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Bob Odenkirk: My Heart Attack Made It ‘Much Easier’ to Act in ‘Better Call Saul’

"I came out of it with a strangely fresh energy towards my whole life, like I was born again," Odenkirk explained.

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul, PaleyFest

Bob Odenkirk

AP

Bob Odenkirk has gotten a new lease on life — and a newly reinvigorated acting approach.

In July 2021, the “Better Call Saul” star collapsed on set and suffered a heart attack. “Better Call Saul” health safety supervisor, Rosa Estrada, and assistant director, Angie Meyer, administered CPR and hooked Odenkirk up to an automated defibrillator. It took three tries to “get that rhythm back” in his heart after 18 minutes, as Odenkirk previously explained.

During a new interview with NPR, the “Breaking Bad” alum revealed how the life-or-death experience affected his career. “I came out of it with a strangely fresh energy towards my whole life, like I was born again,” Odenkirk said. “Like, ‘Hey, everybody! Let’s go back to work and make stuff!’”

Odenkirk added, “It made it even easier, much easier to be in the moment of looking at the world almost like you just woke up and don’t remember anything. My wife straggled in after a day of not sleeping and getting phone calls and having a private jet that Sony was so good to send to get her in New York. And she came into the hospital room and I popped up after surgery that morning going, ‘Let’s go to work!'”

Odenkirk added that “that energy carried through” to set once he returned to the role. “It made it easier to be in the moment, which is your job as an actor,” Odenkirk said. “That’s the weird mind game you play, is getting yourself in the moment of someone else’s life, but really feeling on the edge of, ‘I don’t know what happens next here.’ And it was easier for me to do with this kind of weird, newfound POV on the world. I really want to stay in touch with what happened there because it really was a great reconnection to being alive. And so I’d love to ruminate on it every day and try to reconnect.”

“Better Call Saul” showrunner Peter Gould also noticed a difference in Odenkirk’s performances heading into the AMC series finale. “It was a very suspenseful moment, because I was not there when Bob got sick, but I was there when he came back,” Gould said. “And we were all wondering, ‘What’s it going to be like?’ And it turned out it was great. It was one of the most hopeful things imaginable.”

Odenkirk previously shared that he is ready to move on from the “challenging” role he has inhibited for six seasons. The hit series is now rolling out its final episodes each Monday night.

“I always used to scoff and roll my eyes at actors who say, ‘It’s so hard.’ Really? It can’t be,” Odenkirk formerly told The New York Times of taking on a dramatic role. “[But] the truth is that you use your emotions, and you use your memories, you use your hurt feelings and losses, and you manipulate them, dig into them, dwell on them. A normal adult doesn’t walk around doing that, going, ‘What was the worst feeling of abandonment I’ve had in my life? Let me just gaze at that for the next week and a half, because that’s going to fuel me.'”

Odenkirk added, “It gave me great sympathy for someone like James Gandolfini, who talked about how he couldn’t wait to be done with that character, and I think Bryan [Cranston] said similar things: ‘I can’t wait to leave this guy behind.’ I finally related to that attitude.”

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