Bob Odenkirk Talks BREAKING BAD, the Memento He Took From the Set, How Often People Tell Him, “Better Call Saul!”, Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA, and More

     September 2, 2013


One of the darkest and most ambitious series in TV history, Breaking Bad will always be remembered as one of the best television dramas, ever.  As the clock ticks closer to its final episode on September 29th, everyone is anxiously waiting to see how things turn out in the highly anticipated series conclusion.

During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actor Bob Odenkirk (who plays attorney Saul Goodman) talked about his decision to not know what happens in the last episode, how he would have been satisfied with any outcome for his character, that the final scripts were treated like FBI documents so that no one know what was going on if someone got ahold of one, the memento he got to take home from the set, how often people say “Better call Saul!” to him, and how the spin-off is in the hands of show creator Vince Gilligan, but that even if it doesn’t happen, he’ll forever be grateful for all of the opportunities the show has given him.  He also talked about the experience of working for director Alexander Payne on Nebraska.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

breaking-bad-bob-odenkirk-2How much did you know, going into the final eight episodes?  Did you know anything, at all?

BOB ODENKIRK:  I followed the story, script by script.  I made a point of not reading the last episode, so I don’t know what happens.  The show is so great, in that you can’t tell where it’s going, but when it goes there, it makes sense.  It isn’t random choices.  It’s all based in character.  (Show creator) Vince [Gilligan] is amazing. 

Did you have to adjust to not ever knowing what was going to happen, or do you like working that way?

ODENKIRK:  The only challenge with it is that you have to read the scripts close.  You have to put your emphasis in the right place and keep track of enough of the story, so that what you’re saying resonates with what we’ve seen and who people are.  But, some things are left unspoken to keep the story moving along.  It’s fun to discover things.  I wouldn’t want everything laid out, simply and too obviously.  It’s awesome!  I’m very lucky. 

Are you satisfied with how things turn out for your character?

ODENKIRK:  Yes, I am.  Yes!  And I would have accepted any choice.  I really am just happy to be a part of this show.  If somehow Saul dies, I’m good with that.  If he lives, I’m good with that.  If he gets the money, I’m good with it.  If he loses all his money, I’m good with it.  Whatever.  In the end, what actually happened is good.  It makes sense.  I can’t say anymore.  Saul is a smart guy.  One of the things you think when you watch him, in the fifth season, is that he knows he’s in trouble, so why doesn’t he get the hell out of there.  Can’t he figure a way to get away?  You’re right to think that he would be thinking that.  That’s all I can say.

On the disturbing scale, just how disturbing are the final episodes?

ODENKIRK:  It’s just a car crash.  It shatters into a million pieces.  Vince doesn’t duck the consequences of this all coming out.  It gets rough and it gets difficult for everybody.  This is what Vince set up.  You would be disappointed, if he found some out.  I think the whole point, all along, is that nobody will get away with this.  There are so many consequences, all the time.  The show is almost propelled forward purely by consequences of people’s actions.  Occasionally, it reaches a place of stasis where everything is a bit copacetic.  Those are the moments when the audience thinks, “Get out, Walt!  You can get out now!”  But usually, Walt’s character flaws or what came before forces everyone’s hand back into it.

breaking-bad-bob-odenkirk-1Did things feel different, at all, while you were shooting these last episodes?

ODENKIRK:  Nobody knew where this was going, and you could feel it all the time.  So, every script really was a surprise and a discovery, for every actor.  But, it’s only amped up because we knew we only had eight left and this thing was hurdling towards an ending.  Otherwise, it was the same job.

Did you find more fans trying to hang around the set to get a glimpse of what was going on?

ODENKIRK:  The crew and the production was more careful about the scripts.  In the years past, they would do this deletion thing on the last two scripts, but they did it on the last four, with these last episodes.  It was like an FBI document.  You couldn’t tell what was happening in it.  So, they were more careful.  There were more warnings.  But, the fans only ask in jest about what’s gonna happen.  No one wants to know, just like me.  I’m a fan of this show, and I don’t wanna know what happens in the last episode, until I get to see it.

Were you able to take any props or mementos with you?

ODENKIRK:  I have one thing, and it was given to me by the crew.  I have the bus stop bench ad, all signed by everybody in the cast and crew, and it’s awesome.  Saul is a special case because there are rumors of this continued show, so most of what Saul worked with is in storage and wasn’t allowed to be picked apart. 

Was the talk of a spin-off a bit more reassuring, since you knew Saul couldn’t be dead, or he wouldn’t be able to have a show?

ODENKIRK:  Unless it’s a prequel. 

breaking-bad-bob-odenkirk-3What is the status of the spin-off, at this point?  Do you think it will actually happen?

ODENKIRK:  I give it a 60% chance.  It’s all a guessing game, in my part.  It’s up to Vince Gilligan, who created and wrote Breaking Bad, and Peter Gould, who was a part of the episode that spawned Saul Goodman.  Doing this part has given me a whole new career.  There’s a lot of opportunity for me, and I’m just thrilled to be in this arena.  So, if it’s not Saul Goodman, I think I’ll get to do other interesting things, in the same arena.  I’m excited about that.

Having played this character for a bit, have you thought about what you’d like to see in the series, if it happens?

ODENKIRK:  Yeah, I have.  There’s a lot to find out about Saul.  I think he has a different stripper on his arm, every two weeks, and he’s secretly genuinely crushed, every time they blow him off.  I think there’s probably a reason he went into law, beyond just being able to make money at it, so I’d like to see that discovered.  I like making wisecracks.  In that way, he reminds me of my dad.  I’ve always loved The Rockford Files and The Night Stalker.  It had a darkness to it, and it was about a loner guy.  It’s not the same, but we’re in a different era of television now.  You can get much darker and more complicated with your characters and your situations.  Vince loves this ethical grey area, and I’d like to see that continue. 

How often do people say, “Better call Saul!,” to you?

ODENKIRK:  I don’t know how much I look like the character, walking down the street, but people shout it out, all the time.  It’s fine.  I’ve done a lot of sketch comedy, and I continue to do it, so this has been a huge part of my career.  This little four years has been equal to everything else I’ve done, and more.  But still, it all gets balanced out with all those other things that I’ve done.  It’s all a part of a big thing, and I’m having a good time.

breaking-bad-bob-odenkirkOne of the goals for any performer is to have their work sustain over time, and this show has been called one of the best shows to ever be on television.  What’s it like to have been a part of that and to have had this experience?

ODENKIRK:  I feel insanely lucky.  When I think on exactly what you said about being a part of a TV phenomenon, it’s pure luck, on my part.  When I did Mr. Show, I wrote it and I suffered.  It took years and it took my own money to get the show going.  This thing came as a huge gift with a big bow on it, that blew up and became a better gift, as the years went by.  I just sit back in awe.  I don’t know what to say.  It’s literally like winning the lottery.  Vince sometimes talks to me about the spin-off idea, and I go, “I don’t want to hear about it until you’ve got it.”  It’s like gazing at a lottery ticket.  I feel like the numbers are gonna change, if I look at it too long. 

You also got to do Nebraska and work with director Alexander Payne.  What was it like to work for him?

ODENKIRK:  Well, I’ve auditioned for Alexander before.  He knew me from comedy, and from the other things I’ve done.  It was great to work with him.  It was awesome!  Bruce Dern is amazing in that movie.  He’s the anchor of that film, and he sets new levels.  He was so much fun.  It was so great to be a part of that film.  I was also excited about The Spectacular Now.  James Ponsoldt did a great job with that, and Miles Teller is great.  Man, I love that movie, and I love Nebraska so much.  So, when people talk about the spin-off, it’s all in Vince’s hands, but Vince already gave me the spin-off.  Everything else I get to do now is my spin-off from this show.  All these other parts that people are considering me for and that I have an opportunity to do is my spin-off.  I already got my spin-off.  I get to do more dramatic acting, and that’s good enough for me. 

Breaking Bad airs on Sunday nights on AMC.

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