Better Call Saul‘s third season ended in haunting fashion on Monday night, in a way that left Jimmy McGill seemingly closer than ever to becoming Saul Goodman. And Saul star Bob Odenkirk has very complicated feelings about that.
On the one hand, he knows that this is where the story is going, and that he signed on for exactly this journey. On the other hand, having spent three years of playing a complicated but ultimately good-hearted guy, he’s not wild about going back to playing Saul Goodman, whom he describes as “a shallow asshole.”
Yesterday, I spoke with Odenkirk about what Chuck’s fate means for Jimmy, why he’s not particularly looking forward to playing the full Saul Goodman when the time comes(*), how he would have felt if he had known going in that Saul would be as dramatic as it turned out to be, the split between the Jimmy and Mike shows, playing a scene with Gus Fring, and more.
(*) I should also put in a quasi-spoiler warning for his answer to my second question, in that Odenkirk is a bit looser-lipped about conversations with bosses Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan about what the show’s future might be. He’s still speculating, and nothing is definitive — the show technically hasn’t even been renewed yet, even though it’s surely coming back — but Odenkirk seems to have some idea of how much we might see of him as the full Saul Goodman, and as Gene from Cinnabon. Also, in a later answer, he treats Chuck’s fate a more definitive than the writers have so far, though that may just be a result of him not being in the writers room as they’ve discussed whether to unring that particular bell.
How did you find out about Chuck’s fate?
I got a phone call from Vince and Peter. No, first Michael told us in a casual way, because he had gotten a call, and then everybody was talking about it on set and stuff, and then a few hours later I got a call from Vince and Peter, who are very considerate and very sensitive about these big choices in the story, and they were thinking that they were breaking the news to me. I was clear that we had all talked about it. I think they didn’t realize how Michael would be able to handle it. Michael’s done so much stuff, and so many different jobs, and while he saw the value of the great great writing of this show, and his part was so important, and such a wonderful part for him, and he did it so well, and I think he would’ve liked to carry on doing it for years to come, but he’s also a writer himself, and he knows that story has to be paramount, and this had to happen in this story. He took it great, like the kind of experienced actor that he is, and he shared it with all of us, and then Vince and Peter called to let us all down gently. Look; there’s things about this show that are inevitable. You have to be a grown-up about it. It’s gonna end at a certain point. I don’t really know right now, but sooner rather than later, it’s gonna end, and the character’s going to become Saul, who’s kind of a shitty guy. He’s going to go from being a dimensional, empathetic character to a shallow asshole. And that’s the journey that we all agreed to. All these things are going to happen. It’s a big deal, but these are things we’re all knowing are coming down the pike.
With the way you describe the transition from one to the other, if there winds up being an extended period of time where you’re playing the Saul of Breaking Bad, are you looking forward to that? Or are you going to miss playing this guy you’re playing right now?
This is a more rewarding part than that. So, yes, I would miss the part that I’m playing now. I don’t think there is an extended period of time that we’ll be enjoying Saul’s ridiculousness. I think there will be a story to tell there, though. We’re not quite there yet. With Chuck gone, that is one of the two big things that are connecting him to humanity, and the other being Kim. When those pillars fall away, he’s in freefall. We’re fairly close to that. And then there’s some story to tell as Saul. Peter and Vince and I talked, and as a viewer myself and a fan of their storytelling, I want to understand what happened with Saul and Mike, and Nacho and Lalo, who I’ve never met, none of us have met, that leads to all the stuff that goes on in Breaking Bad.