Michael Mando, who plays Nacho on AMC’s Better Call Saul, talks about Nacho’s relationship with Mike and what makes his character unique in the underworld.
Q: Last season, you described Nacho as a “young crocodile who wants to feed so he can grow and become the king of the pond.” Whose pond does he want to become king of? How’s his progress coming along?
A: This season is a coming-of-age arc for Nacho. I think the pond that he wants to be a part of is as big as possible, and if it involves all of Albuquerque, then so be it. If it stretches beyond that, I’m sure Nacho would take that as well. His ambitions are as big as his destiny will permit him.
Q: You’ve talked about similarities between Nacho and Jimmy. How are the two characters alike, and how are they different?
A: I think they’re alike in the sense that they’re both striving for something that is beyond the way other people see them. I think they’re different because Nacho has a very clear sense of what he’s striving for, regardless of the opinions of others. Jimmy, so far, is desperately trying to fit into the opinions of others, but he’s slowly getting out of that.
Q: You’ve called Nacho’s father one of the most moral characters on the show. Did that window into Nacho’s backstory in Episode 2 make you see your character in a different light?
A: I was really surprised, in a positive way, when I found out how morally sound his father was. I think it gave a lot of insight into Nacho because it showed that he not only has the capacity for empathy and compassion, but he has a very rational understanding of it. To put a character like that in the underworld is very interesting.
Q: Nacho doesn’t use violence gratuitously like Tuco does. What are the differences in their moral codes? Do the two balance each other out?
A: I think the beauty about Nacho’s character is that he is very focused on a sustainable and recurring business model. This means he’s interested in security, healthy interpersonal relationships and profit. Violence is a means of control and Tuco’s ego gets involved in the business interactions. [Tuco’s] aim isn’t always about profit, so he sometimes reacts impulsively. Nacho always tries to react rationally and profit is always his aim.
Q: What did you think about Mike refusing to kill Tuco and then returning Nacho’s money?
A: People say, “Real recognizes real.” Nacho instinctively recognizes Mike and he respects his opinion. He decides to take a leap of faith and follow Mike’s advice, but in the end, I think Nacho realizes he probably made a mistake because it felt like they were taking a half measure. When Mike returns the money, Nacho is a bit alarmed. He’s not exactly sure what Mike’s intentions are. He hopes that it was just an honorable action, but I think he’s starting to doubt Mike’s morality. Nacho knows that in order to protect his family, Mike needs to bury the hatchet with the cartel. Nacho is very aware of how violent and unforgiving the cartel is. It makes Mike’s actions a little questionable and Nacho wonders how much of this is driven by ego and how much is driven by calculated thought.
Watch: Nacho watches Tuco and Mike face-off
A: That’s a question you’d have to ask Raymond Cruz! [Laughs] I can tell you that from Nacho’s point of view, even though he has a very strong capacity to read people, he would probably judge people based on actions and facts rather than an abstract lie detector test. I think that’s also a good example of the differences between Nacho and Tuco.
Q: Were you excited to see Hector “Tio” Salamanca and The Cousins appear on Better Call Saul? Which Breaking Bad character would you love to see on a future episode?
A: I’ve been extremely lucky to work with Mark Margolis, Max Arciniega, and Daniel and Luis Moncada. I got to know them as people and to call them friends. I’d love to see them all come back. As for a Breaking Bad character that we haven’t seen yet, I hope Gus Fring will be back.
Q: You’ve said that Bob Odenkirk became your mentor on this show. What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
A: Bob once took me aside and told me to trust my instinct as an actor above that little voice of doubt that creeps into your mind when you’re on set because, when the day is over and you go home, you’ll regret not trying.
Q: Who would you prefer defending you in the courtroom? Jimmy or Saul?
A: If Nacho were in legal trouble, my answer hands down would be Saul Goodman because he would go the distance to protect his interests even if he’s possibly guilty. [Laughs] Saul is the criminal’s lawyer because he’s a criminal himself.
Read an interview with Patrick Fabian, who plays Howard Hamlin.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10/9c on AMC. Receive show exclusives by signing up for the Insiders Club.Read More