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Bob Odenkirk’s Oral History of Saul Goodman: From ‘Breaking Bad’ to ‘Better Call Saul’


– Poof, Saul Goodman is there (bell dinging) (upbeat music) My agent called me and said, they're gonna offer you a role

It's a great show and you should say yes to doing it and, I called a friend Not many people had seen Breaking Bad at that point It was towards the end of season two shooting The first season was cut short by a writer's strike and I think the show was pretty much overshadowed by Mad Men to a great, great extent, and it hadn't streamed So, very few people knew Breaking Bad until about the fourth season

So, I did actually call a friend I'd been working with and I said, "Do you know the show Breaking Bad?," and he said, "Best show on TV "You've gotta say yes to that" So I said, "Sure, I'll do it" You know, it's, I knew it was lawyer who's kind of a con man and that just sounded fun and totally within my wheelhouse 'cause I played Stevie Grant on Larry Sanders and it just sounded fun and I said, "Sure, I'll do it," and then they sent me the script and it had a lot of lines You know, it had all these long runs, you know, of dialogue and I figured they'd cut those way back, because in comedy, you don't tend to monologue like that and then Vince got on the phone with me, and because I had read the script, I said, "I have an idea for this guy's hair

"I think he should have a comb over and a mullet in back" And Vince said, "That sounds like fun "I like that idea" Which was really cool of him And, I mean I was scheduled to do three or four episodes

They did say they needed me for four, and I couldn't do the fourth episode because of, I was already signed up to do How I Met Your Mother and so they invented the character of Mike Ehrmantraut, played by Jonathan Banks, to carry that plot work that they needed done in that fourth episode towards the end of season two I think the last episode it would have been But hey, they created Mike 'cause of How I Met Your Mother so, if you like Mike, thank How I Met Your Mother (foot stomping) Better call Saul! (laughing) The first scene I did on Breaking Bad with Bryan Cranston, was a big scene where I tell a monologue about the character and tell Walter White who I am and kind of tell him he doesn't need me and why don't you just kill your friend who's in jail Somebody in the crew joked, "Can I get a job on the sequel?" After we shot that scene

Right there on the set Somebody shouted out, "Can I get a job on the sequel?" And everyone laughed because I guess the character really popped Everyone saw the character as a big, big show and it was a joke And then, a few weeks later, Vince was in the, I don't know if it was a few weeks later or I think it was a year later, when Saul was coming back and people would joke, "Do you think he should have a sequel? "I think I'd like to watch that" Vince said to me, "Do you think there's a show "in this character? "'Cause I think there is," he said

And, I said, "I don't know, you know "If you think there is, I guess" I gotta be honest I did not think so, not at the time 'Cause he's just this con man, who cares

I think in the world of Breaking Bad, I was very aware that Saul was more fun to watch because the stakes were low for Saul for most of the run of the series Nobody's trying to kil him Everyone else is gonna die Everyone is at some point losing their family or they're gonna die Not Saul, so it's big, it's a big game for him, so he's fun to watch and he can make wise cracks and he has a lighter energy and so people are like, "Oh, I like Saul and he's funny

" And yeah, he's funny in relation to these horrible people who are in hell, but alone is he fun to watch? I don't think he's really worth watching alone And when they talked, Vince and Peter talked about creating a series, I said, "You gotta make him likable" I don't think he's a likable guy He's likable in relation to the world around him in Breaking Bad He's fun to watch, but they went ahead and did that

They invented who he was, who he really was Who James McGill was, and James McGill is likable Saul is a front and a facade and I don't know if you could say you like that version of a person, but the real guy that we've gotten to know in Better Call Saul is a likable guy who you can empathize with and champion How do I get 'em to call Jimmy McGill? I don't! I stay Saul Goodman They call the guy they already know

Well, it's a vastly different performance in Better Call Saul than in Breaking Bad It's way, 100 million times different The good thing we had going for us was in Breaking Bad, he told Walter White and he told the audience, this isn't who I really am But then, he never showed who he really was You never saw him go home

You don't know what his personal life was And there were a few times in the course of the Breaking Bad story where he showed a deeper dimension One time, when he's in the car with Jesse and a few other of Jesse's friends and he's dropped off some gifts for Rock and then he goes and tells Jesse, you should go in and talk to them And he kind of insists that you should Now that's not Saul talking, that's James McGill because there is nothing in there for Saul

There's only danger in it for Saul to encourage him to go talk to these people And so, that's a moment where you see this other character peek through and then at some point, he also tells Walter White to quit while he's ahead which is also not Saul, because Saul doesn't care if Walter White gets killed He just wants to make money, so when he tells Walter White, you know, some people would say, your position maybe should just back off and go back to life And, that's not Saul talking So there were these moments in the run of Breaking

Bad where you saw Jimmy McGill

– I'm what? – You're not a real lawyer! – It's between, you know, Chuck and Kim Those are two really deep and very well fleshed out relationships in Better Call Saul Chuck is probably the most interesting and idiosyncratic, 'cause you just don't see that often played out in a long form It's a sibling relationship that is that deep and that scarred and intense Those guys are way too close and, they should leave each other alone, but they, they both need something from the other one and they're not gonna get it

And Chuck kills himself as a way to kind of, win – [Kim] Jimmy, that's not– – Yeah, you look at me and you see Slipping Jimmy – I never said that! – Yeah, but you thought it! You know, Kim and Jimmy, that is an amazing relationship that more than anything in the show, I think, shows some maturation from the character of Jimmy And shows the character growing up and I like that a lot You know, I'm playing a character who's much younger than myself, and one of the hardest things to play, I can't do much about my face and all that, the makeup people work on it and do their best, and the audience has been incredibly kind, to kind of suspend disbelief and let me play this guy

But, one of the hardest things is to play his level of immaturity and his outlook on life and towards other people As a person, I read his part, or I have at times and gone, "Will you just fucking grow up?" You know? But it's a story of a guy struggling to grow up and as the time's gone by and he has changed and arced, now we get into places that I can relate to more and that I can feel, personally I can feel more sympathy for and it's really great I really like it – If this is how you're really feeling – [Bob] It is

– I say sure – [Bob] Great, five minutes max And then the relationship with Kim, you know, this last season, season four, there's these moments where Jimmy is honest with Kim and he just tells her truth He doesn't try to hide it or con her or just escape without being mature about it, and he tells her the truth and she listens And those things are, those are, those are the great signs of two characters growing and of a couple that should work

I mean they should be able to make it work which is of course gonna be tragic if they can't which I assume they can't I mean, I assume something big goes wrong and of course I don't wanna give anyway spoilers but I'm seriously talking as a fan, that I don't think that Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad is going home to Kim Wexler I dread what could happen to her But if something really tragic happens, then I don't see how he could go on, so I don't know, I don't know what happens And I almost think it would be more tragic, and I'm just spit balling here as a fan, if she and he were separated but still carrying on in Albuquerque and he, you know, she had to drive by his billboard

He had to drive by her law office I think it's easier to maintain now than it was and the reason is because in the character's story he's decided to very consciously compartmentalize his worst instincts and call them Saul Goodman and be that and when he's that, he's that, and when he's home, he's Jimmy McGill and he's a person that Kim Wexler can trust and love and so, because he's now made this choice, like I'm not gonna just kind of go through life and struggle with all these urges, I'm gonna put all my bad urges right here I'm gonna dress for it and I'm gonna be that guy and don't expect anything good from him and then when I go home, I'll take off my tie and my lime green socks and I will be a good, this good guy who, you know, is capable of honest interaction and caring and so in a way, it's gotten easier now Because it's easier for Jimmy I mean I think the character feels lighter and more energetic because he goes, "I figured it out

"I figured it out "I know what I have to do "I have to play this part" So I, I find season five to be a more upbeat, energetic, and kind of, he's clearer in what he's doing and I think he's grown emotionally Now, the question is, can a person make that work in the real world or can a person do that? That's what they're asking

You know, can you separate yourself out like that and live a bifurcated existence like that? And we'll, we'll see what the show says (gentle music)

Source: Youtube

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