EXCLUSIVE: 'Better Call Saul's Bob Odenkirk on Losing Jimmy's 'Humanity' & Why He's Nothing Like Walter White!
By Leanne Aguilera
Better Call Saul is back and better than ever!
AMC's hit Breaking Bad prequel has officially returned for its third season, and series star Bob Odenkirk promises some "very funny escapades" in the upcoming season, despite the fact that good-hearted Jimmy McGill is slowly but surely transitioning into his inevitable alias of crooked Saul Goodman.
"As far as the journey to Saul goes, sadly it seems that the journey is one where all that great humanity in Jimmy McGill is getting shoveled down and hidden away," the 54-year-old actor recently dished to ET ahead of Monday night's premiere. "He starts to just kind of shut down emotionally and that's a sad thing. His conscience is getting more blurred."
Odenkirk confessed that watching the earnest light drain out of Jimmy has been a bittersweet experience for him as both an actor and a fan of the show. "It's really sad and I feel bad, but it's the journey that we have to go on."
"It's a sad thing to feel a person closing off parts of their heart and closing themselves off to the world and just sort of hiding way because they just feel like they're not going to connect with anyone or it's not going to work," he furthered. "Even though in season three, Kim and Jimmy have a better relationship than almost anything I've seen on TV -- they're pretty great and supportive of each other in a really cool and unique way -- but even with that in his life, he is shutting down."
Odenkirk added that a major contributing factor to the downfall of Jimmy is the "devolving" brotherly dynamic between him and Chuck in season three. "Jimmy is going to get pounded. He punches back once or twice, but in the end, he's just going to get crushed. It's one of the things that makes him into the diamond that is Saul Goodman," he said.
And of course, fans know that Saul Goodman will eventually enter yet another metamorphosis and emerge as Gene, the lowly Cinnabon manager with "that mustache of sorrow and existential dread," as Odenkirk likes to call it.
"I take the mustache and I wrap it around my body and my mind and I close off all human feeling and hide and crouch very tightly behind that mustache of pain. That’s what it's like," the actor said when asked about getting into character as Gene in those black-and-white flash-forwards.
"He's a sad fellow, man. He's the worst and he's in the worst position. He's a sad guy and closed off and he's hiding from the world," Odenkirk said. "It would be painful to be that character in real life, and I also think that I don’t think a person could do that for very long without developing some massive ulcers or some kind of alcoholism."
But for now, as Jimmy McGill enters his third season on our screens, Odenkirk continues to credit and praise Breaking Bad for its revolutionary storytelling and the subsequent spawning of Better Call Saul. "Listen, we're the show we are and we have the audience we have because of Breaking Bad," he said.
"Breaking Bad, obviously, set the stage for us to be viewed and tried out and checked out by millions of people, but also Breaking Bad dialed everyone in to a kind of storytelling that we then get to mine and use," Odenkirk continued. "Our show is so unique and idiosyncratic and quiet and interior. I don’t know that it could've survived without Breaking Bad cuing everyone in to the kind of storytelling that Vince Gillian does."
While it's true that both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul depict the character evolutions of two men -- Walter White into Heisnberg and Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman, respectively, -- Odenkirk stressed that each have very different motives for their transitional identities.
"I think Walter White was a more cunning guy right from the start and I think Walter is just plain lying to himself and he had such anger and selfishness inside of him that was dying to come out. Whereas Jimmy, I feel like, it's against his will that he's losing his humanity," he revealed. "I think that's the big difference between the two characters there. You know in the end, Walter says, 'I did it for me and I liked it.' And I think Jimmy would say, 'I did it against all my best instincts and I regret it.'"
"It was like watching your memories come to life!" Odenkirk said of stepping onto Los Pollos Hermanos set that was recreated for the prequel series. "I mean, I was never on that set originally because my character never interacted with Gus before, but it was really amazing and fun. And of course, Giancarlo is one of the greatest actors of all time."
"Oh, the chili dogs were way better, actually," Odenkirk quickly answered. "Well, The Dog House is a real place [in Albuquerque], and Los Pollos Hermanos is not actually a real restaurant, so the food in Los Pollos Hermanos is just stuff that's been brought in by the props department."
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.