Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler on AMC’s Better Call Saul, discusses seeing Kim in action in “court,” why she’s completely changed her opinion of Chuck, and whether Kim believes her relationship with Jimmy is a sinking ship.
A: It isn’t that there’s no conviction in her saying “I don’t want any part of that” before. It’s that the elements keep moving. One is that she’s now complicit. [She’s] not only complicit in keeping Mesa Verde — because she could have protected Jimmy, but still recused herself of the case and not taken the check — but she’s keeping it for her own ambitions as well. That is changing the way she’s looking at not just any specific dealings with Chuck, but also her vision of “Does moral and immoral actually equal the same thing as legal and illegal?” They don’t. They have no place in the court room, but I think that’s something that’s very hard for Kim to grapple with. You could argue that she deserves to keep Mesa Verde, but there is no “deserve” in a court of law.
In addition, another moving part is her love and respect and care and concern for Jimmy, but now it’s to protect both of them. I think the third moving part is the way she sees there’s no more black and white… I think Kim has had her eyes opened to what a terrible person [Chuck] is. He is absolutely overcome by petty resentment, jealousy, ego and self-righteousness. [When] we see Kim stand up to him in Season 2… [Chuck’s] self-righteousness… and the lengths he’s willing to go to take people down and act god-like in the world sets her off. She doesn’t feel as guilty as maybe she once would have about making this man have to face his consequences as well.
Q: Kim is working her butt off this season to keep Mesa Verde happy. Is this what she wanted? Does she think she’s bitten off more than she can chew?
A: Kim doesn’t shy away from hard work. She’s almost more in her element the harder she is at work and she dives in. In some ways, we can see that she’s bitten off more than she can chew, more than she can see that. I don’t think she wants to believe that she’s not capable of getting everything done. You see her joining a gym, so she can shower there, and sleeping at the office, and it does take a toll on her, as it would on anybody. I think that the extra element to her normal workaholic and detail-obsessed self is the guilt of this Mesa Verde case. I love that added thread of the character that they’ve given me of trying to control that. There’s a part of her that thinks she can contain all of this. If you can just always dot your Is and cross your Ts, that there’s a way to contain the chaos. It takes a toll on her, and we see that.
Q: In Episode 3, Jimmy refuses to let Kim defend him after his arrest. Does Kim see that as a rejection?
A: I had a lot of fun playing that because they actually gave me the moments to play both sides. When she shows up in court, it’s an instinctual reaction that’s both emotional, out of care for Jimmy, but it’s also legal. She knows that you should not represent yourself in court. She’s a very good lawyer, and she gets down there to sort it out and offer some practical solutions. If anything, she’s the less emotional and more practical one of those two. But he turns her down. I think it’s embarrassing, troubling, confusing, irritating and extremely frustrating. And then later, the scene where he attempts to explain what happened… the reason why she gets to the resolve of “if you want to do it on your own, OK” is because she recognizes that herself. She can’t argue with somebody saying, “You don’t save me. I save me” because she’s the one that said that. That’s what I tried to grapple with in that moment. As much as you think you need to rescue somebody, you owe them the dignity of their own rescue if that’s what they want to do.
Q: Kim jokingly relates her relationship with Jimmy to the fallacy of sunk costs. Does Kim honestly believe her investment in this relationship might not ever have a reward?
A: I think both those things are true, and while that’s contradictory and complex, that’s one of my favorite things about this relationship. I think a lot of humans find themselves in a place where we hold contradictory thoughts and feelings about our own actions as well as any relationship that we’re in – business, romantic, familial. There’s a bittersweetness to telling someone you would go down with their sinking ship, but you’re also telling them their ship is sinking! [Laughs] It’s difficult and fun to explore.
Q: In Episode 5, we see Kim in action at the disciplinary hearing. After playing the unglamorous, behind-the-scenes grunt work of lawyering, what was it like getting to do a bit of “courtroom” drama?
A: Cool and scary and challenging. We had a lot of interesting talks about what that looks like. There’s the performance level. There are lawyers that are very good performers and that’s a part of their job. Some of it is putting on a show for your “audience,” which is your jury, and this is not an instance of that. So, what are lawyers like when they are trying to persuade a panel or judiciary board? But also, [she’s] being seen naked by [her] fellow lawyers, and in this case a ton of them – even the people on the witness stand are lawyers. It’s challenging to ask yourself, “What kind of performer is Kim?” It’s almost another mask, and you see Jimmy has to wear a different mask in that scene, as well as Chuck and Hamlin. It was really cool to see them put on a type of a show that’s even outside of what the audience sees sometimes.
Q: Kim and Hamlin have had a conflicted relationship. What was it like to get him in Kim’s crosshairs on the witness stand?
A: So much fun! Patrick Fabian and I adore each other, and we love doing scenes together. We knew that was a wonderful moment. [Hamlin] takes it quite personally that she left, and she takes it quite personally that he knocked her down to doc review when she was deserving of a case. They’re not talking about it, but there did seem to be – at least at one time – a very real respect for each other, if not admiration. So, where is that?
Patrick and I had some great talks when we were rehearsing that scene. We talked about the idea that they both still feel they are in the right. They both have valid points about why they think the other person sold out or went down the wrong path. Hamlin’s looking at Kim thinking, “I thought you were much smarter and better than to hitch your wagon to someone like Jimmy.” And she’s looking at him thinking, “How about you in your continuing charade of not acting like you have an unsound person at the head of your company?” He’s covering for Chuck left and right. Kim is aware that to some extent Hamlin can no longer pretend that he doesn’t know Chuck’s personal vendetta against Jimmy clouds his judgment about what to do about Jimmy. But [Kim and Hamlin] would never be caught looking emotional or unprepared or like they’re having a personal argument in front of these judges and lawyers. Everything is subtext and we had so much fun getting to have that moment.
Q: Jimmy pulls out all the stops against Chuck to “win” this case. How does Kim, who has always tried her best to stay on the legal/ethical side of the law, feel about being party to that?
A: It’s tough. It’s a very mixed bag because not only do we see that cross-examination of Hamlin and those difficult feelings getting played out, but Chuck also makes an attempt while he’s on the stand to demean and accuse Kim, and she objects. There’s definitely something personal going on there as well. I think Kim probably went in thinking, “This is a sound, legal argument and defense, and if Chuck is brought out as being a less righteous, perfect pillar of justice and morality that he likes to pretend he is, then that’s for the better because he should be exposed.” But the fallout and seeing exactly how disturbed this man is and the emotional impact it takes on him is collateral I don’t think she fully realizes until it’s witnessed. That’s definitely something that’s difficult for her. It’s tough because I don’t think, up until now, she thought Jimmy owed [Chuck] anything, but suddenly it feels very painful to be the people that are sticking the knife in.
Read a Q&A with Lavell Crawford, who plays Huell Babineaux.
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