Better Call Saul Q&A – Patrick Fabian (Howard Hamlin)

Patrick Fabian, who plays Howard Hamlin on AMC's Better Call Saul, talks about Howard's relationships with Jimmy and Kim, Howard's power suits, and "Hamlindigo" blue.

Q: Jimmy quickly sets the tone for his relationship with Hamlin in the series premiere, when he refers to Howard as "Lord Vader." Have you enjoyed playing Jimmy's primary antagonist?

A: Absolutely. It’s called Better Call Saul, not Better Call Howard, and everybody is introduced to the world via Jimmy’s point of view. So, when he calls me Lord Vader, we just accept that as the truth. Though, in all seriousness, I can’t say Howard has done anything necessarily Lord Vader-ish yet. The great thing about Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould is that all is not what it seems with the characters. So, it remains to be seen, but it’s certainly fun to be the one who wears the better suit!

Q: Can’t argue there! Entertainment Tonight actually named you the best dressed man on TV. Have you had any input into developing Howard's sharp look? Does being dressed to the nines help you get into character?

A: Wardrobe is so very important. Jennifer Bryan, the costume designer, came up with these beautiful tie bars and knit ties, and Howard’s got all these fine Italian suits. All credit goes to her. When he puts it on, he feels it. He just knows he’s got the most expensive suit on in the room, and that gives him power and a sense of self. He knows he’s wearing more money than most people make in a week. That does support me as an actor playing him. Hopefully I can take the suits with me.

Q: Has your on-set wardrobe spoiled you in real life?

A: I don’t know how anyone would top this. Jennifer has really pampered me, and I had a whole ritual to make sure I looked good. Howard is a peacock, but I don’t think he thinks he’s vain. That’s the worst kind of vanity, isn’t it?

Q: Though Jimmy's negative feelings towards Howard are much stronger, it's apparent Howard has little love for Jimmy, too. How do you and Bob Odenkirk approach the scenes in which you have to portray such disdain for one another? Is there anything you do to prepare?

A: Bob doesn’t like me already. I, of course, like everybody, so it costs me emotionally. [Laughs] No, no, it’s that age-old thing where the writing is just good. The writing supports you, and it becomes easy to lock horns. Like any good character, you want what you want, and when anybody’s in the way, there’s friction.

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Q: Talk a little bit about Howard's relationship with Kim. At times he seems to view her as a protégé, but he's quick to downgrade her office when she loses the Kettlemans as clients in Episode 107, and he's just plain rude to her in Episode 109. What's going on there?

A: I think he’s looking to groom her. His expectations are higher with her, and so are his disappointments. When the Kettleman case gets fumbled, which is a no-brainer, it brings a black mark on the company. For the sake of everybody else in the firm, her fumbling that case could not go without repercussions. As a leader of the firm, it would be bad if he let her slide on that. But on the other hand, if he threw her out, it would show that he had bad judgement. He still has to exercise control. Kim says she owes Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, and Howard knows this. He’s very confident in her loyalty.

Q: You’ve played other executive types in the past. How does Howard compare with some of the other hotshot kingpins you’ve played? Have you drawn inspiration from any real world corporate leaders?

A: I have played a lot of suits and CEOs with dirty streaks, but because of the actual age I am now -- I have to admit, I’m middle-aged -- it feels a little more solid with Howard. It feels like I’ve earned it. I’m a political junkie, so I’m always fascinated by politicians. Howard is like a politician. He’s the face of the firm, and is careful about what he says. I often think of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke -- those men are so good at saying nothing, but speaking a lot.

Q: "Hamlindigo" blue has quickly become popular on Twitter. What do you think of Howard's signature color?

A: Somebody actually made one of those paint palettes that you get in a paint store. It’s fantastic, and they sent it along to the office to hang up on the Better Call Saul art board. Now I’m getting comments all the time when I’m not in blue, or if I’m wearing another shade of blue. I’m thrilled.

Q: Any idea if we'll ever meet the other Hamlin in Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill?

A: It remains to be seen whether Hamlin has a brother or father, but I vote to make the other Hamlin be Sean Connery, as Howard's grandpa.

Read an interview with Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler on AMC’s Better Call Saul.