Bob Odenkirk, who plays Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman on AMC's Better Call Saul, discusses saying goodbye to the show after six seasons, why Jimmy is off his game at the beginning of Season 6, and how Kim is taking the lead in the couple's scams. Plus: He shares what fans can expect from Walt and Jesse's appearance on Better Call Saul.
We have to start by saying how happy we are to be speaking with you after your health scare last year. What was it like to see the support of so many fans during that time and how, if at all, did the incident impact your work on the show?
That was a major thing in my life. It's something I'll be thinking about and it's going to affect how I live the rest of my life. It made me think about my mortality and my friends – the good friends I had on the set and the people I have in my life – and the public at large were so good and considerate and concerned. I'm still sort of figuring it out. But we went back to work. It just tied us all closer together – me and Rhea [Seehorn] and Patrick [Fabian] and Tony Dalton and Vince [Gilligan] and everyone who was there that day [and] everyone in the whole crew, even the people who weren't there that day. It made us a tighter family.
How are you feeling overall about this whole experience, now that the show is coming to an end?
It's the biggest thing in my career. There's no question, this is the biggest thing I will have done and it'll resonate through the rest of my life. I have been given a lot of wonderful roles because I did this role, so I'll just always think about it. I don't think I'll ever have a part as well-written as this again. I get drama and comedy and depth. I get to go everywhere all the time, and it's just a rare role that has this much dynamics in it.
This is the first season in the show's history that we don't open in black and white with our friend Gene. Should we hold out hope that we will see Gene again?
Oh, you're going to see Gene again! Everything [the writers] start in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul they take somewhere. Nothing just disappears. And the character of Gene and what happens in his life after Breaking Bad, is going to be explored. But I will say that probably the thing that is most curious and that I can't wait to see is the story of Kim and what happens to her.
Speaking of Kim, she's created this big plot against Howard. And while Jimmy is trying to be supportive, it's clear he is less enthused – and maybe even a little worried about why she wants this so much. How would you describe JImmy's feelings at this point?
There's so much going on inside Jimmy at the beginning of this sixth season, but you have to remember what happened at the end of the fifth season when he was in the desert with Mike. It really shook him to his core. So there's a lot of uncertainty he feels at Kim's suggestion of a plot against Howard. He's not sure if that's because he thinks the plans are inadvisable, or if his confidence is so shaken from this traumatic time in the desert that he just isn't going to be able to [pull this off]. So, he has to do something to prove to himself that he can live again, be himself again, come out of that desert and that PTSD. And so there's so much going on inside him.
He looks at Kim and he's not sure what's inspiring her, but maybe he's just doubting himself. Maybe it has nothing to do with her. Maybe she's completely fine because she didn't go in the desert, get chased down by somebody, and get shot at. And drink her own urine. And that's why I say she's the mystery of the season. He doesn't quite know what's driving her, what she's after. He knows that they both enjoy pulling these pranks and scams, but right at this moment he's so off-balance at the beginning of Season 6 that he's just trying to re-find his feet. He's doing these things because he loves her and because they have fun together. And maybe if he does this stuff, he'll feel normal again.
Better Call stars tease what to expect in the final season:
In addition to the PTSD of the incident in the desert, the threat of Lalo is still out there as well. How much is that weighing on him?
He's afraid of Lalo, absolutely. For him Lalo is like a specter out there. He'll never believe Lalo's dead, even if he goes to the funeral. Lalo is like this creature that's just going to always be hovering in the background, a shadow of fear.
You mentioned that Jimmy is hoping that playing out these cons will help him get some of his confidence back. Do you think that happens for him in Episode 1, when he goes to the golf club, especially when he pushes through despite Kim's warning to abort?
He does get off on that little fun game in the first episode. I mean, he thinks his little plan is working. "I'll just go along with this and I'll re-find my balance." In that moment it feels pretty good. He absolutely feels like he has to push through or he won't be himself ever again. But no, I think it's still pretty rough.
And that perhaps continues in Episode 2 with the Kettlemans, where Jimmy can't quite put them in their place.
There's no question he's going through a process of trying to find his mojo. He wants to participate in these scams and he wants to wrestle with the Kettlemans, but he just doesn't have the spine yet. He relates the Kettlemans to this time of innocence when he thinks of scamming them before, but I think part of him is struggling to dig in here. ... So, he's taking his cues from Kim. She's got the cojones and she's also very into this, so she's leading now.
Do you think Jimmy will keep struggling or will he eventually get that mojo back?
He will get back to being full-on Saul, more than ever. But not for good reasons, not because he embraces something in a joyful way. I can't wait for people to see it. It's a tragic choice but also fun to watch.
We now know that Walt and Jesse from Breaking Bad will make an appearance of some sort in this final season of Better Call Saul. What was it like seeing those character again through the lens of this show and Jimmy/Saul's POV?
This is an amazing situation that we have Walt and Jesse back. Now, I do think it was to be expected. I think that it would have been a mistake to not have them traipse through our frame at some point, and I think everyone knows that. I'm glad that they're back and I'm glad that people know, and everyone can just take a breath and exhale and look for them because no one knows when and where and how much they'll show up. So there's still a lot to be surprised by. But I think it is absolutely true that, when you see them, some part of you's going to want to watch Breaking Bad again and see how the various scenes fit together. It's really going to be fun. It's something I know I'm going to do.
Do you have a final word or thought for the fans who supported and loved this show?
I would just like to say to everybody, "Thank you for giving us a chance." A lot of times when your favorite show is rebooted, reused, put somewhere else, that love that you have for that thing can feel like it's being used and abused and taken advantage of. Of course, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould would never have done that, but still it can feel that way. It was an amazing experience that first season to see people just have an open mind to watch the show and see what we had to offer, and I'll never stop being thankful for that opportunity. And I would say one of the reasons is because Breaking Bad ended before people were tired of it or kind of exhausted by it. Most shows last a little too long and Breaking Bad didn't, and I think that helped us an awful lot. If Breaking Bad went two more seasons, I don't think we could have had this opportunity because I think people would have been like, "Yeah, yeah, we had more than our fill of it." But that was not the case at all. People were very hungry for more.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 9/8c on AMC and AMC+. For more on the two-episode Season 6 premiere, read our Q&A with co-creator and executive producer Peter Gould.