Mark Margolis, who plays Hector “Tio” Salamanca on AMC’s Better Call Saul, talks about auctioning off Tio’s bell and working with Jonathan Banks for the first time.
Q: You’re back and with a little more pep in your step than on Breaking Bad. What was the first thing that went through your mind when you got the call to be a part of Better Call Saul?
A: That I had to start speaking and that my notoriety would probably go down the tubes once I started talking. I was pretty good when I didn’t speak! It was terrific to hear from them and I happen to love going to New Mexico. It’s a wonderful, magical place.
Q: How did it feel to walk into that diner and talk to Mike?
A: [Laughs] It’s not the biggest issue. I have walked in hundreds of other things I’ve been on. I think I’ve only done one or two other wheelchair roles. I also had to speak Spanish. I am not a native Spanish-speaker. … I took Spanish in high school and I’m good with the accent, but I needed a tutor. They had a very good tutor on Better Call Saul who also worked with me on Breaking Bad.
Q: Tio and Mike never interact onscreen during Breaking Bad…
A: Not only did they never interact, but I had never met Jonathan Banks. However, I happen to be a big fan of his… I was thrilled that I was working with him. When I watched Better Call Saul Season 1, I was interested in it, but my interest was really grabbed when I saw Mike. On some level, I was a little bit uneasy. My son said, “Try to do work so that Jonathan Banks doesn’t just blow you away.” My son likes to mess with me!
Q: They’re both men with plenty of years behind them. What similarities do you see between the two?
A: They’re both people who work very specifically at getting what they want. Tio tries to get something out of Mike that he can’t get out of him because Mike is a very tough guy. They’re both quite formidable people.
Q: Was there any particular mannerism from Tio in Breaking Bad that you wanted to keep in your portrayal of him as a younger man?
A: Well, there was a thing I always did with my mouth. I thought about trying to find a place where I could do that, but that was a result of the stroke or whatever he had. He’s different here and a cooler, more sophisticated creature than the messed-up old man that he is on Breaking Bad. I was thinking about an elegant style in dealing with other people. They also gave me very nice clothing, which made me feel a bit more elegant.
Q: Did Better Call Saul have to do any special makeup effects to make you look younger like they did for the flashback scenes in Breaking Bad?
A: It was a subtler thing and they darkened my hair and got rid of some of my lines. On Breaking Bad, they literally pulled back my skin with elastic to tighten my face. It’s taped to the sides of your head, right at your hairline, and it pulls the whole face back. It’s actually a $29 plastic surgery without being cut up.
Q: Why does Tio want to help Tuco when he’s obviously a liability?
A: It’s a family thing and it’s about loyalty. In one of the episodes of Breaking Bad, Tio tells the Cousins when they were young, “Family is all.”
Q: What’s your favorite part of playing Tio?
A: I loved being in the chair and not having the ability to speak, but [I also love] having a mind that works to show I’m still connected to what’s coming at me. I love working with Vince Gilligan and the crew. They are just amazing. It’s hard to pick one thing. In this case, I was thrilled about having an opportunity to work with Jonathan Banks.
Q: Tio’s bell fetched the second highest amount at the Breaking Bad auction: $26,750! Does that make you proud?
A: Proud?! No, I didn’t get any of it! What I always thought was that the people who bought it obviously have more money than they need. It’s a device that’s worth $16, but it does still have the marks from the explosion. They must have it in a glass case with a light on it. If I can find out who they are, I would attend their next big soiree at their mansion – I assume they live in a mansion – and I would be willing to ding the bell for $10,000 or $15,000. Someone also bought Heisenberg’s underwear. That’s guaranteed to have his DNA.
Read an interview with Michael McKean, who plays Chuck McGill.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10/9c on AMC. Receive show exclusives by signing up for the Insiders Club.Read More