Jonathan Banks, who plays Mike Ehrmantraut on AMC’s Better Call Saul, discusses his favorite things about playing Mike and the ways in which Mike’s world in Better Call Saul is different from his world in Breaking Bad.
Q: How did you react when you first learned Mike would be a part of Better Call Saul?
A: I was really up for it. That was my reaction. I felt good. I got to play this character and I love this character. There are a lot of favorite things about playing Mike. He’s beaten down, but as soulless as he’s become, he still has a great deal of honor.
Q: Before it was definitively established in Better Call Saul, did you have any ideas of your own about how Jimmy and Mike first met?
A: No, quite honestly, I did not have any ideas. Vince Gilligan is wonderful and loves the character of Mike. He writes wonderful stuff for me. I’ve worked with both Vince and Peter Gould for years. I really enjoy working with all of the writers, but I also really enjoy them as people. We’re friends at this point. Do we always agree with each other? Maybe not, but you know what? I trust them completely.
Q: Jimmy and Mike have a humorously contemptuous relationship right from the start. Do you sometimes find it hard not to break when you’re filming your scenes opposite Bob Odenkirk?
A: Both Bob and I have been around long enough that we don’t do a lot of breaking. Bob is a good actor, and I enjoy the relationship a lot. Mike and Jimmy have a contentious relationship, and one where they’re irritable with each other. The fun thing is that when you’re acting with someone who’s your friend, I think you have more fun doing it.
Q: You previously stated, “When you play Mike, you live in Mike’s world.” How would you describe Mike’s world? What are some of the ways in which his world in Better Call Saul is different from his world in Breaking Bad?
A: Mike’s world is a world of violence, simply put. He has committed himself to a lot more violence. I look at it through new eyes, because Mike is just arriving in Albuquerque. The familiarity from the Breaking Bad days for Mike is not yet there. Mike is pretty stoic about when he enters someplace. He takes it in, adjusts to it, and uses it.
A: Without being coy, I don’t need to look back. [Laughs] The writers are so good to me and they like the character so much that I’m almost always pleased with what I see and what I get.
Q: Some of Mike’s backstory is revealed in Episode 106. Are you enjoying how the show is peeling that onion a little bit at a time?
A: I love that we go back and learn about Mike’s son. We learn about Mike’s life, and we learn about Mike’s pain. It’s wonderful. I’m going to really enjoy Episode 106.
Q: Talk more about that seldom-seen softer side of Mike. Do you prepare for such scenes differently, since they’re so different from the typical gruff Mike scenes? How?
A: I try to prepare for everything I do. Obviously, any actor is going to bring whatever life experience they have or whatever knowledge they have to a scene. That’s what I do. Those are my things. I bring my life to it. There’s a part of Mike that we would all like to be, and god knows Jonathan Banks is not that strong or noble in many ways. I put out there what I can, and hopefully the audience enjoys it and takes away something.
Q: As a veteran actor, you’ve played a wide variety of roles. Is there any other type of role or character you haven’t played but have always wanted to?
A: I always love characters with some substance and some mystery about them. There are a lot of different roles I’d like to play as they come. Hopefully, I still have enough life in me to play a few more!
Read an interview with Michael McKean, who plays Chuck McGill on AMC’s Better Call Saul.Read More