Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk reveals how the show helped him appreciate actors like Bryan Cranston and James Gandolfini and their challenges playing Walter White and Tony Soprano, respectively. Serving as a spinoff of Breaking Bad, AMC’s Better Call Saul chronicles the origin of Odenkirk’s sleazy criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman. The show first aired in 2015 and ran for 6 acclaimed seasons before coming to an end last year.
During a recent appearance on “Hot Ones,” the hot-wing-eating interview show from First We Feast on YouTube, Odenkirk reflects on making Better Call Saul, revealing that the role helped him appreciate two of his contemporary actors. Both Gandolfini and Cranston were also known for playing unsavory characters on Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, respectively, and it wasn’t until Odenkirk took on the role of Goodman that he truly understood the challenges that come with playing those types of characters for so long. Check out Odenkirk’s full comment below:
“I remember reading about Bryan playing Walter White and Gandolfini playing Tony Soprano and the frustrations that they felt of the challenge of just staying in [those guys’ heads]. And I’d be like, ‘Well, come on. It’s acting. How hard can that be?’
“And then I got to do [Better Call Saul] and I was like, ‘Oh, this is f—ing hard.’ Because you’re that guy for 12 hours a day for years. Even though it’s not your real life, that’s what acting is, sitting there going, ‘I feel this and he feels that, and I resent this and I want that. And why do I want it? Because f–k that guy and f–k this person and I’m going to get him back.’ And you’re just conjuring up those feelings. It’s exhausting.”
You can also check out the full interview below (Odenkirk’s comment starts at around 14:35):
How Better Call Saul Nails Saul Goodman’s Downfall
Like Breaking Bad before it, Better Call Saul is a masterclass in terms of how to chronicle a character’s steady descent into a criminal lifestyle. While Saul, aka Jimmy, doesn’t go as far as Cranston’s Walter, who, by the show’s end has poisoned a child and killed a good number of people, he does become the very worst version of himself. The key to this transition is really establishing all of Jimmy’s negative traits early on and then showing how they eventually consume him.
Very early on, it becomes clear that Jimmy has an aversion to rules and authority, and that he’s willing to cut corners and lie to get his way. Some of Saul’s antics are relatively harmless at first, but they soon start to have serious consequences. After Chuck’s (Michael McKean) death, which is, in many ways, his fault, Jimmy leans even harder into this persona, eventually getting him into big trouble with powerful criminals.
Of course, Jimmy also has a resentful side, and he goes to great lengths to get back at those who wrong him. Jimmy’s desire to punish Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) for various past perceived wrongs eventually escalates into elaborate plots that directly lead to Howard’s death. Like Walter and Tony, it’s clear from Better Call Saul‘s earliest moments that Jimmy has a monster lurking beneath the surface, and it’s then a series of well-written characters and setbacks that slowly bring this monster to the surface.