Jonathan Banks, who plays Mike Ehrmantraut on Better Call Saul, talks about why his character snapped at Kaylee, Mike’s wariness around Gus and how he’s feeling about Season 6.
Q: Why did Werner mean so much to Mike, a man that typically does not get close to people?
A: I don’t know that he did mean so much to Mike. I don’t know that I would put it in that same way. Mike’s weakness is he always sees the good in human beings, and eventually it cost him his life. And there’s a sympathy for Werner. He certainly has compassion for him, and does it touch Mike? It does. But any time Mike lets his guard down — no good deed goes unpunished.
Q: Something seems off about Mike this season. He’s drinking a lot, putting himself in unnecessarily dangerous situations. Why?
A: It might be my [own] backstory [for Mike], but Mike’s probably done that kind of thing off and on, always. Mike is not oblivious to the wrong that he’s done in this world. You come down to it at the very end — Gus is a drug dealer and Mike knows that. Mike doesn’t justify what he does to himself. He knows it’s wrong and sometimes it’s so wrong you have to punish yourself.
Q: Mike finally snaps at his own granddaughter, the one person he always kept it together for. What does that say about where Mike is right now?
A: She brings up her father. She brings up his son, and, in his mind, Mike is responsible for his son’s death and has never talked about what he did, other than to his daughter-in-law. It is the thing that he just can’t bear. The pain of that’s with him every day of his life and every minute of his life. Every breath that he takes. He’s responsible for his son’s death. And, taken off guard, all of a sudden it’s fully in front of him. And did he snap at his granddaughter? Yes, because he can’t deal with it himself.
I’ve said to Peter Gould before — I’ve said, please, don’t bring me a granddaughter who it’s always going to be about ice cream cones and sandboxes. I said, as she gets older, she wants to know about her father. I don’t know any kid that is sweet and rosy all the time. They can say some very hurting — and insightful — things at times. She wants some answers. If it were myself, I don’t think she needs to be so polite about it. You, Grandpa, you tell me, talk to me about my father and quit getting angry about it.
Q: Stacey tells Mike he should “sit out” from watching Kaylee after snapping at her. Why doesn’t he seem to get where she’s coming from?
A: I think he understands where she’s coming from. He thinks it’s unnecessary. It’s wrong. It’s egregious on her part. This is Jonathan Banks, playing the character, telling you what he thinks. When I was very young, I was a divorced father, and if somebody had said to me, well we don’t think you should see your kid for awhile, I would have gone out of my mind.
Q: Mike wakes up in Mexico after being stabbed by a group of guys walking down the street. What’s going through his mind?
A: Where the hell am I, is what’s going through his mind. What is going on? How’d I get here? It’s a little more than I bargained for.
Q: Mike has seen Gus do wrong, but he also saved his life. Why doesn’t he seem to see that?
A: Anything that is lethal can turn on a dime. Because Mike’s a killer himself — and you saved me for what? You saved me because you’re going to use me and because you know you can use me. Now, is there a begrudging gratefulness involved in that? I think there is. But I don’t see any reason to trust Gus blindly. Mike is always going to have his guard up.
Q: How do you feel about the show going into its sixth and final season?
A: The first word that came to my mind: wonderful. It’s been such a pleasure to do. It really has. You know, I’ve been around a long time and, over the years, going to work on Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, it’s always been a joy. A joy. And oh my God, how do you say that about any job? How fortunate. And what happens over a period of time, when you’re around people that long, these are friends. The writers, the producers, the crew. I speak for all of us — we have a lot to be grateful for.
It’s a great, great character that I’ve been given. It’s been so good for me to be able to play him. It’s funny, we sit here and we’re months away from going back to work, but I’m always anxious to get back to Mike. Even after all these years, I’m anxious to get back to Mike because Mike’s just solid. There’s a lot of Mike that I would hope to be, and I’m not talking about the bad things and the drug dealers, the meth. But he’s that guy that shows up. He’s that guy that is there, and I just used the word solid. I want to be solid. I want to be there.
Read a Q&A with Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler on Better Call Saul.
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