There’s this running bit on Sunday night’s episode of Barry. At various points, each of the main characters finds themselves at a place called Beignets by Mitch, pouring their hearts out to the proprietor, a beanie-clad bro with a thick SoCal drawl and absolutely zero changes in facial expression. Sally (Sarah Goldberg) is wondering whether she should work with the fickle streaming service that pulled her show. NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) is dealing with relationship issues concerning his boyfriend and rival gangster Cristobal. And Barry (Bill Hader) is trying to figure out if it’s a bad idea to meet up with some old Army buddies.
You’ve probably been to some version of this establishment before: airy and minimalist decor, hyped artisanal food, a comically long wait, and an owner vibrating on an entirely different plane of existence. But Mitch actually turns out to be a perfect sounding board, giving each one of them surprisingly deep, tailored advice while a huge line snakes outside the door.
“I’d tread lightly if I were you,” he tells Barry, for instance. “This one time I went to this 10-year reunion with these dudes I used to sell drugs with and they just weren’t the same dudes. Like, this one guy was super MAGA and trying to get me on anti-CRT shit. And the other dude tried to make me watch videos of dads rapping and it was corny as fuck. Trust me, I’d, like, do a Zoom sesh before you go for the full-on in-person hang.” (And, well, he turned out to be right.)
Mitch is played by Tom Allen, a Los Angeles-based actor who says he tends to gravitate towards “childlike, naive, surfer-bro kind of roles.” Even so, Mitch was special. “I love the character so much,” he said. “He cares about people, and he’s achieving what he set out to do. He’s living his dream. So he’s a very aspirational character to me.”
GQ: What was the initial description you saw for the role?
Tom Allen: They wanted him to be the sort of neighborhood therapist. They wanted a guy who has a stoic exterior, but he’s an incredibly thoughtful, sensitive, and caring guy. I think the thing they wanted to get across is that even though he has this very stoned exterior, when he speaks, you realize that he’s actually listening.
Beignets by Mitch felt like it could be spoofing any number of places. Do you know what it was based on?
What came to mind was Sidecar Donuts. Immediately when I saw the role and thought of the beignet shop, I thought of Venice. I sort of drew inspiration from all my Venice holistic bodies, who all embody that sort of bro-iness, but they’re all very thoughtful and insightful and have a spiritual take on everything. I just love them.
What was it like to be directed by Bill Hader?
He’s incredible. He knows exactly what he wants. He really made it easy for me. You could just tell that he has this vision and knows how to execute it.
He’s a comedy hero of mine, so it was sort of surreal. He’s a good laugher, too, which I really appreciate. Making Bill Hader laugh was really special to me.
What sorts of notes were you getting? “More stoned, more stoned!”
He was like, “if you could show as little emotion as possible.” His whole thing was, if the characters actually listened to Mitch and took his advice, their lives would be much better. So I think having that come from this ultra-stoned bro makes it hit even harder.
Do you relate to Mitch at all?
I was a philosophy major. And in high school I was called “the most disheveled kid in school.” Everyone thought I was the biggest stoner, I think I just have that aura about me. Everyone’s like, “Oh my God, that guy is so high all the time.” But I actually don’t smoke weed. I think I just naturally have that kind of energy about me. I’m very into abstract thinking with philosophy and giving advice to people.
The enlightened bro.
I don’t want to say I’m the most enlightened, but I strive for it, I guess.
Well, were the beignets good?
I love beignets. My brother lives in New Orleans, so I’m a big beignet fan. My passion for the beignets, it was very natural and real. They’re delicious, they’re awesome.
This interview has been edited and condensed.