As I said in my review of AMC’s “Better Call Saul!” I approached the “Breaking Bad” prequel with some skepticism about whether it could work, before ultimately being pleased with the first three episodes. Two other men who had deep and long-lasting concerns about the viability of the project? That would be “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan and producer Peter Gould, who wrote the episode that introduced Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman.

As the two men discuss in this interview I did at press tour, a Saul spin-off was something they had been talking about — half in jest, half not — going back to “Breaking Bad” season 3, but the actual show went through many iterations before it evolved into its current form as a light-hearted drama series dealing with a younger Saul (or Jimmy McGill, as he went by back then) trying to establish himself as a defense lawyer in Albuquerque.

“Better Call Saul!” debuts Sunday, February 8 at 10 p.m. on AMC before moving to Mondays at 10 the following night.

Bob has said you guys were discussing the idea of a Saul spin-off as early as season 3 with him. At what point were you watching him and saying, “There's a show here with this guy”?

Vince Gilligan: It started as a joke. It really did. I've said this a couple times today, and I want to be precise in my language. I should probably not say “started as a joke.” It started as a lark, which is another word for joke, in the writer's room. It started and it really came from the fact that I love working with Bob, just as we love working with really every actor on “Breaking Bad.” But we also loved the character. We love writing for the character. We love putting words in his mouth. And we had so much fun indeed doing that that it started as a lark; we'd come up with some great term or phrase and we'd laugh about it in the writer's room. And then we'd say, “You know, when we're doing the Saul Goodman show we'll be able to blah, blah, blah, blah.” And we made that comment so many times that it started to dawn on us that it wasn't a lark; there was truth to it. It was not just a joke, but a potentially good idea.

Peter Gould: It's funny you bring up Bob, because I remember standing on the set with him on his very first episode and Bob turns to me and says, "You guys are going to kill me off pretty fast, right?" And to this day I don't know whether he was saying that because he was worried he was going to get killed off or more likely because he just couldn't conceive of coming to Albuquerque as a regular thing.

Peter, as the guy who created Saul, how much did you have in your head when you wrote that episode of who he was?

Peter Gould: I did write that episode, and you could say I created him, but everything that came out of that writer's room and everything that comes out of our writer's room is really a group effort. So it's very hard to pin down who knew what. I'll tell you though, it was probably the most difficult episode for me to write out of the whole run of “Breaking Bad,” because I could not tell if the tone was right. And I was so concerned. And if you remember the show up to that point it was pretty serious. I mean, it's serious even with Saul on it, but I was worried it would break the reality, frankly. I was worried it was going to take the whole thing and move it and maybe be too silly in some way. But I think Vince really had a feeling for what he wanted it to be. There were some silly things that we cut out, but I think there was a rightness to it. For instance, in the original version of Saul's office, there was also a (mock-up) of the actual White House in Washington DC and a window in front of it. And at a certain point we had to say maybe that's one thing too many.

Vince Gilligan: I think that was the idea of a very creative production designer. And we did have to put the kibosh on that. I also recall that episode took about five or six weeks to break. That's what you're saying about how hard it was to come up with it. Usually an episode, especially at that point in time, took about two weeks on average to break. This took about three times that. We were really, really stuck and we actually had a shutdown that year because of that, in large part because of that. We had to very meekly call up Sony and AMC and say, “We're out of scripts, and can you give us two weeks?” And that was really embarrassing.

Peter Gould: In fact I remember the last night that we shot in before the shutdown was literally I think the last sequence of that episode, which was Walt and Jesse holding Saul at gunpoint where he says, "Why don't you kill Badger instead of me?" And the wind was blowing and that was the first insight I had into Bob because I'd always admired him. I thought he was so funny. I really knew him from “Mr. Show.” And it was really the most uncomfortable conditions I ever shot in. The wind was blowing; there was sand going everywhere; lights were literally falling over. And on top of that it was freezing cold. And all the Albuquerque based crew suddenly produced like welders glasses to protect their eyes.

Vince Gilligan: They all looked like those Star Wars guys with the giant gum things, the Tusken Raiders..

Peter Gould: That's right. They looked like the Tusken Raiders. But Bob just kept going and he actually seemed to relish it, in a weird way. He said, “No, it helps me. It's good.” And I thought, “Well, wait. This is one unusual cat.”

Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at