This story about Bob Odenkirk and “Better Call Saul” first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
After four seasons, Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill finally became his “Breaking Bad” alter-ego Saul Goodman, a moment that viewers had been anticipating since “Better Call Saul” began in 2015. But that moment wasn’t so big a deal to Odenkirk himself, because he felt as if he was Saul Goodman this whole time.
“I don’t think he ever really is completely Saul or completely Jimmy,” Odenkirk said. “There’s always a little bit of Jimmy inside Saul and there’s always a little bit of Saul inside Jimmy. For me, it’s navigating a constant shape-shifting and less of a feeling of having to rise.”
During Season 4, Jimmy used the “Saul Goodman” moniker when he was selling his cellphones to criminals. And in the penultimate episode, he laments to his girlfriend Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) that, while he sees those same criminals as potential new business (after all, they tend to need lawyers), they only know him under his pseudonym. “I think we all have multiple sides to us — the sides that we show to our family, the sides that we show to our partner, the sides that we show to our friends, or at work,” Odenkirk said. “I just think the big, big choice is yet to come, and it’s the choice where he blows up his life.”
And Kim will be at the center of that, having witnessed firsthand the “birth” of Saul Goodman, Esq. “That has to only come when Kim is no longer attainable,” Odenkirk said, adding that he has no idea just how that will happen. “Once Kim is gone, then I think he makes a conscious choice to commit to being Saul, and living in that persona as much as he can. It will be interesting to see. I don’t know how we get there.”
Odenkirk has been nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for each season of “Saul,” and though he has yet to take home that elusive statue, he’s turned what was a one-note conman in “Breaking Bad” into a fully realized tragic character. “I think it’s an extraordinary performance because you think he’s a clown, and like good clowns there’s a lot of pathos underneath,” AMC Networks president of entertainment programming David Madden said. “He finds that pathos, and he finds that massive pain that has manifested in so many different directions.”
And like all tragic characters, that darkness manifests as a result of anger. “He’s too angry — that’s how I perceive it,” Odenkirk said. “I perceive it as anger, about taking back the world and saying, ‘You’re never going to get me again. You’re never going to get me trying to be good again. Because I never win when I try to do the right thing.'”
Between “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” Odenkirk has played Jimmy/Saul for a total of nine seasons, but he’s still fine with letting the writers and creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould call the shots on his character’s direction, even if he’ll chime in with an idea every now and then.
“They are always willing to hear what I have to say, and I often sit with Peter Gould between seasons and talk about what I think is going to happen,” he said. “I do feel like I’m inside this guy an awful lot and I have some instinct for it, but in the end I’m always surprised.”
Read more from the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.