Having recently wrapped its phenomenal fifth season, I feel confident in saying that Better Call Saul has now surpassed Breaking Bad in quality. That’s not to denigrate Breaking Bad—one of the best TV shows ever made—but to single out just how incredible this “prequel series” has become, and how compelling and dramatic and heartbreaking it is in its own right. But as showrunner and co-creator Peter Gould tells it, the road to getting here was a long and winding one.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Gould for 45 minutes as part of our remote interview series Collider Connected, and we discussed everything from his experience working on Breaking Bad and the pressure that came with ending that show in the spotlight to how Better Call Saul initially began as a half-hour comedy series. Gould stressed that just as with Breaking Bad, the storytelling process on Better Call Saul is one of mapping out broad plans but being open to detours as they arise. Case in point: Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) was originally planned to transform into Saul Goodman by the end of Season 1 or 2, but in practice the writers held onto Jimmy for four full seasons before “Saul Goodman” entered the frame—and the show was all the better for it.
During our wide-ranging conversation, Gould discussed how working on Breaking Bad was “the creative experience of my life,” and revealed how he and Vince Gilligan first hatched the idea for a Saul Goodman prequel series while in the home stretch of that iconic AMC series. The showrunner got candid about making changes to their story along the way, and revealed what the initial version of Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) was like before the character evolved once McKean inhabited the role and brought new shades to this broken sibling relationship.
Gould also talked about Better Call Saul Season 5 in detail, including how the “finger guns” moment for Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) came about, the decision to bring Lalo (Tony Dalton) to the forefront as a primary antagonist, and what it’s been like bringing back Giancarlo Esposito to reprise his notorious role as Gus Fring. Finally, Gould gave an update on Better Call Saul Season 6 and discussed whether Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) will appear and why the final season consists of 13 episodes.
It was a long and deeply fascinating discussion, and Gould is an absolute delight of a person to talk to and more than eager to shed light on the entire creative team that makes Better Call Saul possible. Check out the full interview above and a list of what we discussed below.
And stay tuned for more from the BCS team as part of Collider’s Better Call Saul week: you can look forward to Collider Connected episodes with Giancarlo Esposito and Rhea Seehorn on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
- How did he come to be writing the Double Dragon movie?
- What was his experience joining Breaking Bad in Season 1? Talks about the show’s cinematic storytelling.
- When did they first discuss a Saul Goodman prequel series/ Reveals how “the Saul Goodman spinoff” started as a joke as Breaking Bad got darker and darker.
- How the idea for the “Bagman” episode of Better Call Saul was hatched while they were making Breaking Bad.
- The experience of developing Better Call Saul while also trying to conclude Breaking Bad in a satisfying way. Talks about the unique experience of being a writer on Breaking Bad’s final season.
- How they strongly wanted Better Call Saul to be different from Breaking Bad, and how the show eventually became more similar.
- How the idea of giving Saul Goodman came about and how the character of Chuck McGill evolved once they saw the first scene being shot with Michael McKean and Bob Odenkirk.
- How the essence of BCS being a prequel makes it a tragedy.
- Being open to changing their plans and not forcing things to happen.
- The “finger guns” moment with Kim in the Season 5 finale, and how that came about. The complexity of Kim Wexler and Rhea’s incredible performance.
- The craft and direction of the show, and how some of the team that made Breaking Bad has continued to hone their craft on Better Call Saul.
- Bringing Gus Fring back and bringing Lalo into the fold as we head towards the end of the show.
- Season 6 update. Where are they in the process of writing the final season? Will Walt and Jesse come back?
- Why does the final season have 13 episodes instead of 10?