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Dean Norris Knew It Was the Right Time to Bring Hank Schrader Into ‘Better Call Saul’

Dean Norris opened up about the highly-anticipated "Better Call Saul" debut of DEA agent Hank Schrader in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview.

Dean Norris, "Breaking Bad"

Dean Norris, “Breaking Bad”

AMC

[Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for “Better Call Saul” Season 5 and “Breaking Bad.”]

Dean Norris knew that Hank Schrader’s appearance on the latest episode of “Better Call Saul” would be a crowd-pleaser, but that doesn’t mean the return of everyone’s favorite New Mexico DEA agent was a needless cameo.

Norris, who portrayed Hank in all five seasons of “Breaking Bad,” made his grand “Better Call Saul” entrance in the fifth season’s third episode, where he interrogated drug dealer Domingo “Krazy-8” Molina and met Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) for the first time. The actor discussed his return to Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s crime-addled New Mexico world in an Entertainment Weekly interview on Tuesday and noted he wouldn’t have returned to the series if there wasn’t a genuine storytelling reason for him to do so.

“Peter Gould had talked to me for several years about this possibility of coming back,” Norris told Entertainment Weekly. “And it always came down to be that I asked him, ‘Just don’t let it be a gratuitous return, just to say he’s in it.’ And when they called me to ask me to do it, the only question I asked was, ‘Do you think it’s worth him coming back?’ for exactly the reason you’re talking about. Vince said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Well, if you say yes, then I’m in.’”

Hank wasn’t the only “Breaking Bad” alum to return in the latest episode of “Better Call Saul:” Norris’ character was reunited with Steve “Gomie” Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada, who also portrayed the character in “Breaking Bad”), and the duo’s tense interrogation of Krazy-8 (who played a prominent role in “Breaking Bad” Season 1) served as one of the episode’s highlights.

It’s been six years since Hank’s character arc tragically concluded in the “Breaking Bad” episode “Ozymandias,” but Norris’ portrayal of the larger-than-life DEA agent will be immediately familiar to longtime fans. Hank was a bombastic, macho, and foul-mouthed quasi-comic relief character in “Breaking Bad” Season 1 but gradually evolved into a more serious player as that series progressed. “Better Call Saul” shows Hank in his prime before the events of “Breaking Bad” destroyed his life, and getting to portray the character in a less somber fashion was a welcome experience, according to Norris.

“I said, ‘Hey, you know, it’d be nice for the fans to see him back in his prime again, before the PTSD and all that stuff,’” Norris told Entertainment Weekly. “And they were like, ‘Yeah, he’s prime Hank swagger at this point.’ Even more so than ‘Breaking Bad,’ because [‘Better Call Saul’ is set] a little bit before, but certainly consistent with the first season of ‘Breaking Bad,’ he’s his loudmouth, boisterous, over-the-top, macho self. I thought, ‘Well, that’s great to get to go back and play that,’ because it was such a change for him in the second and third season of ‘Breaking Bad.’ He became such a depressed and dour guy that it was great to go back to the original fun Hank and play him that way.”

Understandably, Norris was unwilling to spoil how his character’s arc will play out in “Better Call Saul” — or how much screen-time he’ll get in future episodes — but he indicated there will definitely be more Hank to come in Season 5. The latest “Better Call Saul” entry indicated that Hank and Gomie will investigate the dead drops that Krazy-8 offered up to the duo, and it’s going to get bloody, according to Norris.

“There’s actually some action in it, probably more action than there was ever in ‘Breaking Bad,’ actually, with Hank,” Norris told Entertainment Weekly. “The two of them have more fun banter because they’re stuck on this stakeout for hours. And I think that’s probably all I should say.”

While Norris indicated that Hank will stick around long enough to see the Krazy-8 investigation through, there are a few “Breaking Bad” plot tidbits that he could return for in future “Better Call Saul” stories. It was mentioned that Jimmy provided Emilio Koyama (John Koyama), Krazy-8’s right-hand man in “Breaking Bad,” legal representation twice before the events of “Breaking Bad,” and Hank and Jimmy already had a decidedly antagonistic relationship when they first meet in that series. Does this mean that Jimmy and Hank will butt heads more before “Better Call Saul” concludes? Only time will tell.

Check out Entertainment Weekly’s full interview with Norris here.

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