'Better Call Saul!' stars Bob Odenkirk & Jonathan Banks: 'Your Breaking Bad DVDs will not be erased'
You’ve already read my optimistic review of “Better Call Saul!” And you’ve read my interview with creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould . Now it’s time to hear from the stars of the thing, and the only regular actors to carry over from “Breaking Bad,” in Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks. At press tour, we spoke about their eagerness to revisit Saul Goodman (or, as he’s called here, Jimmy McGill) and Mike Ehrmantraut, how they did or didn’t attempt to look six years younger than they did on the previous show, and whether they feel any pressure to live up to the legacy of that show.
Also, Banks — as he did throughout his multiple press tour appearances last month — took great pleasure at times in channeling his alter ego and making sure the questions he was being asked were acceptable.
At what point in the final season did Vince and Peter start talking to you about the idea of this being a thing?
Bob Odenkirk: They talked to me about it in the third season. Vince cornered me and said, "What do you think about a spin off?" And I said, "If you write it, I'll do it," essentially. But he said, "I think there's something here.” He was delighted by the character. So from that point on, it was brought up fairly often. And I would always say the same thing, "If you write it, I'll do it."
So did you feel like that gave you a certain level of a job security that, say, Giancarlo Esposito did not have?
Bob Odenkirk: No, they could have killed Saul off at any time. And it was just talk. I take Vince pretty seriously. Because everyone was joking that there's going to be a spin off, but he meant it. He was clearly serious about it. But I didn't think he gave me any job security. It's show businessm my friend. Don't count on anything. I think we might be getting a second season of “Better Call Saul!”
I think it actually already is official. I think you're okay. You're in the clear.
Bob Odenkirk: That's as close as you can come to having job security.
Bryan (Cranston) talked at the start of “Breaking Bad” about all the effort he put into helping with the hair and makeup and costume people design: the look of Walter White and the mustache and the saturated colors. When you came in as Saul you were a day player at that point, but how much input, if any, did you have into how he was supposed to look?
Bob Odenkirk: When we talked on the phone about the character, I said, “I have an idea for the hair.” And he was just describing the character to me. And I said, "Could he have a mullet in back and a comb over up top?" And he said, "Yeah, that sounds great." And beyond that, all the clothes, it's all Vince and the costume designers. That's their choice. And that to me helped me know the character, but Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, the costume designers, the set designers, those are the people who told me who this character was and then I built whatever I built. Whatever I added to came all from them. When people say, “When you created the character,” I'm like, “I didn't create the character, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould created the character and then I built off the script and off these signals and indicators from the costume people or whatever of what kind of guy builds this office for himself? What kind of guy talks like this? What kind of guy makes these kinds of jokes?” And that's how I made my contribution.
Now Jonathan, you famously said that you only got this job in the first place because (Bob) was not available to appear in an episode. Bob, do you remember what you were doing?
Bob Odenkirk: I was doing “How I Met Your Mother.”
Jonathan Banks: Wait. Wait. Wait. I famously said that?
Well, you've said it to me and you've said it to other people.
Jonathan Banks: Have I really? You've got it on tape do you?
Yes, I do.
Jonathan Banks: All right. All right then. Okay.
Bob, you were doing “How I Met Your Mother?”
Bob Odenkirk: Yeah. I played a recurring character in “How I Met Your Mother,” and they asked me to do an episode, and they were a couple weeks out but they signed me up. And so when Vince said, “I need you for three or four episodes, we don't know,” we told him right away, “Well, this one week, I can't do ‘Breaking Bad.’” Later, he told me that's why we created Mike, because we needed a character to carry this information and to take the plot where it needed to go.