Max Arciniega, who plays Domingo “Krazy-8” Molina on AMC’s Better Call Saul, talks about reprising his role from Breaking Bad and creating the Tampico jingle.
Q: What was your reaction when you got the call to come back for Better Call Saul?
A: I’m not going to lie; I was just so shocked. Kelley Dixon, who was an editor on one of my episodes, hosted something at her house the day before the Breaking Bad finale and I saw Vince Gilligan there. He mentioned a prequel and that there would be a possibility I would be coming back. I started seeing the momentum once it got picked up and when Vince says something, you take it seriously. [Laughs] I knew Season 1 was not going to be the case because they needed to introduce all the characters. But I had always hoped that it would happen. I never put my character to sleep in my brain. Sure enough, the call came in.
Q: Were you interested in exploring the character’s backstory outside of being Walter White’s first kill?
A: The beauty of all of it is that you try to create your own backstory, but you just can’t with these amazing writers because they pull the rug out from under you. [Laughs] We’re at their mercy – in a good way.
In Episode 3 of Breaking Bad Season 1, you hear this backstory about him wanting to study music at Oberlin or Berklee, but there’s a question about whether that was true. Was that a manipulation to convince Walter to let him go? In my head, I think it was true. I think he had a father that told him that dream wasn’t possible and sometimes you try to find a different direction. In this case, he chose the wrong direction. Seeing him go to Nacho to prove he can be someone who can make him money means that his dreams have been shattered at some point already.
Q: Since you know Krazy-8’s ultimate fate, does that impact how you play the character on Better Call Saul?
A: I’m starting from a place where he’s just a nobody at this point. Crazy enough, I think so much time has passed for me since I shot Breaking Bad that it makes it easier for me to start fresh and from a clean slate. We don’t really know what’s going to happen, so I don’t like to make choices that will hinder that.
Q: We noticed Domingo was driving a Tampico truck. Do you ever randomly get that jingle stuck in your head?
A: That jingle was written on paper and I was trying to remember how it went. I told Bryan Cranston, “What if we just did ‘Don’t let shopping strain your brain-o,’” and I literally created it at that moment. So, it always stuck with me because it came out of my head! Tampico was his dad’s business, so when I saw the truck and the uniform in the scene on Better Call Saul, I knew Krazy-8 was still working for his dad.
Q: You never shared the screen with Tuco on Breaking Bad. What it was like working with Raymond Cruz?
A: I was excited and intimidated at the same time. There’s so much presence in that character. This was the first time I met him and we came in, sat down and all I got from him were these evil stares. I thought to myself, “Wow, I don’t even have to act.” I just recently worked with him on a new show called Full Circle and we had this really brutal scene, so it was great to have already worked with him as a warm-up. I’m such a fan of Tuco and what Raymond did with it. Seeing Krazy-8, Nacho and Tuco together is such a powerful dynamic.
Q: Krazy-8 passes Tuco’s famous lie detector test. How do you think you would hold up under that kind of intense scrutiny?
A: Well, that’s the thing. I don’t know if he passes! Krazy-8 is told he can go, but Nacho looks over and asks Tuco what he thinks. He never responds.
Q: More and more Breaking Bad characters are popping up on Better Call Saul. What’s your favorite part of seeing those two worlds getting closer to colliding?
A: After seeing Tuco appear on Better Call Saul, I remember thinking, “This is going to be crazy!” As the show went on, you get to know the rest of the characters and it truly is a standalone show, but you start getting these tiny cameos and crossovers. There’s so much richness. I think about Krazy-8 knowing Nacho and Tuco, and knowing that Krazy-8 ends up being a snitch to the DEA. So, aside from it being great already, there’s so much stuff we’re going to explore. You can see it as Better Call Saul on its own, with some spice from other characters.
Q: Do you get recognized a lot by Breaking Bad fans? What are those interactions like?
A: Anytime I grow my beard, there’s a higher chance that people do recognize me. Breaking Bad fans are honestly the best and they know every detail and Easter egg of the show. Aaron Paul does a lot of giveaways on Twitter and he once had us all go to different locations to give away gifts. I was at a Ralph’s [supermarket] and he tweeted about me being in the bread aisle. I remember waiting and hundreds of people got there in less than five minutes. That goes to show what kind of fan base the show has.
Read an interview with Raymond Cruz, who plays Tuco Salamanca.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10/9c on AMC. Receive show exclusives by signing up for the Insiders Club.Read More