Let’s face it — “Breaking Bad” was never going to be easy to follow. After having an international phenomenon on their hands, “Better Call Saul” creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould knew that they had a bit of a challenge when it came to expanding the world of such a universally beloved show with a spin-off prequel. However, as “Saul” embarks further into its second season, the show has proved itself as absolutely worth the risk.
The series centers around Jimmy McGill, six years before he enters the world of “Breaking Bad,” and features exactly what led the formerly goodhearted lawyer to the shady person he becomes, along with the cast of characters that assisted in that transformation.
Although Jonathan Banks (Mike) wasn’t present, Bob Odenkirk (Saul/Jimmy/Gene), Rhea Seehorn (Kim), Michael McKean (Chuck), Patrick Fabian (Howard) and Michael Mando (Nacho) were all on hand and more than eager to talk about the show this weekend at PaleyFest, held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. They were joined by the show’s creators, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, to discuss future cameos, the relationships between the characters and what the future may or may not hold for them.
Check out highlights from the panel, including an exclusive conversation with the creators of the show themselves. (No spoilers, we promise.)
Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould were not very confident about “Saul.”
The creators knew that following such a groundbreaking show like “Breaking Bad” was going to be nothing short of terrifying, especially for them. When we asked them on the red carpet about why exactly they decided to take the risk, Vince Gilligan told Indiewire that they “didn’t have a lot of confidence going into [this series].” However, they loved the character of Saul Goodman so much that it was an exciting and tempting prospect, being able to explore the character and his past more than they were able to on “Breaking Bad”… Only to find out that Jimmy McGill was an even better character than Saul.
Gilligan went on about this realization, “‘Wow, it’s kind of a tragedy we’re telling.’ This good guy we really like is eventually going to turn into this guy we don’t like nearly as much. So we entered into this series with a great deal of ignorance. And sometimes ignorance is bliss. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to jump into the murky water, feet first, without thinking too much. Sometimes it might be a bad idea, cos there may be [laughs] crocodiles in the water.”
Gould himself agrees, but they both (obviously) arrive at the conclusion that despite the fear and pressure, they’ve got a great thing going and that it would’ve been worth the attempt no matter what. Gilligan continued, “If the thing had been a complete failure, I still think it would’ve been worth trying. If for no other reason than [how] being afraid of something is no reason to not try it.”
A character from “Breaking Bad” was slated to appear in last season’s finale, but they decided to scrap it at the last minute.
With a universe with such an overabundance of memorable characters, many fans like to speculate that at least some of our favorite faces from the original series are bound to show up in “Saul.” The creators and writers, as fans of the characters and actors who had given them such rich portrayals, are excited about that themselves. They do find themselves in a bit of a sticky situation, though, because they acknowledge that they must “tread lightly.”
Or as Gilligan puts it, “The difficulty is to not overdo it. The difficulty is to maintain a certain level of self-discipline so you don’t go willy nilly. It’s tough… Sometimes you gotta kill your darlings.”
Regarding the finale of the current season, when they decided to do away with an idea regarding a certain cameo, Gilligan said, “We had the perfect opportunity. A very organic and watchable opportunity for someone from our ‘Breaking Bad’ universe to show up, and we didn’t do it. I kinda had to get talked out of it, because I really wanted to do it. I’m glad I got talked out of it, because as Peter and the other writers rightly told me, it would’ve been distracting. It would have distracted from a very important thing that was going on in that moment.”
Gould continued to tease the audience and confirmed, “It killed me, though. That would’ve been so great.”
But considering all of the pleading from the fans themselves, it must mean that they feel at least a bit of pressure to fill in the cameo quota, right? Nah. The room erupted with laughter as Gilligan closed the subject with: “I don’t feel a lot of pressure to do it, luckily. Part of that is because I’m never on the Internet, except to find pornography.”
The tides may continue to be rough for Jimmy and Kim as their relationship evolves.
One of the more prominent storylines this season has been regarding Jimmy’s relationship with Kim — which, like any realistic relationship would, has seen its ups and downs. When asked about the future of the on-again, off-again couple, Gilligan sighed, perhaps hinting at rough waters ahead for the two.
As writers who value honesty in their own writing, Gilligan and Gould refuse to let their characters off easy, finding that there is very little value in cutting corners and happy endings. Gilligan said, “We want happy endings in our lives, but there is a reason fairy tales end with ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ And there’s a reason we never see that part, because it’s boring. That’s the boring part. It’s not what we want in our real lives, it’s not what we want in our dramas… We want to see the struggle. We want to see the uphill climb. We want to see them rolling the rock up the mountain. So I suspect if ‘Breaking Bad’ is any guide, and if the first two seasons of ‘Better Call Saul’ [are] any guide, that difficulties will continue. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t care for each other, or don’t love each other.”
Bob Odenkirk, ever the comedian, chimed in. “So can I say that without [it] being a spoiler alert? ‘Difficulties will continue?’ Thanks for ruining it!”
Speaking of Kim — just because she isn’t on “Breaking Bad,” we shouldn’t be too worried about her fate.
When Variety editor and panel moderator Debra Birnbaum expressed her concern over Kim Wexler’s absence in “Breaking Bad,” she continued to discuss the possibility that her presence in Saul Goodman might eventually dwindle down to unfortunate nonexistence. However, Gilligan quickly responded by saying, “Well, just because we never saw her on ‘Breaking Bad,’ it doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist in that world.”
The lovely Rhea Seehorn chimed in, expressing protectiveness over her character with a playful sense of humor. She joked, “If she was in Jimmy’s life and important enough, would he bring her up to Heisenberg? ‘By the way, there’s someone I care deeply about…'”
The crowd audibly laughed and cheered, voicing their support for the actress and her strong-willed Kim. “I feel like all possibilities are open, and I refuse to hear otherwise,” she said. Fair enough.
Michael Mando was actually thrilled to take the backseat in the first season.
While we’ve had the chance to witness Nacho come into his own this season, we didn’t really see as much of him last year. Michael Mando was more than okay with that, as the actor happily sat in the background and took it all in from behind the scenes, using those opportunities to grow and improve his own craft. He enthused, “I was so lucky in the first season not to be in it that much. I’m serious. I looked at it as doing [my] free education in cinema. I’d show up every day on set and watch wonderful people work.”
Mando continued to praise the quality of the writing on the show. “I got to read the scripts — I recommend any aspiring filmmakers or writers read these guys’ scripts, how they break down the character and everything.”
Mando wasn’t the first to do this that evening. Gilligan himself, in between questions, continuously asked the “Saul” writers present in the room to stand up to be applauded and complimented for their work. Even though only the members of the show onstage were the cast and creators, they made sure to express appreciation to the individuals who make the show the way that it is. There was certainly lots of love to go around.
The show will continue to explore the relationship between the McGill brothers this season.
Family is always complicated, and that’s no different on this show, especially after introducing us to Jimmy’s older brother Chuck McGill, a good-doing lawyer with a medical condition. As one of Jimmy’s biggest influences, the show explores the complicated relationship between the brothers, giving the viewers a deeper look into how the man who came to be Saul Goodman actually was indeed a good man. However, as we already know, things aren’t always sunshine and daisies with these two contrasting individuals.
Regarding the brothers, Gould said, “They love each other, but they truly don’t understand each other. There’s a fundamental way Jimmy doesn’t understand Chuck, and Chuck sure as hell doesn’t understand Jimmy… In some ways, these two are clinging to each other. There isn’t that much family in their lives, yet they’re not quite connecting, and we’re going to explore a lot more of that.”
Odenkirk agreed, saying that “…with family, it’s never [a] clean slate. Even if you have family members you haven’t spoken to in a long, long time, they’re still kind of present in your life. And they really are. That’s a weird thing… [Jimmy is] going to continue to see Chuck and their complicated relationship is going to try and continue to sort itself out. It’s not easy. Chuck’s not easy. I love continuing to explore it, as challenging as it is.”
Michael McKean, also expressing a similar love and empathy for his character, added, “Yeah. Chuck is difficult, but Jimmy is, too. They’re just two different kinds of difficult.”
“There is no master plan [for the show], other than to be interesting.”
As with “Breaking Bad,” Gilligan, Gould and their writing staff are notorious for not creating entire outlines of their series, refusing to map out exactly where everything and everyone will eventually lead to. Instead, they let the project breathe as it goes, giving them a chance to pace the arcs differently and honestly as the characters and their storylines develop over time.
As much as they know about Saul Goodman and Jimmy McGill, the writers liken their situation to a transcontinental railroad, having built half of it in “Breaking Bad” and are continuing to create the rest on “Better Call Saul.” On their very particular writing process, Gould said, “I understand the impulse for [mapping it out], but the problem with that is you start getting married to some big scheme that you have. You start forcing the characters into doing things that human beings wouldn’t do. People start doing things because it leads to the next deed, rather than something this person, Jimmy McGill would do, or Chuck would do.”
He continued, “[We take it] one step at a time. I hate to say it: there’s no master plan…”
“… other than to be interesting,” added Gilligan.
“Better Call Saul” airs every Monday at 10 pm on AMC.