that executive producer Lorne Michaels did assure him after that he had a spot on the program indefinitely, but added his anxiety never fully went away.

Still, Bill Hader remained committed to his craft and stuck to Saturday Night Live before it became evident he couldn't anymore. It wasn't a mental break that kept Hader from sticking to the grind, however, but the birth of his second child that ended up being what brought his time on the sketch program to an end.

Once our second child was born, I had to leave SNL. It was hard with one kid, let alone two. Because I was just never around.

Bill Hader performed his final episode of castmember on Saturday Night Live on May 18, 2013. A little over a year later, he would return to host the program and has since hosted one more time since then in 2018. Though he wasn't a part of the weekly in-season grind of SNL during that time, Hader was doing more in Hollywood with roles both in television and film.

This included Barry, a dark comedy about an assassin aspiring to be an actor that Hader co-created with Alec Berg. The premise was partly inspired by the actor's time on Saturday Night Live, with Barry's inherent stage fright in his local theater group mimicking Hader's anxiety while being on SNL. Barry's fear seems a little more pronounced than Hader's, of course, who never appeared to be frozen in fear or anything other than electric on SNL.

Bill Hader's anxiety may have resurfaced somewhat during test screenings for Barry, as he said some close friends and test audiences that watched the show ahead of its premiere didn't seem to get it. Others who heard about it in conversation equated it to Get Shorty, a comparison he grew tired of. Despite some criticisms, Hader stayed the course on the show which premiered in March of 2018.

Fast forward to later that year, and Bill Hader was as busy as he'd ever been. Barry earned Hader and its stars awards and critical acclaim, but at the cost of his time. He and wife Maggie Carey divorced that year, and he didn't get to spend a lot of time with his 3 children. Hader said that's changing in 2019, and he's ensuring that he'll have plenty of time to spend with his kids later in the year.

I think I saw my kids a total of five days all summer. It was terrible. So I'm going, 'Next summer I'm taking off. And I'm going to spend every day with them.' It's this weird thing where when you're in this industry, you don't have time to be with them, and it's really, really difficult. I'm getting emotional right now talking about it. [...] Congrats, it's the first interview I've ever cried in.

Bill Hader will work on a screenplay for a film, which will justify his staying at home to spend more time with his children. Hader's writing of a screenplay while taking "time off" may be a product of his time on Saturday Night Live, which Hader credited with giving him a strong work ethic. Even though he will be doing some work, Hader assured his children will get enough time with him they'll be able to "get sick" of him.

In the meantime, Bill Hader is hard at work on Barry Season 2. In addition to his starring role, he'll be directing and have a part in the writing as well. Little is known about the upcoming season so far, although Hader has teased that things are going to be much darker than they were in Season 1. That's hard to believe, given how bleak Season 1 was at times, but the prospect is exciting all the same.

Spoiler alert for Season 1, as Season 2 of Barry is expected to pick up after a shocking turn of events. Barry entered a relationship with Sally and accepted a weekend trip to Gene's country home with his detective girlfriend Moss. Moss then begins to put together that Barry was the actual assassin she was looking for, and it seems as though Barry is forced to kill her.

If that was the case, Barry will be back in trouble as the police search for one of their own. Additionally, Barry runs the risk of losing his relationship with Sally and Gene, both of whom would be horrified to learn he was actually a killer and that he would kill someone he was friendly with. With all that in consideration, perhaps it isn't so hard to believe Season 2 of Barry will be darker than Season 1.

Season 2 of Barry is headed to HBO. For a look at what other new and upcoming shows are set to make a splash in the near future, be sure to visit and bookmark our handy midseason premiere guide.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick Joest is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend with his hand in an eclectic mix of television goodness. Star Trek is his main jam, but he also regularly reports on happenings in the world of Star Trek, WWE, Doctor Who, 90 Day Fiancé, Quantum Leap, and Big Brother. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Radio and Television. He's great at hosting panels and appearing on podcasts if given the chance as well.