Lavell Crawford, who plays Huell Babineaux on AMC’s Better Call Saul, discusses how his personal life impacted reprising his role from Breaking Bad, what Huell really thinks about scamming Chuck, and what it’s like to be a part of so many Internet memes.
Q: When Better Call Saul was first announced, did you hope you might get to play Huell again on this show?
A: Bob Odenkirk and I had talked about rumors of a spin-off, and he asked me if I would be interested and I said, “Hell yeah!” Shoot, I wish Breaking Bad would have never ended! He asked what I thought would be a great location and I thought Vegas – it would be great to be in Vegas and working at the same time. When they kicked it off, I didn’t know how they were going to do it and they did it in a smart way by doing a prequel. Saul had basically snitched on everybody [in Breaking Bad], so they had to go back and show how Saul got to be Saul Goodman. I was crossing my fingers and after I saw the first episode… I waited with bated breath and couldn’t wait to be involved.
Q: How did you feel when you got the call?
A: When they finally called me to let me know they were bringing me in, what was strange was that I had a lifestyle change [in real life]. I lost 130 pounds, so I look totally different, which was great for the prequel for him to be in decent shape because you wouldn’t hire a bodyguard if he can’t do nothing. When they saw me, they were like, “Man, I think you lost too much weight!” They had already filmed my parts but they had a few more pieces to get, so they were trying to put a fat suit on me. That’s so hilarious.
Q: Were there any extra security measures on or around set to protect the secret?
A: I think my weight loss helped me be secure because people didn’t know who I was. [Laughs] They’re very cloak-and-dagger. You don’t know what you’re doing until you get there, and then they might change it. They kept it as private as possible. I got to meet new people. I always think of [Michael McKean] as Lenny in Lenny and Squiggy, and he’s a great actor. It was great seeing Bob and all of the people behind the scenes because a lot of the people who worked on Breaking Bad worked over here, so it was almost like a family reunion.
Q: We don’t necessarily see Jimmy and Huell discuss their scam on-screen. What do you think Huell makes of Jimmy and what he’s asking him to do?
A: I’m just assuming, but when I met Saul, I probably was like, “Finally, I get to do the things I used to do, and I can’t believe he’s going to pay me to do what I know how to do.” That’s how I played it: “Yeah man, I got you! When? Where? How? What do you want me to do?” You would’ve had to know what you were doing to do some stuff like that.
Q: Is Huell surprised by the ask? Is he more used to stealing/pickpocketing than he is placing damaging evidence on people?
A: I’m pretty sure [Huell] is like, “Wow. He’s setting up a jerk.” You have to realize that guys who do bad things think they’re doing it for their personal justice. A guy who robs a bank is robbing from the government or taking a stand – a lot of people think they’re doing something that justifies the means. I think when he does that [to Chuck], it really vindicates him and he’s feeling like he’s kind of a hero.
Q: When Huell sees Chuck meltdown in court, does he have any second thoughts about what he’s done?
A: I think he does think, “Damn. I hope he don’t die. Sh-t, I’m not trying to murder nobody! He’s allergic to batteries?! First time I’ve heard of this.” I’m sure he was a tad nervous for a minute. If I was Huell, I would be like, “Oh, damn! I done set myself up!”
Q: What differences do you see in Jimmy versus the guy he becomes as Saul Goodman?
A: Jimmy is that problem child that’s trying to make good. I really see him as that person. He doesn’t want to be a bad guy. He’s trying to impress his brother all the damn time and his brother is a hater. No matter what he does, he can’t win him over. I’m sure we all have people like that in our lives – from girls to bosses to parents – and after a while, you can see why he metamorphoses back into the old Jimmy and that con artist. As crazy of a character as he is, I can relate to Saul more than any person because I’m a person who’s like, “What are we waiting for? We can get this done. Why are we waiting around when we can find ways of doing it?” Saul is a go-getter. People hate people who speak their minds, who go for it, who jump out the plane with the parachute and don’t count to 10 but pull it when they’re ready.
Q: How often do you get recognized/approached by Breaking Bad fans?
A: My voice didn’t lose no weight. [Laughs] So, when they hear my voice, and with me being a stand-up comedian also, people recognize me. We just moved to Houston, Texas and we were getting some furniture from a store and a young gentleman recognized me from Breaking Bad. Some people recognize me and some people are just like, “Nah, that ain’t him.” The Breaking Bad fanatics know who I am, and it’s fun and an honor to be part of such a great show. It’s not The Walking Dead, so at least I don’t have to be recognized as a zombie. My son would probably love it, though.
Q: Were you amused when the “Huell Still Waiting” memes popped up on the Internet after the end of Breaking Bad? What do you think happened to Huell after he was left alone in that hotel room?
A: I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was great. When we were doing the scene of me laying on the money, I thought, “This is going to be hilarious! This is going to be monumental in TV. People are going to love this.” People always tell me it’s something they want to do – lay on a big bed of money – so, it was a dream come true. I thought the memes were hilarious. I find them all the time. When an athlete gets a lot of money in a league, I’m the first meme that comes up. Everybody always asks me what I think really happened to Huell in the room, and I think he got an Uber and got the hell out of there. He probably turned on the TV, and I’m sure when the news broke that the cops got shot up, he thought, “Man, let me get out of here. They’re coming for me!”
Q: What has appearing on Breaking Bad meant for your career? Have you incorporated any of the experience into your standup comedy?
A: Yeah, I mess around with it. I talk about people who ask why I snitched on Heisenberg and I say, “Shoot, I’ll snitch on my momma if I’m going to jail.” It’s opened up a lot of doors. It was like a key to the city. People say it was the best show on TV, so it’s an honor to be a part of something so great that’s immortalized like that. It gave my family medical insurance and opened doors. I got to work with Robin Williams , Danny DeVito, got to be in movies with Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Tyler Perry, and icons like Adam Sandler, who I’m a big fan of.
Read a Q&A with Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Gustavo Fring.
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