It was 10 years ago this month that Bob Odenkirk answered his first call as Saul Goodman. It was 2009 when the actor introduced the slippery con-man counselor in the sublime second season of Breaking Bad and then, in 2015, the prequel spinoff Better Call Saul dialed up a backstory for the character.
At Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys on Sunday, Odenikirk was the one-man panel for Better Call Saul (with Deadline’s Dominic Patten handling interviewer duties), and he still seems somewhat surprised how fans have embraced the ethics-challenged attorney.
“He’s a guy trying to find his place in the world,” Odenkirk said. “I always felt like Breaking Bad was a bit more of a universal scenario. My friend Jeff Garlin says it’s a midlife crisis! He’s got financial and family pressures and stuffm and when Saul started, I thought “It’s such an odd guy and such an idiosyncratic world of needs and desires.” But of course many people take many years to find their place where they can be themselves in the fullest way they can … and feel important and necessary. This is his journey. And that is a universal experience.”
Saul Goodman arrived in the eighth episode of Breaking Bad‘s Season 2, and fans quickly took a shine to the morally dim double-talker. He originally was conceived as a three- or four-episode guest star, but instead he went on to appear in 42 more episodes before the series’ storied run ended in 2013. Odenkirk returned to the role in 2015 with Better Call Saul, which (despite its title) presented the character when he was known by his birth name, Jimmy McGill, and has tracked his evolution toward the Saul alias.
“He’s floundered a bit in many ways,” Odenkirk said.
The show’s chronology is closing in on the starting point of Breaking Bad, which has the actor excited to see the “new” past catch up to the old “future.” Change is on the horizon. The darkening of Jimmy’s world throws his nascent law practice into jeopardy as well as his relationship with Kim (Rhea Seehorn). The lawyer struggles to keep the relationship on track despite the fact that his actions undermine it. “Everybody that knows the show knows that [the relationship] can’t last,” he said Sunday.
Odenkirk said the journey to become Saul Goodman has a finish line, and he’s sprinting toward it with the spirit of last-place runner. “I know who I am now!” he said. “I’m this sh*tty guy! It’s going to be great!”
The show has earned 23 Emmy nominations to date — a gaudy lifetime total that likely will increase soon — and its Season 4 arc has been a compelling one. The death of Jimmy’s eccentric brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), and his efforts has led to the birth of the Saul Goodman persona (the name is play on the optimistic phrase, “[It]’s all good, man”). The character’s third alias, Gene Taković, is the one he assumed at the conclusion of Breaking Bad as he fled to Nebraska to become a Cinnabon manager.
Better Call Saul is executive produced by Peter Gould, Vince Gilligan, Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein, Thomas, Schnauz and Gennifer Hutchison.