Bob Odenkirk is nothing but passionate about the new season of ‘Better Call Saul’ - “It’s amazing!” he gushes about the first episode, which he explains picks up just where the cliffhanger ended at the end of last season.
Since his role as Saul Goodman in ‘Breaking Bad’, Odenkirk has become a beloved sight on television screens - but has been around even longer, working initially as a writer on ‘Saturday Night Live’, as well as actor stints on ‘Seinfeld’, ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, and other classic shows.
We spoke to Odenkirk while he was in New Zealand promoting ‘Better Call Saul’, about the upcoming season, true villainy in television, and more…
...you’re watching him [Saul] through a TV lens so he’s not in your life. I think it can be fun to watch somebody who’s crazy and selfish and manipulating, as long as they’re not manipulating you.
COUP DE MAIN: Season Three of ‘Better Call Saul’ is set to premiere in just a couple of weeks and we’re looking forward to it! Does the new season pick up right where the finale ended last year?
BOB ODENKIRK: Yes, it picks up the next day from Season Two’s finale. It’s amazing. Wait a second... it picks up the second it ends. It picks up the next second. Sometimes, in between seasons they do jump ahead, right? This is so cool, that it’s like the next second. I can’t give away what happens. There was a big climactic moment at the end of Season Two, so the outcome of that-- they immediately address it, unlike some things in the script where they take something, a moment or a choice or a character, and they sit on it and bring it out in some clever way. This one is like full on, no stop, let’s go, what happens because of that moment? Let’s go.
CDM: There are so many mysteries contained in each season of the show that begin to unravel the more you watch, which I think is one of the reasons why people love the show so much. When you start work on a new season of the show, do you know everything that’s going to happen in the full season? Or do you learn it episode by episode?
BOB: I could, they offer it to me. They offer the outlines to me, I can read them if I want, and I always say no. In fact, I don’t want to read the next script until it’s time to shoot it. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen because I spent years as a writer/director/producer and I was very concerned about the overall everything. Budgets, shots, story, character, what is coming next, and it’s such a great thing to be an actor and just play the moment and not know what comes next. I think you play it more truthfully too, if you just play what you know in the moment, and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. So I’m like a viewer in many ways as to how I regard this story, I’m discovering as we go. It’s like watching the show, when I’m reading the script it’s like I’m watching the show - like watching one of my favourite shows. That’s what it feels like.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT ‘BETTER CALL SAUL’ SEASON 3…
CDM: Saul is such a unique character - is there a certain way that you get into character before filming for the show? Or has Saul become a part of you after all this time?
BOB: I think his hand gestures are a big part of him. He’s always moving his hands like a magician, trying to get you to look over here because he’s usually lying to you in some way or telling a half truth, and trying to get you to just buy into his argument. So, physicalisation of it is a big thing and also there is, in the initial scripts there were these long runs of dialogue, of Saul talking, talking, talking, and I asked myself, "Who talks a lot who’s fun to listen to?" There’s this famous film-producer named Robert Evans and he put out a book called 'The Kid Stays In The Picture' and if you listen to that book on audiobook, it’s him reading, and it’s one of the most entertaining things you’ll ever hear in your life. So I do my lines in his voice with his vocal mannerisms because he’s really entertaining and he does this fun thing where he takes a sentence and he goes up and then he answers it. He does all this stuff with his voice that makes it interesting. I think having a sense of that kind of musicality… As a real person, I tend to drone on and on - I think I’ve made that clear to you!
CDM: In a stock standard television show there’s generally a hero and the villain who play each other’s counterparts, but ‘Better Call Saul’ blurs those lines somewhat - so much of it is personal opinion and in most people’s minds, they’re doing the right thing, so they aren’t a typical villain. Do you think true villainy, or a true bad guy is motivated by something other than what they think is right? Is villainy merely a moral compass gone wrong?
BOB: Oh yeah. I think it’s been said that nobody thinks they’re the villain, you know what I mean? Oftentimes a villain in a comic book or a superhero-type story is someone who feels they’ve been wronged and they need to get revenge or they deserve to get revenge. That’s oftentimes a motivation, but in the case of Saul it’s a wonderful thing how the writers establish these multiple motivations for the characters and everyone is justified, if looked at through a certain lens. The older brother in ‘Better Call Saul’, Chuck [McGill] played by Michael McKean is the worst guy. He’s so unrelentingly mean to his younger brother and refuses to give his brother even a little modicum of support and respect, but then when you hear him talk about how hard he’d worked to make it as a lawyer and how much he respects being a lawyer and the law, you think, 'That’s good!’ He’s a very upstanding man with very high standards, that’s why he doesn’t like his brother! It’s a wonderful universe to inhabit where everybody feels justified at what they do.
CDM: In your mind, is there one real 'bad guy' in 'Better Call Saul'?
BOB: Well it’s funny, just as we’re talking about this, and I don’t know if there’s backstory, but Gus Fring, what’s his story? What happened to him? Why is he so cold-blooded? I would like to know. We get to find out a lot more about Gus Fring in Season Three. Gus Fring comes back Season Three - 'Better Call Saul', Lightbox April 11th! It’s pretty important to get all this right.
IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN NEW ZEALAND…
CDM: What was it like working with Giancarlo Esposito again on the new season? It’s funny, Giancarlo is so lovely in real life, it must be strange to see him play a villain!
BOB: Isn’t he the nicest guy? He’s the sweetest, kindest-- he is so the opposite of his sociopathic character. <laughs> He is the most feeling human being. It’s a wonderful thing to work with actors like Giancarlo and Michael McKean, and Bryan Cranston, of course. These guys who play characters with so much depth and so many sides to them, such humanity, and of course in Giancarlo’s case, no humanity. I’m extremely lucky. When young acting students want to know, ‘What can I do to be a better actor?’, and young writers, one of the things I’ve discovered is if you can work with people who are better than you, because however much you can learn from someone teaching you and telling you, ‘These are the steps,’ I feel like you learn a lot from osmosis, you learn a lot from being around the person and just being around that great acting.
CDM: I read an interview from a little while back where you thought that Saul would’ve been killed off in 'Breaking Bad', but here you are today! Saul/Jimmy has become such a loved character by all fans of the world of both shows. Why do you think that everyone loves Saul so much?
BOB: Oh I’ve expected him to be killed every time I’ve read a script! He kept surviving and not dying! Well, I certainly know why Jimmy McGill is loveable - he’s a very sweet guy who has a lot of love for the people in his life and is striving to succeed and win people’s affection. I think a lot of people can relate to that, a person who is trying to find their place in the grand scheme of things. But as far as Saul Goodman… I do not know why people love him. He is entertaining, it’s funny to watch him, and of course you’re watching him through a TV lens so he’s not in your life. I think it can be fun to watch somebody who’s crazy and selfish and manipulating, as long as they’re not manipulating you.
ONE THING ON MY BUCKET-LIST…
CDM: You’ve starred in so many of my favourite comedy shows - 'Saturday Night Live', 'Seinfeld', 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', 'Arrested Development', the list goes on! Has there been a highlight for you of those one-off roles in your career?
BOB: 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' was a highlight. You get to improvise in that show and the story I told as an ex-porn-star-- I wrote two stories. Larry David said to write two stories that would be horribly inappropriate at a dinner party, and you’re an ex-porn-star. So I wrote two stories and I did them both, and he picked one and that was fun, really fun!
‘Better Call Saul’ Season Three is streaming now via Lightbox - click here for more info.
Watch a clip from the new season below…