Laura Fraser, who plays Lydia Rodarte-Quayle on AMC's Better Call Saul, discusses how Lydia is different from her time on Breaking Bad, what it was like to have the upper hand on Mike, and why Stevia always makes her laugh.
Q: How/when did you find out that you would be reprising your role from Breaking Bad on Better Call Saul? Was it a possibility you had thought about back when the spin-off was first announced?
A: I was on holiday, having a nice time in the Canary Islands with my family, and then I got an email asking if I'd like to come back to Albuquerque. A few days later, I spoke with Peter Gould and Ann Cherkis about what they had in mind, and it sounded like a lot of fun. I'd been watching Better Call Saul, and I love the show, so I was absolutely delighted. I love how meditative Better Call Saul is. It's relaxing and it's got a certain tranquility. I was absolutely delighted. I considered that Lydia could conceivably be a part of the Better Call Saul landscape, but then I thought, “So could so many other characters!” I suppose it's just a matter of luck, timing and whose storyline's doing what. It was a lovely surprise to be asked to be a part of it.
Q: Were there any specific measures you had to take to keep your return hidden?
A: I didn't take measures, but measures were enforced upon me. [Laughs] For example, I was given a fake character name, which I think a few people were given. I know Gus had a fake character name and even his real name was changed on the call sheet. When I got the script for the first episode that I was in [Episode 6], it didn't say Lydia. At first, I wondered if Lydia was a fake identity that she created after some dastardly deeds in the prequel, but then I realized it was just a security measure from production.
Q: This takes place several years before we first met Lydia in Breaking Bad. How, if at all, is she different?
A: She hasn't started unraveling. She feels really secure and confident in her place in the world, and she even experiences moments of happiness and contentment. She's ambitious and enjoying her profession. She still has this air of irritability that betrays her genuine comfort levels, but she hasn't yet started to fray. My husband calls this version of her “Lydia Lite.” [Laughs] Before, on Breaking Bad, she was motivated by fear whereas now she's motivated by ambition, which for her is just a different kind of fear.
Q: How would you describe Lydia's relationship with Gus at this time point in time? Do you hope to eventually explore how they got mixed up together?
A: Lydia and Gus at this point have just started working together. She admires his intelligence and his tranquility. There's not much I know, but it would definitely be interesting to explore their working relationship. It would be good to find out. I mean, how the hell did they meet? I'm dying to know what they would come up with.
Q: Even though Lydia was in business with Gus, we only met her after he died. What was it like actually sharing a scene with Giancarlo?
A: It was lovely to meet him, although we were like ships in the night because every time I arrived in Albuquerque, he was leaving. I got to spend a few hours with him when we were doing that scene in [Episode 6], and we were chatting about this ranch in upstate New York that our families both used to go to because we both lived close to the same area. We chatted a bit about how long we may have been working together as Lydia and Gus, and he was very interested in my character's car I was driving. He wanted to buy it. [Laughs]
Q: What does Lydia make of Mike? Do you think she questions what Gus sees in him?
A: For some reason, she has this natural dislike for Mike and the feeling is mutual. It's like his disgruntlement makes her feel defensive and it brings out her haughtiness, which then irritates him even more and it escalates the situation. I think she wonders why Gus would choose to involve Mike when Mike seemingly underestimates Gus, but maybe being underestimated gives Gus the upper hand. Perhaps that's the way Gus likes it. It was strange to play such a different dynamic with Mike this time around, but it was definitely less stressful than previous scenes I've shot with Mike. There was no gun at my head, for example.
Q: What was it like to have the upper hand on Mike as opposed to the nervous/jittery interactions Lydia had with him on Breaking Bad?
A: It was unusual. It was almost like a new character in some ways. For me, a lot of Lydia was pent up in this idea that she's very afraid, so to have her be more secure and confident was unusual territory, and I wasn't sure where I was or what I was doing. It was fun to see his face when I was a bit cheeky to him as Lydia, so I did enjoy it.
Q: What does it say about Lydia's relationship with Gus that she's willing to do this for him?
A: I do think she admires him, and she's attracted to that intelligence and eerie calm he has because she's such a naturally wound up and uptight person, so that appeals to her. He's a good businessman. Perhaps there are aspects about how he runs business operations that she would like to emulate and maybe she wants to be a bit looser because she's too tight, but at the same time, I don't think she'd do anything for anyone if she didn't think it would serve her. At this point, I think it's serving her and she doesn't feel in any danger because she can cover her ass each step of the way. It's only later when she starts to worry that she can't cover up her actions that things start to unravel.
Q: How often are you recognized/approached by Breaking Bad fans?
A: People really like it here in the U.K. It goes in waves. Sometimes there's nothing for months and then it's another wave, depending on repeats or who's showing it or Netflix. People don't really come up to me in the streets. It's more of a casual surprise. I'll just be finishing eating a sandwich in a cafe and as I'm leaving, somebody will say, “Oh, I like Breaking Bad by the way” or halfway through an exchange, they'll go, “Oh, you're in...” That kind of thing. Nobody crosses the street to talk to me or anything.
Q: Given how Lydia died, do you find yourself avoiding Stevia and other sweeteners in real life?
A: [Laughs] Whenever I see it in the supermarket, I do have a quiet chuckle to myself. It always makes me laugh. It never fails. No sugar, no sweetener, no Stevia.
Read a Q&A with Patrick Fabian, who plays Howard Hamlin.
Better Call Saul's Season 3 finale airs Monday at 10/9c. For the latest information and exclusives sign up for the Insiders Club.