To all of those individuals who’ve experienced the heartbreak of falling in love and having to wait for new episodes of a weekly television series in this age of binge-watching and streaming on-demand, Rhea Seehorn feels your pain.
The actress and unsung hero of AMC’s “Better Call Saul” told IndieWire in a recent interview that viewers might be surprised by how similar her experience of discovery with the show mirrors their own. “We don’t get our scripts in advance. We don’t get an outline. So I’m finding out things at the same pace that they are – weekly,” Seehorn explained.
What that really means is that Seehorn, like the audience, is unraveling the mystery of who her character – Kim Wexler – is on a week-to-week basis, just like everyone else.
As the series heads into its fifth season, we know Wexler is a literal bootstrapper. A small-town Midwestern girl who fled to Albuquerque and got a job in a law office mailroom, Wexler becomes a lawyer through hard work and determination. She is a moral pillar in an industry awash with people who take shortcuts — whether legal or illegal — including her boyfriend, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), also known as Saul Goodman, from “Breaking Bad,” of which “Better Call Saul” is a prequel.
In Season 4, Wexler and McGill alike are dealing with the aftermath the suicide of Chuck McGill – Jimmy’s brother and Kim’s friend – and their complicated involvement in ending his career. For Wexler, that means processing her own grief, yes, but also being present to help Jimmy navigate his own pain. “Jimmy is mourning is brother, in ways you could argue are bizarre but you can also argue are not. If you’ve ever been around somebody as their support system through grief, all bets are off,” she said. “So Kim suddenly needs to be selfless but also has no one to sort of talk to about all the stuff swimming in her head.”
For Seehorn, that means Wexler often has a very unique outlet to share her secrets. “There are multiple times in Season 4 where the audience is actually my closest conspirator, in that they know my private thoughts, and no one else in the room does,” Seehorn said. “And it used to be that Jimmy did sometimes, but it shifted to the audience often being my biggest confidant.”
The distance from McGill is just the latest complication in a romance that has been full of compromises. For as much as Wexler strives to adhere to her moral code, she, too, has a weakness for shortcuts and often times finds herself tempted by McGill’s schemes, if only because being good is often so much more work than being bad. “The relationship and the two characters are not fixed points. The Kim we met in the pilot might not deal with the Jimmy that we saw at the end of Season 4. But who is Kim by the time she’s seeing him there?” she questioned.
“Part of the whole arc of Season 4 is this tenuous grasp on right and wrong not being the same as legal and illegal, and [Kim] struggles mightily with that,” she said. “Professionally, what is legal? Are legal and illegal the same as good and bad and do you really feel like you’re fighting the good fight?” Wexler is buoyed by her unparalleled ability to compartmentalize her professional life and her personal life – which is maybe why she opts not to move forward in a joint law firm with McGill during one Season 4 episode.
Even when the character’s moral compass is spinning, she’s never far from the emotional core of the series, according to “Better Call Saul” co-creator and co-showrunner Peter Gould.
“There’s a weird analogy with ‘Breaking Bad [on which Gould worked as a writer for all five seasons], which is that as the series proceeded, Walter White was always fascinating, but he was in some ways a repellent, egotistical, self-involved character,” Gould said. “There was a point in the show where I thought that Walt was a lost cause and at that point, I, and a lot of folks in the audience, I think, shifted our hearts to Jesse Pinkman, because there’s still hope for Jesse Pinkman. I wouldn’t say this is exactly like that, but in some ways, Kim has become our Jesse Pinkman.”
Further, the audience knows McGill ends up in a world of hurt as Saul Goodman on “Breaking Bad,” but for now, Wexler’s path remains unclear.
For Seehorn, though, who scored both a nomination for supporting actress in a drama series at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, as well as a nomination for ensemble in a drama series at the Screen Actors Guild Awards this year, the future looks bright.
In addition to starring in Universal and Netflix’s “Inside Man 2,” Seehorn has been seen moonlighting on several other critically acclaimed TV shows, including Hulu’s “The Act,” where she played a “trashy, ’90s cousin named Janette” alongside Emmy-winning actress Margo Martindale and Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette. Seehorn also nabbed a juicy part in the swan song season of HBO’s “Veep” as a deputy campaign manager she described as a “sheepish, needy person, who cannot even formulate a clear plan of moving ahead in her career.” So, the anti-Kim Wexler, basically.
But a long and healthy acting career for Seehorn might not be enough to calm fans, who Gould reported are forever peppering him for reassurances about Wexler’s fate. Though he wouldn’t say much about what the future holds, he did have some cryptic insight about what’s to come. “We are working on Season 5 and I can tell you that nothing has happened that didn’t surprise me about Kim and Jimmy,” he said. “There’s still some very big chapters yet to come.”
As for Seehorn, she trusts in the process, in the artisans in the writer’s room that have brought the character this far and feel as strongly about Wexler as she does. But she also has her eyes wide open about the many faces of devastation and how not every great story has a happy ending. “Whatever’s going to happen down the road is going to be the perfect story for Kim,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a tragic end! Sometimes I think, ‘There’s a lot of things that are more tragic than death for Kim. Completely losing who she is could be worse than being dead.'”
“I don’t know where they’re going with it,” Seehorn said, “but I feel really trusting that it will be a satisfying life that we got to put on screen.”