Press tour: ‘Better Call Saul’ live-blog with Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

07.11.14 3 years ago 13 Comments


Until about 10 minutes ago, there has been so much conflicting information, if not outright misinformation, about what exactly “Better Call Saul” will be: A straight “Breaking Bad” prequel? A time-bending journey that includes adventures during the reign of Heisenberg? A comedy? A drama with occasional laughs? Huell’s story?

AMC’s press release about the full cast and basic premise and setting fill in some of the details – including that it begins six years before Saul (then known as Jimmy McGill) meets Walter White – and now co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould will hopefully bring more of the show (not due to premiere until early 2015) into sharper clarity, without actually giving too much of the fun away. I’ll be live-blogging all of Gilligan’s charming Virginian self-deprecation, all of Gould’s jokes, and whatever nuggets we actually get about the new show.

(Note: all times will be Pacific.)

5:10 p.m.: Gould and Gilligan are simply introduced by a PA announcer, wander out and wave to the crowd. No fuss, no muss. When the show returns in January with Odenkirk and company, the build-up will be fancier. “How’s everybody doin’?” Vince asks.

5:10 p.m.: Gould and Gilligan are simply introduced by a PA announcer, wander out and wave to the crowd. No fuss, no muss. When the show returns in January with Odenkirk and company, the build-up will be fancier. “How’s everybody doin’?” Vince asks.

5:12 p.m.: How limited is this show by knowing what they’ve already written about Saul? “That’s a damn good question,” says Vince. Gould is reminded of the machine gun teaser at the start of season 5. “We knew that was the right image, but we had no idea how the hell we were going to get there.” Vince calls it “A leap of faith or stupidity into the unknown. I thought it was gonna be kind of easy going forward, knowing who this guy is. But we don’t really know who this guy is at all.” He was just an interesting supporting character. They’ve taken many long walks around the writers office going, “How does this work?” They realize they can’t have him lose an arm or an eye.

5:14 p.m.: Gould says the character you meet in “Breaking Bad” “is the machine gun in the trunk, because we know that’s where the guy is going to end up. We’re going to bring him to that point.” They know that Saul isn’t the name he was born with, so they wondered “What problem does being Saul Goodman solve?” Gilligan says it’s a challenge, but they’re having fun. They are breaking episode 8 out of the 10-episode order for the first season now. “It’s like being really into this Rubik’s Cube we’re trying to solve.”

5:16 p.m.: What lessons did Gilligan learn from the “Lone Gunmen” spin-off of “The X-Files”? Gilligan insists that he had a great time working on “Lone Gunman” and is still proud of those 13 episodes. “I still think, in my heart of hearts, that FOX missed a trick by not re-upping it. I think a lot of television is timing,” and it could’ve been a hit in another time. “So as far as lessons learned, the only lesson I learned is what I would have learned just as much if it was a success, which is work really hard, do your best work, find the best characters possible and go forward with courage, and the chips will fall wherever they may.”

5:17 p.m.: Why not bring back Gus, since Walt met Gus through Saul? Gould says they’re all “Characters we love. Gus, there’s so much more we have to say about that character… Having said that, we’re trying to make something that stands on its own, that has an entertainent value that’s not just seeing a series of old favorites, or ‘Remember when?’ It’s not the series equivalent of a clip show. We try to balance these things out. But I agree that there’s so much to be said about Gus.” Though Gould thinks Saul didn’t know Gus directly, but knew a guy who knew a guy. Gilligan says they’re still figuring out when and if to see other characters.

5:19 p.m.: They’re asked about the delayed premiere. Gilligan blames himself. “I am slow as mud as a TV writer. I always have been. It was my big fear when I got the job in ‘The X-Files.’ I still feel I’m very slow for television.” On “Breaking Bad,” they had a pace that was “deliciously stately for television… We have a way of doing things that is slower than most TV shows.” It’s basically the same pace on “Saul” because they want to think everything through. He said the moments on “Breaking Bad” that knit together well tended to come from that slow, exhaustive process. He probably could have made the deadline for November, but doubted he could have hit the same date for season 2. The people from Sony and AMC were very understanding, which is also why the final “Breaking Bad” 16 episodes were broken up as 8 and 8. “It was me saying to AMC and Sony, ‘I don’t think we can do this in the time allotted… Luckily, it worked out very well.”

5:21 p.m.: With Gilligan’s CBS show “Battle Creek” also coming up, how will he delegate? Gilligan says he’s “more of a spectator” on that one, which is run by David Shore. “I’m not a good delegator. Luckily, I’m working with Peter, so I’m not delegating; we’re partners.” Vince admits he’s “A bit of a control freak, and it’s easier letting go with Peter, because Peter created the character of Saul Goodman.”

5:24 p.m.: Given how hard it is to satisfyingly end a series in the way Gilligan and company did with “Breaking Bad,” was it daunting to reopen the universe for this, and then bring that story to another conclusion? “It’s always daunting,” admits Gilligan, though a new universe would just be “a different kind of dauntment.” Gould is so proud of the work they did on “Breaking Bad,” and compares it to tightrope walking. “We made this choice to follow this character,” he says, “because he intrigued us, and because we didn’t feel like we were finished with the world in ‘Breaking Bad.’ Hopefully it all works together… I think the tradition of ‘Breaking Bad’ that we’re going to be most true to is the tradition of having something that’s sweated over, that’s worked out as best we can, where there’s tremendous attention to detail, and also where there’s some showmanship. Those are the things I think we’re bringing to this, that hopefully will not reflect badly on the previous work.” “Anything worth doing is worth risking abject humiliating failure over,” Vince adds.

5:27 p.m.: Gould recalls how “Breaking Bad” season 2 was supposed to be all about Walt and Jesse vs. Tuco, and then had to kill Tuco two episodes in due to actor availability. So they started focusing on Walt and Jesse’s struggle to actually sell the product, and out of those discussions, Saul Goodman was born. “If you look at the show up to episode 208, which is where we were, there were some very, very funny parts of it,” Gould recalls, “but I feel like Saul kind of moved the universe two degrees to the left. I was so worried that somehow we were going to break open the ‘Breaking Bad’ universe, and he wouldn’t quite fit. But Vince had a vision for this universe that none of us completely encompassed. Low and behold, this weird puzzle piece of Saul Goodman – this crazy lawyer, in the crazy suits, in the crazy office – he fit, and he made the drama more dramatic, and the comedy more comedy-esque.”

5:29 p.m.: They’re asked about the time period, and the setting. Gilligan says it’s around 2002, even though they never exactly nailed down when “Breaking Bad” took place, and tried not to be too specific, “but now we have to be a little more specific.”

5:31 p.m.: What can they say about the new characters not from the original show? Gould describes Michael McKean’s character Chuck, who is Saul’s brother. “So we have these two comedy legends working together.” They ask McKean – who worked with Gilligan on “X-Files” and “Lone Gunmen” – lots of “Spinal Tap” questions on the set. They get cagey on the other new characters at this stage.

5:33 p.m.: Given the sometimes ugly fan response to Skyler White, how are they articulating the female characters this time on this show? Gilligan jokes he will “never write less than perfect women again.” He always scratched his head at the anti-Skyler bias, “Because to me, she was a much more likable character than Walt was. But I don’t say that to go tsk tsk to any viewers who didn’t like her.” He suggests there’s probably a doctoral thesis to be written on the subject, and says every show is different, even if it’s set in the same universe.

5:35 p.m.: What can they say about the directors and the visual template? Michelle MacLaren will be back (yay!) to do the second episode (Gilligan is directing the first). Terry McDonough is shooting the third, having directed the episode that introduced Saul. Other directors will include Gould himself, Colin Bucksey and Adam Bernstein.

5:37 p.m.: What about these reports that the show might be non-linear and present stories that take place during and even after the events of “Breaking Bad”? “The best way to answer this and not get yelled at,” Gilligan says, “is you saw from ‘Breaking Bad’ that we like non-linear storytelling. We like jumping around in time. I would definitely point you in the direction that anything that was possible in ‘Breaking Bad’ is possible in ‘Better Call Saul.'”

5:40 p.m.: Gould says it’s not out of the question that they might do standalone episodes, but it doesn’t seem to be working that way so far. Gilligan says they talked about many different iterations, including a basic case of the week (he compares it to “Dr. Katz”), but says “It’s really hard to reinvent the wheel. There’s really only one wheel.” They want the new show to have the Swiss watch precision of the old one, and some of the same feel.

5:41 p.m.: And the session ends abruptly, with groaning from the press, as Gould says “Those were really good questions.”

That’s all, folks!

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