Bob Odenkirk, who plays Jimmy McGill on AMC’s Better Call Saul, talks about his initial reaction to starring in a Breaking Bad prequel, what his former castmates think of the series, and whether he’d prefer to have Saul or Jimmy as his legal representation.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you were first approached about starring in a Breaking Bad prequel based on Saul?
A: I believe I nodded thoughtfully and mumbled, “Uhhh… sure.” Seriously, I kept it extremely low-key. I basically just said, “If you (Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould) write it, then I’ll do it,” with little or no excitement. Why? Because I only wanted to do it if Vince and Peter wanted to do it for their own reasons, and not because they’d gotten my hopes up or anything like that. I knew that if they had their own organic drive to do the show, then that would make it the best possible version of the show, and so it came to be.
Q: You’ve compared Better Call Saul to “a superhero origin story.” What were some of the things you were most hoping to learn about the story of how Jimmy McGill becomes Saul Goodman?
A: Everything. Seeing as how we knew nothing about him. All we knew in Breaking Bad was that Saul wasn’t his name, and that his persona was something he’d intentionally built to attract a certain clientele (the “homeboys”). So, we had everything to learn. Let me tell you, the character that Vince and Peter have created here is much more interesting, sympathetic and fun than any version I could have dreamed up.
Q: You’ve previously said that Saul’s combover was your idea. What other ideas did you contribute to the development of the Saul/Jimmy character?
A: Almost nothing. I suggested he come from Chicago, which is where I’m from and which is a town that more than tolerates a kind of ethically complex interaction. Other than the hair and that little tidbit, every aspect comes from the writers, and I love it that way.
Q: You have a background in both comedy and writing. Did you pitch any scene ideas for Better Call Saul?
A: Not a thing. Breaking Bad was the first time I got to approach an interesting role purely as an actor, with no responsibility for the structure or production of the show. It was incredibly freeing and fun. I wanted to keep that relationship. Vince, Peter and the writers create the story, I do my job bringing it to life. It’s a wonderful separation of duties that I will be maintaining through the entire run of the show.
Q: Your former Breaking Bad castmates must be excited about the show. Who have you heard from, and what did they say?
A: I’ve literally heard from every single cast member, and they’ve all been across-the-board supportive and excited for me and the show. Bryan [Cranston], Aaron [Paul], Dean [Norris], RJ [Mitte] and Betsy [Brandt] all made it to the premiere and absolutely loved it. Anna [Gunn] was was out of town working on premiere night, so she contacted me and gave me great encouragement. It’s an amazing group of actors who love the work we all did together and are, from what I can tell, thrilled with this show.
Q: What was your favorite Saul moment from Breaking Bad? Do you have a favorite Saul one-liner?
A: Any and all physical confrontations. I love Saul when he’s getting the sh-t kicked out of him, and I love playing those moments because I would never do that in real life. I like all of Saul’s one-liners equally. They’re my babies! How can you expect me to pick one over another?!
Q: If you were in legal trouble, who would you rather have representing you, Saul or Jimmy?
Jimmy! I just like him more. I like to work with people who I like. Seriously. Plus, he is not without the legal-smarts. He knows how the system works. I think Saul would be overbearing and running his own game.
Read an interview with Patrick Fabian, who plays Howard Hamlin on AMC’s Better Call Saul.Read More