Bob Odenkirk, who plays Jimmy McGill on Better Call Saul, talks about Jimmy and Kim’s complicated dynamic, Chuck’s continuing influence and what he wants for Gene.
Q: Gene is finally recognized. Where is his head at when the taxi driver approaches him in the mall?
A: My guess is he thought that he was just being paranoid when the cabbie had picked him up from the hospital after his little episode, so he’s shocked beyond belief to find out that he was not being paranoid and that someone did recognize him. And he can’t do the math quickly enough to figure out how to handle it. Because he does cooperate and say, “Better call Saul,” I feel like some part of him figured this could happen and he’ll have to make a different choice. He’ll have to move somewhere else, again.
Then he changes his mind. In my mind, he’s thinking, what am I gonna do? Just run every time I’m almost found out or discovered? Because that could happen in any city, at least for a few years. And he’s just probably sick of being in hiding, frankly, and it’s a lot to ask of that character, for him to shut himself down and basically do this drudgery work and not interact with people and be his voluble self. So he can’t take it anymore, and he figures, I might as well make a stand because I just don’t want to live this way. Even if I go to another city, I’m going to have to do the same thing and I’m going to have to stand up at some point for myself. I don’t know what he thinks standing up is. My question to Vince [Gilligan] and Peter [Gould] is can he come out from hiding at a certain point? What’s the danger of him coming out of hiding? Maybe I don’t do the math that well myself on his danger, but Walter White is dead and I wonder if he can come out of hiding.
A: He thinks he’s figured something out, which is he’s going to compartmentalize his life in a real clear and clean way. And, by doing that, he can still be with her as Jimmy McGill and be publicly this other person and make money and use his skills to get ahead in the world. And he’s got this plan. He always gets very excited about his plans and almost trips over himself whenever he has a plan to move forward, without taking every consequence into account. That’s just baked into the character pretty strongly. When he gets caught up in something — usually it’s a con but anything that looks like a solution, especially if it looks kind of complicated — he gets very excited about the ruse of it all and he kind of just moves forward and that’s what he’s doing here as he’s done many times before. The question is: Is it a legitimate solution to his recurring issue? I think it’s arguable that it could work. People do that in the real world. They bring a certain version of themselves to work and then they come home and say, when I’m home I’m not that guy, and there’s just a clear delineation. And I think he thinks he can do that, and she’s not buying it.
Q: What does it say about Kim and Jimmy’s relationship that she says she supports him in changing his name in the end?
A: Well, I don’t think she’s absolutely sure that it won’t work. One of the things we’re learning about Kim — and I think we’ve had an inkling of it all through these seasons — is that she has a dark side or a past with a questionable pedigree of ethical behavior. She acts very upright and plays by the book, but we’ve seen her break that rule and do it happily. So, some part of her is comfortable with con men and being around people like Jimmy and maybe even having a little bit of that in her as well. She allows somehow that it could work or that she wants to see what it looks like.
Q: Jimmy says he no longer wants to be Jimmy McGill because of everything with Chuck. Is it really about Chuck?
A: Yeah, I think it is. I think that’s one of the most honest things he’s said and I have sympathy for it. It’s been very well-established that Chuck was a very well-known paragon of the legal community in Albuquerque and, like any city or any work community, everybody knows each other after awhile, and, in Jimmy’s mind, just using the name McGill [is] reminding [people], remember my good brother who was so respected and great and I’m kind of a part of the crew that brought him down? Maybe I could just get a clean break from that.
Q: He seems energized when he’s stepping into Saul — he’s handing out those phones, talking to potential clients (criminals), offering a 50 percent discount. Is he more alive when he’s Saul?
A: Yeah, especially when he calls himself Saul and feels like I’m not mixing personas anymore. I am Saul and I am this con man and I can work with a transactional ethic and that’s what I’m doing and it’s a clean and clear break. And it just allows him to loosen up and go full force and not feel like he’s got that voice inside him calling him back and questioning his choices, and he can just be that version of himself. That is fun to be for him and kind of a chance to use all his talents.
Q: Kim’s client is considering going to trial over the deal she got him. Jimmy has an idea of how to get him to take it. She turns Jimmy down to his face and then uses it with the client anyway… why do you think that is? Is Jimmy a corrupting influence on Kim?
A: He leads her into that way of thinking that takes her there, but she has it in her to do that stuff. It feels like something more basic to herself than just the thoughts that Jimmy planted in her. She’s familiar with that kind of duplicitous approach to life and she’s comfortable in it and she can manage it very well and she does [in this situation], on her own, whereas in the past, whenever she was pulling a scam, it was with him and there was a fun element to it where they were sharing an experience together and it was kind of a couple thing. But, here in this moment, she, on her own with no one watching, chooses to use that duplicitous approach that Jimmy shared with her and she’s good at it. The question is, does that part of Jimmy remind her of a part of herself that she despises? In which case she probably isn’t going to want to be near him forever.
Q: How do you feel about heading into the sixth and final season?
A: Excited. Like any fan, I can’t wait to see where they go with this guy and what happens to him, especially Gene and what action Gene takes and where it leads him. I enjoy watching the story unfold. I don’t know where it’s going to go and it always surprises me and yet always makes sense. I identify with the guy and I want him to make good choices, to be a better person, but I’m not sure that I get my way on that one. Gene’s not dead. He can make better choices. He could be a better person. People can learn good lessons or bad lessons in life and usually they learn the wrong lesson admittedly. But sometimes they don’t.
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