Better Call Saul star Tony Dalton on Lalo's revenge mission: 'It's time to die, bro'
Warning: This article contains plot details from Monday's season 5 finale of Better Call Saul, "Something Unforgivable."
“Lalo Salamanca is going to die… tonight.”
Awkward! Sorry, Mike, but you should have sent more men if you really wanted that to be the case.
While he may have only just been introduced in season 4 of Better Call Saul, Lalo (Tony Dalton) has quickly made a charming and intimidating impression on the AMC series — and his presence has never been more felt than in the season 5 finale. Coming off of last week's tense showdown with Lalo, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) spent the entire episode essentially hiding out from their cartel friend. Meanwhile, down in Mexico, Lalo's homecoming was short-lived when his compound was attacked, courtesy of Mike (Jonathan Banks), Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), and Nacho (Michael Mando), whom Lalo brought down south to be promoted.
But Lalo was able to fight his way to a secret tunnel underneath his bathtub. At first, it seemed like he'd fully make a run for it and hide his tracks, but he ultimately decided to circle back and take out the intruders, including the last surviving one, who insisted he didn't know who hired him.
"That's okay," replied Lalo. "I do." As he had the would-be assassin call to report that the job was complete, Lalo looked over to the whiskey glasses he and Nacho had been drinking, knowing his now missing comrade betrayed him. The season ended with a determined Lalo walking out the front of his residence, past his dead cook, clearly ready for revenge.
EW already shared our chats with showrunner Peter Gould and stars Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn; now we chat with the scene-stealing Dalton, who reveals what Lalo's current mindset is, which characters he's going after, and whether we finally have answers about that key Breaking Bad scene.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you describe Lalo’s demeanor as he hobbles off his estate in the final moment of the season? What is the exact thought going through his mind?
TONY DALTON: He's pissed, man. [Laughs] They killed his cook — are you kidding me?! You don't do that to a Mexican! One of the things written in the script at the end was something like, "With a vengeance in his eyes, Lalo heads north." It was like, "Okay, how do we do that?" And that's what I tried to do.
The season literally ends on you, which is a pretty big deal — and probably pretty cool for you. What was your reaction to finding that out?
Yeah, that was really cool. I was in Albuquerque, we were working and I hadn't read it, I think I was working that day and I was going to read it that night, and somebody told me, "Have you read this?" I was like, "No," and they were like, "Wait until you read this." And then I had dinner with Banks, and Banks was like, "Hey, did you read this?" I was like, "No, I haven't read it yet." He's like, "Dude, you're in it a lot." So I finally read it, and it was great.
On a scale of one to 10, how scared should Nacho be right now?
Oh man, I think he's dead! He should be really scared.
Before all this, what do you think Lalo thought of Nacho? That dynamic was one of the most interesting elements of this season. Was there some true affinity there? Or was Lalo always trying to just keep him close?
To be honest with you, I think everyone pictures it differently, but I don't think he had an affinity towards him at all. He sort of trusted him, but I don't think Lalo can have an affinity for anybody. Whoever is around, he'll chit-chat and talk and smile and have a couple laughs, but if you cross the line, he's going to kill you without even thinking twice about it because he's a sociopath. Sociopaths are portrayed so many times as these serious, sick, twisted people, but most of them are trying to emulate what society is like, and that's what I tried to do with Lalo. The only thing he cares about is his family, so he says, "Okay, this guy can help." He's more of a Jimmy McGill-type of guy where he'll get his way through charm and lying a little bit, so he'll say, "You're doing good," because what he needs is to not be back up in the States, he wants this guy to take over, make him think they're buddies — and that's it. And when Nacho betrays him at the end, it's time to die, bro.
You joined the show at the end of season 4, but the name Lalo has long had a meaning to fans, dating back to Saul’s introduction on Breaking Bad. He's brought out to the desert, where he thinks he’s about to be killed by hooded men, and he refers to Nacho, saying, “It wasn’t me, it was Ignacio.” Then, when Jesse (Aaron Paul) speaks English, Saul responds, “Lalo didn’t send you?” How much have you and Peter talked about that scene and what that means? And do we think that we now have our answer to what that reference was?
I asked Peter. I don't know if he's got it all masterminded in the back of his head, which I actually think he does, but he downplays it. I asked him, "What is this whole Lalo thing? You had all this?" And he just said, "I just thought it was funny that Saul would be in trouble with the cartel. That's all, we didn't know how far this would go." And then here we are.
At this moment, Lalo is clearly out for Nacho and Gus, but do you think he's still suspicious of Saul? In that great final scene in episode 9, Kim turned things around on Lalo, even though I can’t imagine someone as smart as him will just completely forget his suspicions. What was Lalo thinking as he left that apartment, and will he now be tying Saul together with this attack?
I don't know what they're going to write, but personally, when all the sh— hits the fan in episode 10, I figure Lalo wants vengeance from everybody. He thinks everybody is lying to him. It's like, "Okay, game over. No more Mr. Nice Guy."
How was Lalo pitched to you? Have his prominence and importance been even more than you could have imagined?
When I did the casting, the character was for Lalo but they didn't name him Lalo, so I had no idea who I was going to be playing. But I knew if I was in Vince [Gilligan] and Peter's hands, it would be something worthwhile. And when I got there, because of that Lalo situation, I had a little feeling that maybe there was going to be a bit more to it, but I didn't know to what level.
Lalo can be so terrifying, and yet you almost can't help but like him. He's like the most lovable drug cartel killer. Did you make any choices that weren’t on the page that helped shape him? All these looks and smiles you're doing end up adding so much.
Just to begin with, the writers did a fantastic job in creating Lalo from the get-go. What I tried to get across with this character, which I thought was needed, I figured somebody who has a little bit more spring to his step, a little lighter, doesn't take anything that serious, could be something that would be a nice counterpart to what was presented so far. Because I did some research and I saw that in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul all of the characters were very serious and stoic and dire. So I tried to put a little bit of charm into it — plus a lot of other things, from the movements to the way that he talks. Instead of ending down like, "Okay, I'll do it" or "Take me," it's "Take me! Yeah!" It's like, "What the f—?" So it's just playing with different kinds of vocabulary and communication skills to create this guy, which is part of the job.
You're so right about the charisma. It's on full display when he walks into Don Eladio's (Steven Bauer) house in the finale, he just immediately owns the place.
I never know what they end up doing because we did a whole bunch of options. I don't know if they used it, they probably just put music over it, but there was one part where an extra looked just like Charles Manson, and I turn around and call him "Charlie Manson" in Spanish. [Laughs] Peter kept laughing, he goes, "Dude, don't say that." I was like, "Why not? He looks like f—ing Charles Manson." He's like, "It's just too much." I was like, "Okay, okay."
That did make it in!
[Laughs] That's funny. I can't wait to see how it turned out.
There were so many great Lalo scenes and moments in season 5. Do you have a personal favorite?
In the moment you don't really realize what's good or bad, you're just kind of throwing it out there, but I saw the part where I'm racing my car around the track and I tell Saul, "You'll make time." And then right before I get in the car I go, "Klahhh." And I like that they left my little scream. Peter was like, "What the hell is that? What are you screaming?" They run a tight ship, you can't be doing stuff that's not on the paper, but once in a while… it's not even like I said a word either, I just kind of went "Klahhh." [Laughs] That's my favorite.
We touched on it briefly, but the scene at the end of episode 9 was so incredible. Was that one where in the moment you guys realized, "Wow, we have something here"?
I knew it was a big deal. Saul and Kim's apartment is like safe and holy ground, a place where trouble doesn't come — trouble comes out in the real world. And I try to watch the world of Breaking Bad as I'm working, and I had just seen the "I am the one who knocks" scene, and then I go and knock on their door! I was like, "Oh man, this is really good stuff."
I don't know if you've had any discussions yet with Peter, but in your mind, what does season 6 look like for Lalo? Is he just fully on this take-no-prisoners revenge mission?
I don't know what these guys are going to come up with, but I will tell you one thing, which is one of the great things about this show and the writers is that you don't know what's going to happen. A lot of these shows, you're like, "Oh, I know. This guy is going to die," or something like that. Here, they really throw curveballs at you. So I have no idea what to expect, but I know it will be great.