Melissa Bernstein, Executive Producer for AMC’s Better Call Saul, tells fans what they can look forward to in Season 2 and whether she’d want Jimmy McGill or Saul Goodman representing her in court.
A: Both Mark Johnson and I co-executive produced Breaking Bad with Vince and Peter, and Mark somewhat discovered Vince many years ago at a screenwriting competition where Mark was a judge. When Breaking Bad came together, Vince kindly invited me into the process. I got to be a part of the very first meetings with Bryan Cranston and I was on the forefront of finding writers for Vince to work with because he was really starting from scratch. I was given a script of Peter’s that really reflected all of the priorities in a writer – a dialogue that sounded like real people, a script that made us laugh and care – Peter had all of that. I introduced him to Vince and that was the beginning of our collaboration.
Q: What were your thoughts when the idea of a spin-off based on Saul started surfacing?
A: It started as a joke! Then, it started to grow in Peter and Vince’s heads. Vince credits Peter with creating the Saul Goodman character because he was introduced in one of Peter’s episodes. We talked for years and it started to become something that could really be an exciting rabbit hole to go down.
Q: In creating this world of Jimmy McGill from the Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad, were there things that you thought would be huge obstacles and weren’t? Or things that you thought would be easy and have become challenges?
A: We often find ourselves surprised by Jimmy’s journey and what presents the biggest challenges. Dramatically, what’s challenging is that we know Jimmy/Saul lives even if he’s in life or death situations. We know he’s going to make it through them. I think that’s an interesting issue to work around because it puts a lot of pressure on us to make the scenes as immediate as possible. The danger still needs to feel very urgent and present, but the scene has to be satisfying on a whole different level.
Bob [Odenkirk], from the get-go, had a really strong opinion about what Saul’s hair should look like and you’d be surprised how much thought we put into these hairpieces. In many ways, we’re trying to track the character through his hair. [Laughs]
Q: How do you keep audiences engaged and the show feeling fresh when viewers know (at least part of) the characters’ futures?
A: What’s great is there is a whole swath of time that we know very little about. I think it’s truly fascinating to understand how any person could become Saul Goodman because it’s such a particular point of view on life as shown through his clothes, the way he counsels his clients… It’s interesting to see how someone gets to that place. I think something that the writers do an excellent job at is not bypassing any detail and really examining all of his choices and transformational moments. They don’t just pass over things to get to the good stuff. The journey is the destination.
Q: What were some of your favorite moments from Season 1?
A: In the pilot, I love our skateboarding twins. It was so much fun to put that sequence together and see Jimmy at the height of his craft, trying to achieve his goal with good intentions only to end up with Tuco. Towards the end of the season, the scene where Bob is at the Bingo game with the senior citizens — to see that window into the darker corners of his character is really fascinating. Jimmy is such a doggedly optimistic character, but to see that façade crack was really thrilling. It tells us so much and confirms that this is a story I want to follow.
Q: Without giving too much away, what are some of the things that fans can look forward to in the coming season?
A: We get to know more about the characters in Season 2. With Kim, for example, we’ve never really been introduced to a woman that was active in Saul’s orbit. We get to know her better and how Jimmy’s relationships really affect his choices and story moving forward. Mike has had a dark past and it’s exciting to see how he found himself surrounded by the unsavory characters that he ultimately does. He’s got such a strong moral core, but to see how that’s influenced is really fascinating and we go even deeper and further with that.
Q: We’ve been asking your colleagues this, now it’s your turn. If you were in a legal bind, who would you want as your lawyer: Jimmy or Saul?
A: [Laughs] I would probably still go with Saul Goodman! In my mind, he would have everything that Jimmy has to offer plus the Saul Goodman additions which are endless. Who could pass that up?
Better Call Saul returns for Season 2 on Monday, Feb. 15 at 10/9c. Watch a first-look video on amc.com.
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