Better Call Saul Q&A — Tony Dalton (Lalo Salamanca)

Tony Dalton, who plays Lalo Salamanca on Better Call Saul, talks about why Lalo chooses Saul to pick up his bail money, what Lalo thinks of Nacho and getting the chance to act opposite Rhea Seehorn.

Q: Lalo is a cold-blooded killer one minute and a loving nephew to Hector the next. How do you reconcile the two sides to your character? What’s it like playing both?

A: There's this loyalty towards the family that is great, that Peter [Gould] and Vince [Gilligan] wrote into the Salamanca family.  They could be complete and total psychopaths, but they've got loyalty, and that's something. It's sort of this Godfather, mafia-type thing where the outside world is a dangerous place but, in the family, we all have to love each other. What I think would be really interesting is seeing how Lalo and Tuco would get along because Tuco's insane but Lalo would have to love his cousin, right? And then Lalo is just this carefree guy — that would probably piss Tuco off a lot, being treated that way. But that's who the characters are and they have to love each other because they're Salamancas, and, no matter what, if it's family then it's love. When Saul's talking to Lalo when they're in the garage [in Episode 503, "The Guy For This"] and Saul goes, "How is your lovely abuelita?" that's when Lalo says, "OK, that's the end of this conversation and now it's time for me to talk." Kind of like, don't talk about my family, you know?

[Playing both sides is] a thin line. It's treading in dangerous waters because you don't ever want to either do one more or the other one more. You kind of want to keep this line there. Also, you don't want to just give away everything about how this guy can get mean or that there's this tender or light part of Lalo. You always want to try to keep those two things afloat.

Q: Lalo is spending every waking moment trying to figure out what Gus is up to, yet he doesn't even realize Nacho is working against him. Is Gus a step ahead of Lalo?

A: I think that, right now, for sure that's what's going on. Also, it's kind of what Gus does. Gus is sort of like a mastermind. Lalo doesn't care. Lalo was sent up to Albuquerque because the uncle's in the wheelchair, and he tells Nacho to move over. He's done this in other parts where they've sent him before, I imagine. This guy's this high-ranking member of the family because he's cousins with all these guys and he's also very carefree. So, it's like yeah, I'll probably get a gun in the back of my head and get shot any day from all the stuff I've done, so I might as well just sit back and enjoy this.

Q: What is it about Gus that pushes the Salamancas over the edge?

A: Well, for Hector, Gus is his rival. But, for Lalo, he doesn't care. He's just loyal to whatever his family says, so Hector says this is our enemy, and he's our enemy. But it's kind of like if your brother says I don't like that guy anymore and then you don't like him anymore either just because he's your brother. If they're asking you for help in the water, you just throw them a brick to make sure they drown, but it's not personal really. It's just because I'm part of the family and we don't like you. You're persona non grata.

Q: Nacho, under the pressure of Gus to earn Lalo's trust, goes to great lengths to retrieve drugs that are about to get taken by the cops. Does this work on Lalo? Does he trust Nacho after this?

A: Yeah, I think he does trust him -- as much as he can. Like you well know, the guy doesn't send Nacho to pick up the bail money. He sends Saul, so it's not like he trusts him that much. But, then again, he does think of him moving up the ranks of this whole thing. So, I don't think that Lalo really trusts anybody except for his own family, but Nacho's playing the right cards — even though in one second [Lalo will] turn around and he'll shoot him in the face if he thinks something's going on. I always look at Lalo like he's got something a hell of a lot more important on his mind than what [is happening on] this show, which makes it so much more dangerous and so much more interesting that this guy seems like none of this is sticking to him.

Q: Lalo officially brings Saul Goodman in as his lawyer, despite Saul's apprehension. How was it working with Bob Odenkirk this season?

A: Oh, Bob's amazing. He's great to work with. He's the man. It's his show. When you have your own show, as far as the actor, you set the rules of behavior, as far as even the crew and the set and everything. So, if you're cool, everybody else is cool. If you're stressed and yelling and snapping fingers, then everybody else is kind of angry. And Bob is amazing, and the crew's amazing also. He listens. We'll rehearse the scene the day before in his house or something. I mean, it's a very healthy work environment. And the friendship — he opens his doors and he opens his heart and he's a very kind man.

Q: Why does Lalo ultimately ask Saul, a man he's only just met, to get his $7 million dollars in bail money?

A: Well, I think it's because he's got nobody else to call. He actually kind of explains that in [Episode 508], at the beginning, where Saul says, "Why me? Why don't you call your Cousins? Why don't they bring the money?" You're a lawyer from this town. I've got nobody else, and you're my lawyer. Lalo thinks that it's a gamble, but, again, he's carefree. It's, like, what is this guy going to do? This scared little lawyer, what the hell is he going to do? He's going to go pick up the money. He's not going to keep it. He's going to come back — what else? I don't think he gives Saul the credit of how smart he is. He knows he's smart, but he doesn't know how smart this guy can get.

Q: Kim goes to see Lalo when Jimmy doesn't come home. What is he thinking when he learns who she is?

A: Well, I think that, at the beginning, he really doesn't believe her. It's kind of like I'll play along, but this could be a lie. Like I said, this guy, he doesn't believe anybody. That was, by the way, a really great scene to do with Rhea [Seehorn]. She's wonderful to work with. I mean, really wonderful. And not a lot of us get to work with Rhea, us bad guys. That was really lots of fun. And I think that the moment he finds out that she's the wife, then he's calm. He's, like, man that's it. If this guy's married to this girl, my money's coming back. I mean, there's no way that this guy's leaving this girl. He even says that to her afterwards.

Q: Lalo, like all Salamancas, tends to lead with emotion. What makes him think to go back and look for Jimmy's car in the desert?

A: I think that when Lalo is getting out of town and he starts driving down that road, it just kind of dawns on him that we should see this car sooner or later. I mean, he didn't think about it before. It wasn't something that, when he got on the road, he was going to look out for that car. But Lalo, he's a smart guy. From the first time you meet him, he says I've got a good head for numbers. He's a guy that's very quick, his mind. So I think that once he's in that car and he's driving down, he's like, "Wait a minute, what the hell's going on here? I mean, there should be a dirty car thrown away somewhere here." And then, when he finds it and there's a bullet hole, that's when he says, "Oh wait a minute, something else is going on here."

Q: When Lalo confronts Saul about what actually happened out in the desert, it’s Kim that ultimately stands up to Lalo. Does she hit something sensitive in him? Does he simply believe her?

A: I think that, after she stands up and starts going crazy on Lalo, he basically goes, "You know what, maybe I'm just thinking about this too much. These gringos are here doing their thing. I got out of jail, so what's the big deal?" She's telling me why don't you just thank the guy instead, and here I am about to kill these people. So I think it's Lalo taking a step back, saying, "You know what, here I was taking things seriously, getting all huffy and puffy, when everything's fine."

Read a Q&A with Vince Gilligan, who co-created Better Call Saul and directed episode 508.

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