At the ATX Television Festival, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and actor Bob Odenkirk presented a closing-night screening of the episode that introduced shady legal eagle Saul Goodman to the world: season 2’s “Better Call Saul,” an episode that would later become the title of the acclaimed AMC drama’s prequel spin-off.
The duo gave a bit of tease about Better Call Saul’s 10-episode fourth season, which will debut Aug. 6 (spoiler warning for those not caught up on the show): The death of Chuck (Michael McKean) will reverberate strongly throughout the new season, though Gilligan teased that you can expect to see the character again (presumably in flashbacks).
Odenkirk revealed that while he usually tends to just stick to the script in his performance, the new season contains events that prompted him to try and push back on showrunner Peter Gould a bit because he couldn’t help wanting to resist Saul’s unavoidably tragic path — the character must, after all, somehow transition from the likable McGill to Saul. The relationship between Jimmy and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) will be particularly dramatic this year.
“If you’re intrigued by the Jimmy-Kim relationship, this next season is gonna knock you out,” Odenkirk said. “There are scenes between Jimmy and Kim that are on another level that you haven’t seen on this show. They’re outside of character that a real couple needs to have… and it makes his life in Breaking Bad all the more tragic because she’s not in his life.”
Here are a few other highlights from the panel, which was moderated by EW entertainment editor Sarah Rodman:
—What it like watching Saul’s first episode in a theater nine years after it aired: Gilligan had a rather technical concern: The use of a shaky handheld camera in the show seems amplified watching it on a big screen, and the series creator hoped nobody in the audience felt nauseous. Odenkirk’s reaction was more emotional. “I was amazed how big my part was,” the actor said. “Vince just gave this to me. I was writing pilots and being shot down for a couple years. And here comes this script and it’s so well written.… For me, it was the greatest f—king thing in the world.”
—Odenkirk made up a couple ideas about Saul’s home life: “You only saw Saul at work,” he noted. “I didn’t have to figure out just life that much. I had this notion that he plays a lot of golf and goes to strip clubs often, and he’s got a couple strippers he thinks like him, but he’s smart enough to know they don’t really.”
—The idea for a Better Call Saul spin-off was almost immediate: Odenkirk revealed the first time he heard the possibility of a spin-off mentioned was while filming Saul’s debut episode. There’s a scene in Saul’s office where he gives Walter White (Bryan Cranston) a bit of his backstory, noting he used to be Jimmy McGill before changing his name. After filming the scene, a cameraman quipped to Odenkirk, “Can I get a job in the sequel?” Even Gilligan didn’t seem to know that one. “They were way ahead of us,” he said, noting the spin-off idea started for him as a joke in the writers’ room later, during the filming of season 2. “It was a joke, and then we joked about it so often in the writers’ room we thought maybe it’s not a joke,” he said. “By the time Breaking Bad wrapped up, we started talking to Sony.”
—Better Call Saul was originally going to be a sitcom. “We sold it to Sony and AMC without knowing what it was,” Gilligan said. “We thought it might be a half-hour sitcom. We thought about ripping off Dr. Katz. Week in and week out famous comics would come in with their legal problems. But we knew nothing about writing straight-up comedy.”