Recently, we had the chance to talk to Bob Odenkirk about acting, his role as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman on Better Call Saul and what we can expect in the upcoming fourth season.
As an actor, how satisfying is it for you to be able to tell Jimmy/Saul’s story over what is now four seasons?
Bob: It’s amazing, right? I mean, I think about it and I realize I’ll never have another role that will be this complete and have this much range. It’s an honor, one I’m unworthy of, and I’m just enjoying the fact that I got this amazing opportunity.
There are so many great characters and relationships on Better Call Saul but I think the connection between Jimmy and Kim is my favorite. How important was it for you to build that story, that relationship between those two?
Bob: It was huge and the fact that Rhea Seehorn and I get along so well, on camera and off camera, we like working together, we challenge each other, it’s very important. This fourth season is really Jimmy and Kim and we need to be on the same page and killing it together. I just love working with her, in the same manner, I loved working with Michael McKean, and she’s such a formidable talent and serious actor. I mean, she knows her stuff, she studied acting in a way that I never did and so I get to learn from her. I actually get to learn from everyone around me and made better by it, it’s really something.
You mentioned Michael McKean and obviously, Chuck’s death was a huge blow to Jimmy. However for me, when Chuck told Jimmy just what he thought of him, or didn’t’ as it were, I could almost see Jimmy’s heartbreaking. What was it like doing that scene with Michael McKean?
Bob: As far as I’m concerned, that was the biggest scene in the show so far and probably the pivotal scene in the whole series. When you watch season four and see the aftermath of Chuck’s suicide, what you’re really watching is the aftermath of that scene, not of Chuck’s death. Chuck’s death obviously puts a point on that and killed any opportunity to see that moment in a different light. Experiencing that moment, playing it with Michael McKean, who was doing such an amazing, cold-hearted job in delivering those lines in a stunning and honest way, was incredible. Everything after that scene is colored by Jimmy standing in front of his brother and hearing his brother tell him that you meant nothing to me, I never thought about you. There’s no way around it, that’s the show right there, that’s the turn to me.
It’s been a joy watching you portray a character who is always struggling with the proverbial angel on one shoulder and devil on the other, so to speak. Do you think Better Call Saul is almost playing out as a tragedy, with some lighter moments thrown in so the viewers can take a breath?
Bob: Yeah, I do think that’s what it is. We are also lucky to have this freedom given to us by the audience to get as funny as we get. I think we really push it sometimes and you’ll see what I mean in season four, where I get to be really silly and thank god the audience has been ok with that. I’m so happy about that because it’s been a joy for me to get that silly and yet it is a tragedy and a serious show and really, I can’t imagine another show with the dramatic range of this show, I really can’t.
As season four is almost upon us, which has Jimmy transforming into Saul, will we continue to see Jimmy make those bad decisions or is there any hope of redemption for him?
Bob: There is hope, and that’s what makes it even sadder when he makes those choices, in particular, there’s hope with Kim. There are some amazing scenes in season four between these two characters wherein the two characters don’t behave in the most obvious knee-jerk character response that you’re used to seeing in anyplace, TV or movies. Rather, the two characters both kind of open up and become bigger versions of themselves and because of that, because they become a little more understanding and forgiving of each other it makes it even sadder that they can’t make it work.
Looking back to where you began on Breaking Bad to now on Better Call Saul, how would you describe the whole experience?
Bob: The thing is, on Breaking Bad you only saw the character when he was at work or in his public persona that he had. He was really a thin shell of who he was, what you saw, so it wasn’t even a reimagining to do Better Call Saul, it was more of a first time imagining. You would imagine then that it would be hard to add layers to Saul, to create Jimmy McGill and create a show that was about somebody who was more dimensional than Saul. The one challenge that they didn’t have to overcome was that they didn’t have to contradict anything they said in Breaking Bad because they hadn’t said much about Saul. Sometimes people think it must have been hard to go through all that, to take on that change, but the truth is not much had been told about him so they didn’t have to contradict themselves and I didn’t have to rethink who he was because we’d never seen it. The character that was invented for this show by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould was obviously a whole new guy and a big and challenging effort for me, to expand my range and just live in that guy’s head as fully as I needed to. It was a joyful challenge, it’s amazing to be offered something like that later in your career in show business and I was up for it, even if I beat the crap out of me.
I want to thank Bob for taking the time to talk with us
Season four of Better Call Saul premieres Aug 6th at 9 PM on AMC