‘Better Call Saul’ Showrunner Breaks Down Why ‘Breaking Bad’ Prequel Needed Hank Schrader

Peter Gould tells TheWrap they wanted someone who would force Jimmy to “really have to start playing this character Saul”

Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Some very familiar faces popped back up in Albuquerque on Monday’s “Better Call Saul,” which showed the first what would become many legal tussles between Saul Goodman and Hank Schrader.

Showrunner Peter Gould explained that they needed to find someone who would make Bob Odenkirk’s nascent criminal lawyer up his game. And who better than New Mexico’s most famous DEA agents?

“We knew that there would be a scene where Jimmy/Saul tangles with some very smart law enforcement people who are worthy opponents,” Gould told TheWrap. “As soon as we realized that that was the next natural thing to happen, we got very excited and said wow wouldn’t it be amazing if this was Hank and Gomez.”

Dean Norris becomes the most notable “Breaking Bad” alum to re-appear on the AMC sequel, appearing in 60 of the show’s 62 episodes. “I think he might be the first one we’ve seen who actually was in the very beginning of Breaking Bad,” Gould said. And of course, you couldn’t bring back Norris’ wise-cracking drug enforcement official without his more mild-mannered partner, Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada).

But while Gould was ecstatic about bringing back Albuquerque’s most famous DEA agents, he explained that they always try to reign themselves in when deciding on which “Breaking Bad” alums should appear in the prequel series. “We wanted to make sure that there was someone who would push Jimmy, and where Jimmy would really have to start playing this character Saul,” Gould said. Though Jimmy seems a bit flustered by Hank, he is able to help Domingo (Maximino Arciniega), better known as “Krazy-8” on “Breaking Bad,” accomplish what Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) wanted. In turn, Jimmy gives Lalo a “hotline to the DEA,” by securing Domingo as Hank and Gomez’s personal confidential informant.

For Jimmy, it’s all part of his downward evolution into Saul Goodman. “I don’t think that Jimmy truly understands what goes along with being Saul Goodman,” Gould continues. “I think all the consequences of playing this character, as enjoyable as he finds it, the consequences are not clear to him.”

Though he formally took the name and visual style — he’s starting to wear those bright, neon-colored suits he is known for by the time we meet him “Breaking Bad” — Gould explains that he is still far from the guy who Jesse Pinkman famously describes as a “criminal lawyer.”

“He’s had this vision for what it would be like to be a lawyer who would appeal to the same clients he’s been selling cell phones to, these underworld clients. He’s gotten himself flashy, he’s almost like a fly-fishing lure,” Gould said, describing his look as “a bit of a used car salesman.”

But Gould adds: “I can’t picture him advocating for murder for business reasons.”

Since Hank was not among the many “Breaking Bad” alums to re-appear in Vince Gilligan’s follow-up movie “El Camino,” Monday’s episode is the first time Dean Norris returned to the role since he was murdered by Uncle Jack in the AMC series’ third-to-last episode. As Gould points out, this version of Schrader is a much happier one, well before his run-ins with Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), the Cousins or having to see Tortuga’s (Danny Trejo) severed head ride around on a turtle.

“Hank traveled a very dark road on ‘Breaking Bad.’ When we first met him in the pilot of Season 1, in some ways Hank was the comic relief,” Gould explains. “He’s got a spring in his step and he’s funny and he’s jokey.”