Q: Vince Gilligan said, “The more we learn about Jimmy McGill, the more we like him, and the more we dread him eventually turning into Saul Goodman.” How does your knowledge of the end result affect how you approach the character of Jimmy?
A: During Breaking Bad, I was aware he was being very phony and putting on a façade. He was putting on a little bit of a show for his clients and for the world, so I got to play him with gusto and without too much concern over what kind of person he actually was deep down inside. He clearly told the world that he was being somebody else. He was okay with ignoring who he was and playing this part – which is disturbing on some level – but at least I didn’t have to worry too much about it. Now that we’ve learned who he is, I do really like him and I agree with Vince.
Q: At the end of last season, Jimmy was devastated by Chuck‘s betrayal. Why do you think that Jimmy is affected so deeply by his brother’s opinion of him?
A: It’s a very weird thing, but we all have people who mean a lot to us and whose appreciation we want to win. Some of those people are fairly self-evident, like your mother or father and your family, but some of them are hard to justify. In this case, it’s a little of both. Chuck is Jimmy’s older brother and a rock star in the house because he’s a top law student who probably succeeded well above where they came from in Cicero. So, Jimmy looked up to his brother as a kid, but at the same time, Jimmy himself probably couldn’t tell you why it means so very much to him on such a deep level, but it just does.
Q: Marco’s death at the end of Season 1 marks a turning point for Jimmy – and the inheritance of the pinkie ring. Jimmy seems to turn to the ring in times of crisis. Does Marco’s ring symbolize a moral compass for Jimmy?
A: Marco’s ring symbolizes a lack of a moral compass and how much fun it is to do away with the societal norms of morality and live in your flow, your talents and your skills. He’s trying to figure out how to do that and win the hearts of people around him, like Kim. Being a free spirit regarding ethics and law within the world he lives in now – he’s trying to figure that out. He can’t get those two things to match up.
Q: There are so many facets to Jimmy’s personality. Is there one that really resonates with you on a personal level?
A: He can be a little crude and I find that funny. I think that if I’m allowed to relax in conversation and be a little rough around the edges, it can be something that feels right for me. I relate to that side of him. I’m also from Chicago, too. I’m from a higher-toned city than Cicero, but my family is from places like Cicero and downtown Chicago, so I get the voice of the character and the roughness. That’s something that fits with me.
Q: In Episode 201, Jimmy turns down the Davis & Main job. Have you ever turned down a job offer and then regretted it? How did you handle that?
A: I’ve turned down job offers, but I’ve never regretted it. I should have turned down more.
Q: Do you regret that?
A: Absolutely. It can be hard to know what to do. You can make a decision that fits in the moment, but not in the long term. The cool thing about Jimmy is that he becomes a little more self-aware. That’s what he learns in the first season. He learns he doesn’t entirely fit there and he doesn’t know how it’s going to work for him, but he doesn’t enter with the naiveté that he had in the first season where he would have thought, “I can be the star here.” Rather, some part of him deep down inside says, “OK, you’re probably not going to work out here.” [Laughs]
Q: Aside from the loot, what do you think attracts Jimmy to scamming?
A: We’ll have to see what happens to him that makes him reject the goodness that is in Jimmy McGill so that he can be this two-dimensional character who acknowledges that he’s just trying to use people around him. It’s kind of sad that he covers up all of his goodness and becomes Saul Goodman.
Q: In Episode 201, Jimmy and Kim order $50 shots of tequila during a scam. What’s the most expensive drink you’ve ever had? Was it worth it?
A: Jeez, I don’t know. I don’t drink much. Champagne is probably the most expensive and it’s a complete waste!
Q: What do you think about Jimmy’s relationship with Kim? How does she affect Jimmy’s choices?
A: He’s trying to impress her. He’s more than trying to impress her. He’s trying to win her affection and her trust. He’s trying to stay in her orbit and be in the world that she clearly wants to inhabit, which is the very respectable legal world. He wants to keep a foot in there so he can be around her. Wish him luck!
Read an interview with Melissa Bernstein, Executive Producer for Better Call Saul.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10/9c on AMC. Receive show exclusives by signing up for the Insiders Club.Read More