Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler on AMC’s Better Call Saul, discusses Kim’s reaction to Chuck’s death, how it impacts her relationship with Jimmy and Kim’s explosive confrontation with Howard.
A: By the end of last season, we’re seeing the external and internal effects of Kim’s ceaseless need to work harder to make things right with herself, with the world, with everything. It became an obsession that blew up in her face. It was compounded by her reckoning with the law not being this safe respite from the gray areas of life. It was no longer legal and illegal, moral and immoral, right and wrong, good and bad. She began to see that in the people around her. Someone like Chuck, who is one of the pillars of justice but is actually a terrible person. Where your moral center is and what lines you won’t cross keep changing depending on your point of view in that moment. She got to a place where she had a lot of guilt about the takedown of Chuck. I don’t think Kim thought well of him at all by the end of Season 3, but you saw her attempt to talk to Jimmy about some guilt she was feeling about taking him down in such a public way. There’s every reason that Jimmy and Kim should deeply dislike Chuck. However, she feels horrible that this man was mentally disturbed.
When Chuck died, different characters had different things they had to deal with, but I kept thinking about the process of grieving for someone that you don’t actually like. It’s a different sort of grief. It’s a grief for Jimmy, it’s a grief for the relationship that could have been, it’s grieving a man who could have gotten better. It’s also unresolved feelings about her own guilt in this man’s undoing. You really see her not be able to go to anyone else. If Jimmy’s the only person she talks to and he stops talking, there are magnified repercussions. He’s literally her only confidante. When Jimmy shuts down, there are huge consequences for Kim because she just rattles around in her own head.
Q: What does Kim make of Jimmy’s reaction to Chuck’s death?
A: It’s so complex. Bob [Odenkirk] and I talked about it from Day 1 to Wrap Day of Season 4. The complexity of grieving was a really interesting gauze to look through. There were things that Jimmy was doing that were very odd. [She’s] being the support system for someone who’s grieving. In Episode 1 and 2, it’s “Wow, his behavior is really strange, but no matter how horrible the brother relationship became… it’s still his brother and still a human that didn’t just die, but committed suicide by horrible means.” There are grotesque things he has to take in and horrific pain he has to take in. There’s a lot of watching his behavior. When he’s silent, it’s that feeling of “Does this person need time to digest this or is this person shutting down and I need to push them to talk?” Kim doesn’t talk about her feelings. We have someone who’s not a Chatty Kathy, emotionally, but it becomes different when you’re worried about if your partner is OK. Deep down, I think Kim needs to talk about it, too, and she doesn’t have the tools. She chooses to keep things in and we see what happens when she loses control of that in this episode.
Q: How does she think Jimmy’s behavior is impacting their relationship?
A: I try not to get too far ahead of myself. Kim has not seen Breaking Bad. [Laughs] I don’t look at some of these clues and say, “Oh my God. What if he became Saul Goodman?” They are suspicious only to the degree of oddity. Grief is so weird and the particular circumstances for this grief is extra weird. You do get the feeling that she’s walking around and wondering if a bomb is going to go off. At this point in the season, I feel like it’s more Kim being uncomfortable that she can’t fix this. That’s what I kept feeling – this extreme unease. It seemed obvious to me that she would look at this as another job. It’s funny considering she can’t stand to have someone else save her that she would be so insistent to try to save someone. She needs to be the rock right now. Kim is just trying to fix it, which is not the healthiest way to be going about it. I think that’s how she escapes her own feelings.
A: Kim losing it is different than someone else. It’s specific to her. I wasn’t sure how big a fissure in Kim could be seen. I did think of it as suppression of everything from the previous season. It’s everything. There are years of frustration with Hamlin. I think she has some compassion for Howard, but in retrospect, it is this highly protective part of her protecting Jimmy or protecting anything that she considers her own. I think she thought it was terrible timing – and it is. To even come over there and insinuate suicide, even though I’m sure Kim was thinking the same thing, is the worst timing ever. It’s also quite selfish. Kim’s not sitting there crying, because she thinks she should be strong, so it’s repugnant to her that Howard would come over thinking he should get solace from Jimmy. There’s anger.
Overall, I thought these are unfinished things to say to Chuck. That eruption, to me, was a lot of anger about what Chuck put Jimmy through his whole life. And the fact that this would be continued even after Chuck’s death. Kim will definitely defend Jimmy. The bigger picture doesn’t matter or if he’s done cons, but what Chuck did in this case is wrong. She loses control of her emotions in that scene.
Q: Why do you think Kim decides to hide Chuck’s letter from Jimmy?
A: She doesn’t even say that she went [to Hamlin’s office] or that she screamed at anybody. There are two parallel tracks that begin [in this episode] where Jimmy is starting to do some stuff that Kim doesn’t know about, but so is Kim. You could argue that one is more criminal, but there’s a tragedy and sadness to the fact that if these two people could have found a way to speak to each other…. They both start to go down some rabbit holes. She doesn’t even come home and say, “Guess what? I lost my sh—t in front of Howard Hamlin,” which Jimmy might actually enjoy. She keeps it to herself and then doesn’t show him the letter. In my mind, it was: “I am not delivering him this pain right now.”
Q: After spending so much time in silence, how does Kim feel to finally have a moment of physical connection with Jimmy?
A: It is a relief. It’s another attempt to figure out how to communicate. Neither of them are finding the words to try to talk to each other. In Episode 1, it’s “OK, then let’s just drink.” Whatever it is to find a way to deal with things. In that moment, she thinks Jimmy needs – and knows that she needs – a way to feel connected to anything. If she could choose what that thing was, it would be her partner. I think she’s hoping that it will help him, too. I think it’s a very sweet, intimate moment of knowing “What’s happening between us is not being articulated right now, but I can still reach out and try to hold you and allow myself to be held.” It’s a sweet moment. Hopefully when the audience sees it, they will know those moments we’ve all had where sitting next to someone and holding their hand is the best we can do.
Q: How difficult was it working with the cast on your arm?
A: My cast is real. It is not removable and is on for the duration of the scenes until it is sawed off. Paramedics put it on in the morning. It was a matter of testing a lot of different materials to see what we could get away with that would still look real. If you do a cast at your wrist, you can slip it off but as soon as you go past your elbow joint, you can’t slip something on and off. We had some pretty high-tech art department people that tried to come up with things. Once you make it big enough for clips in the back, it gets very fat. So, this was the best option. I didn’t fight that because I trust all of the creative people on the team and it came to be an interesting burden for me to use as Kim. Doing my own bra was impossible and I had to ask for help. It made me think about Kim having to ask Jimmy to do her bra in the mornings. She must hate that! I needed help in the lunch line. I don’t love being a pain in the ass, so it was good for me to realize that Kim would be feeling that times 300. I liked it for that reason. I didn’t hate it in real life, but it was fun to think about how much it would bother Kim.
Q: People love you and your character so much. Why do you think Kim is such a hero to so many people?
A: I don’t know. But I’m so grateful. One thing that makes me ecstatic about it is that I’m not an actor that approaches my work thinking I have to make sure the female characters are always likable and palatable all the time. I will sometimes be course-corrected in this business on that. Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan and the slew of fantastic writers and directors have always geared me towards making a three-dimensional human. Unlike the burden that can be put on women and female characters at times, this likability thing was not only not made to be my job, but I was steered away from it. I didn’t need to soften her anger. Just playing someone who’s not concerned with people’s comfort levels is so freeing. I want to let all men and women know: Try going to a party or a dinner where you’re completely fine with silences and you don’t fill them just to fill them. It’s exhilarating and terrifying. I got to play this human who has her own rules that she’s trying to abide by. She’s sort of anti-social and a little bit odd, but the most loyal friend you can have when she’s capable of having a friend. [Laughs] For the result to be that people do find her accessible and likable and do root for her, I really love that.
Read a Q&A with Bob Odenkirk, who plays Jimmy McGill.
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