AMC’s TCA Panel Recap: BETTER CALL SAUL is a Damn Good Show, MAD MEN Series Finale Surprised the Cast, HALT AND CATCH FIRE Season 2 to Be More Contained

     January 11, 2015

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Yesterday, at the TCA Winter Press Tour, the casts and creators of AMC’s Better Call SaulHalt and Catch Fire, and Mad Men took the stage to highlight some of their upcoming programming.  AMC president and General Manager Charlie Collier opened the day with a few announcements before kicking off the panels.  Among those in attendance were Vince GilliganJon Hamm,  Matthew Weiner, Bob OdenkirkLee Pace, Elizabeth MossChristina Hendricks, Jonathan Banks, and Scoot McNairy, and Jonathan Lisco.

Find out what we learned about Better Call Saul, Mad Men’s final season, and Halt and Catch Fire Season 2 after the jump.

humans-amc-imageCharlie Collier began by announcing a couple new upcoming projects on AMC.

  • AMC is excited about their upcoming sci-fi series Humans.  Collider explained, “It is an international coproduction with Britain’s Channel 4 and Kudos.  Humans is set in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget is called a ‘synth’, a highly developed artificially intelligent robotic servant that is eerily similar to a living being.  But when one suburban family makes the mistake of purchasing a refurbished synth, their world turns upside down.”  Humans will star oscar-winner William Hurt.

  • AMC will be airing an eight-part miniseries called The Making of the Mob: New York.  Part documentary, part scripted series, the series combines historical and interview footage with dramatic reenactments.  Making of the Mob is produced by Stephen David, creator of History Channel’s very successful The Men Who Built America.

Better Call Saul

Next up, Better Call Saul showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould joined cast members Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean, Michael Mando, Patrick Fabian and Rhea Seehorn to talk about the upcoming Breaking Bad spinoff, which premieres February 8th.

  • better-call-saul-bob-odenkirk-peter-gould-vince-gilliganDon’t expect to see Walter or Jesse in the first season.  Gould confirmed, “Walt and Jesse will not appear in Season 1.  We want this to really stand on its own.  We don’t want to mislead people into expecting something that’s not going to happen.  Walt and Jesse don’t show up in Season 1.  Having said that, everything else is on the table.”  Will we ever see them?  Maybe.  Gilligan explained, “We’re not saying it will never happen.  We’re not saying it will happen.”  They also emphasized that Jesse would be particularly difficult because he’d be so young.

  • But they’re excited to bring back other fan-favorite Breaking Bad characters.  Gilligan said one of the best parts about setting the series 6 years earlier is that “it allows the sky to be the limit in the sense that all the characters who are deceased when Breaking Bad ends could theoretically show up.”  He went on to say that the hopes is it will feel “proper and fitting and organic,” and that if it feels like a stunt, they’ve “done something horribly wrong.”  Gould expanded, “We have a corkboard in the writers’ office with names of all the characters we can conceive bringing back.   Some of them from the big ones, like Jesse and Walt, to ones that maybe you’d remember, maybe you’d wouldn’t, like Wendy.”

  • Thematically, Better Call Saul will ask the question “Why be good?”  Gilligan said Saul wants to be good and said the show is “examination of why do we choose to be good or why are we good.”  Gould explained, “Usually in fiction, goodness always leads to a happy ending.  It always leads behaving ethically always ends up having good results, and we all know in life sometimes being ethical lands you in the shitter, so to speak.”  He also said it’s fascinating to watch Saul struggle with goodness knowing “what a slippery two-faced unethical guy Saul Goodman was on Breaking Bad.”

  • Better Call Saul will have a unique aesthetic.  While Breaking Bad had a lot of handheld camera work, Gould described the visual style of Better Call Saul as more “static and locked down” saying that “Sometimes you almost feel like Jimmy is struggling against the corners of the frame.”  He also explained that they’re trying to reinvent their use of color, “ everything coming out of Bob’s character, really, his point of view and how he sees the world.”

  • better-call-saul-bob-odenkirk-michaelmckeanOdenkirk had to rethink Saul (aka Jimmy) for the new series.  “The guy you’re going to meet in this show is a far more dimensional character than Saul Goodman was on Breaking Bad, a much richer character, but by necessity, he’s on screen a lot more and the story’s about him.  So I had to do the job of acting and reading the script and talking to Vince and Peter about the character and figuring out these new sides of the character.”

  • “It’s a goddamn good show”, at least Gilligan thinks so.  He continued, “Ultimately it took, for me at least, to see these episodes in aggregate and concrete, made tangible in the editing room, to suddenly say, “Shit.  I don’t know if the world’s going to like this thing, but I really do.  I am really proud of it.”  You guys always hear a lot of smoke blown at these things from the guys up on stage.  The first two I’m really super proud of, and they only get better from there.”

  • Odenkirk sought advice from Bryan Cranston at the start of the series.  “I sat down with Bryan after this was a go project, and I said, ‘How do you do it…Tell me how a day goes.  How do you wake up?  What do you do if you wake up and – what do you do?’  He talked me through just the day to day of doing the job.”

Halt and Catch Fire Season 2

For the Halt and Catch Fire panel showrunner Jonathan Lisco joined stars Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, and Kerry Bishé on stage to speak about the series second season, which starts filming this month. 

  • halt-and-catch-fire-lee-pace-mackenzie-davis-scoot-mcnairyDonna and Gordon’s relationship will have a new dynamic this season.  According to Lisco, “Last season, in some ways, the Gordon and Donna relationship was about Donna, in many respects, holding the string of Gordon’s kite, but Gordon was the kite.  This year we’re hoping that there will be two kites.”

  • Cameron’s egalitarian business model won’t be easy to uphold.  Lisco said he’s interesting in what happens when her ideals hit “the brick wall of commerce.”  He went on to ask, “What happens when big decisions actually need to be made?  When there’s a ticking clock on business decisions?”

  • The second season picks up over a year later than the end of the first, but won’t jump around in time as much.  Lisco explained, “Time is always something that we’re playing with in the show.  We’ve got this plasticity to it.  But this season is going to be a bit more grounded and a bit more contained.  We’re actually going to start this season about 14 or 15 months later, in March of 1985, and we’re likely not going to cover as much ground this season as we did last season.”

  • They are listening to criticism that the show moved too slowly in its first season.  Lisco said, “If some people felt that the rhythm of the show went a little too slowly at the beginning, we’re certainly looking at that in terms of pacing for Season 2…absolutely, it’s a thing we always have in our minds, and we’re going to try and strike that balance even more effectively this year.”

Mad Men’s Final Season

For the last panel of AMC’s presentation series creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner joined cast members Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, John Slattery, Lizzie Moss, and Vincent Kartheiser to talk about the final seven episodes of Mad Men, which debut on April 5th.

  • mad-men-season-7-jon-hamm-elisabeth-mossWeiner always knew the final season would be split in two, and that’s why he wanted an extra episode for the final season.  He clarified, “I didn’t know how long it was going to be spread apart, but that’s when I asked for the extra episode.  I’m like, ‘I cannot  – I don’t want to see six episodes of it.  It’s not enough.’  And then, creatively anything that comes along this late that’s a challenge  I mean, it’s already a challenge not to repeat yourself,  I welcomed it.”

  • Weiner spoke about the challenge of satisfying fans without giving them everything they want, “As the person who’s telling the story, sometimes people have to be protected from what they want to see happen, and the story has to have its own organic thing.  So to delight them with surprise or whatever, you can’t just like give them everything that they want.”

  • The end of the series is an emotional experience for the cast.  “There is no version of this [series] ending that is not super-painful for me, and mostly it’s because of these people, and this person,” he said, indicating his fellow castmates and then Matthew Weiner.  “They’ve been the single constant in my creative life for the last decade, so that’s kind of tough.”  Hamm continued, “Yeah, I will be happy when the shows air and I won’t have to talk like I don’t know how it ends, or make up some story about robots or zombies or something, but I will never be able to have this again.  I mean, that’s a drag.”  Jones agreed that seeing the series end is difficult saying, “The whole last few weeks, I was just a mess pretty much.  Everyone will tell you.  Anything made me cry.”

  • The cast was surprised when they read the final episode, but in a good way.  Moss said she “was surprised in the best way.  Just really, really happy with it.  But yeah, surprised.  Jones described herself as “pleasantly surprised”.  Hendricks said she too was surprised and “pleased” when she read it, but thought it made sense.

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