The Emmy nominated stars and creators of AMC’s Better Call Saul arrived at the Hollywood Legion Theater for Thursday night’s premiere. The energetic, outdoor affair was the perfect way to safely ring in the final season of the multiple Emmy nominated drama series.
It’s been well over a year since the Breaking Bad prequel-meets-sequel was on the air, and suffice it to say…. a lot has happened. Series star and producer Bob Odenkirk released his highly anticipated memoir, “Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama.”
Long before his book was making headlines, Odenkirk found himself trending due to a life-threatening scare while filming the sixth season. “They had to shock me three times with the defibrillator,” Odenkirk recalls of his near fatal heart attack.
It’s a story that he’s recounted several times since the July 2021 incident, recently with Howard Stern on his book tour. Odenkirk credits his costars along with the onset medic and local surgeons with saving his life. “Everyone jumped right into action and didn’t miss a beat.”
On the night of the premiere, Odenkirk and the rest of the Better Call Saul cast felt an immense sense of gratitude for the bonds forged amid their eight years of production in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Bob said it best towards the end,” recalls Patrick Fabian. “‘We did it all… we lived together, we hiked together, we ate together, and we became family with this crew. There wasn’t a box we didn’t check, and knowing that things have a natural end, we are so blessed to go out on a high note.’”
It’s not hyperbole to say that everyone in attendance understood the magnitude of what they’d accomplished with the critically awarded spinoff series. It’s no secret that Saul has been an anchor for AMC’s viewership, and likely why the network jumped at the chance to re-team with Odenkirk for the newly announced series, Straight Man.
“It’s going to be lighter,” Odenkirk teases of his new show after reflecting on some of last season’s most intense moments (Lalo Salamanca’s ominous “Tell Me Again” line still reverberating in fans’ ears).
For Patrick Fabian, his most electric scenes are set for the final season. Since the pilot, attorney Howard Hamlin has always been a character that’s in the fray of each season, but now he’s become the target. “It seems like Kim has her sights set on Howard at the end of last season… with the finger guns,” Fabian says with a smirk.
As a character, Howard has grown immensely in the last six years. From a personal low point in season four to returning to top form in season five, Howard came to realize that Jimmy McGill’s talents are indeed assets and that he should try to make amends with the last living McGill.
“Howard is absolutely being the bigger man, I mean, I tried to give Jimmy a job,” Fabian jokes about the season five plot point. The move ultimately backfired on Howard, leading to Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman targeting Howard with a series of embarrassing and costly pranks.
“There’s an argument to be made that Howard’s been the most steady and upright character over the entire six seasons, dealing with the McGill brothers’ feud, dealing with Kim, and what does he get?” Fabian asks. “A bowling ball hitting his Jaguar.”
For Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler, she’s not holding anything back in the final season. “Over the course of the show, the audience has seen Kim constantly suppress how she’s feeling,” Seehorn shares. “This season, I think we see Kim as someone who can’t keep the lid on a boiling pot anymore, and just how destructive that can be.”
Like the rest of the Saul family, Seehorn had a difficult time with the traumatic nature of Odenkirk’s heart attack and the period of uncertainty directly following that. It’s undoubtedly the most memorable moment from filming the final season, but one moment doesn’t define the nearly decade of work that everyone’s put into the project.
“Outside of Bob’s heart attack, the thing that sticks with me most about the end of this journey is that I’ve completed the best role of my career with some of the best people I’ve ever worked with… absolutely amazing people and amazing writers,” Seehorn says.
Mexican-American actor Tony Dalton has had a stellar run of roles following his American television debut on AMC’s flagship drama series.
Last December, Dalton played the seemingly villainous Jack Duquesne on Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye. The wealthy fencing virtuoso clashed with Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop early in the season, mainly because he was dating her mother (Vera Farmiga).
In a masterful turn, the writers reveal that Dalton’s Jack Duquesne is not the villain of the series. Instead, he gets a heroic turn in the finale that was as unexpected to Dalton as it was to the legions of fans.
“I didn’t know that the twist was coming,” Dalton says with a laugh. “Especially reading the early episodes… but I was very grateful. It’s very easy to get typecast and be the bad guy, but this role was such a gift. Seeing Jack as this nice step-father who was naive but also talented with swords which he used to save the day.”
As an actor, Dalton had previous fencing experience and picked up where he left off with his old trainer. The physicality of dueling was in many ways less physically taxing than the role of Lalo in Better Call Saul — particularly in the final moments of season five when Lalo mixed Die Hard with John Wick to stay alive from a violent home incursion.
“In the studio they built that underground tunnel, you can see it’s incredibly long because I’m crawling toward the camera for so long in that single shot,” Dalton says. “It was my Bruce Willis in the air duct moment.”
For Dalton, meeting the fans in New Mexico was a particular thrill while filming the series. “When we’re filming, we’re seen a lot in Albuquerque… you run into the fans and it’s always lovely. Some of them have your face tattooed on them.”
For set decorator Ashley Marsh, she lives in Albuquerque full time and joined Better Call Saul post Breaking Bad. “I was able to join Saul and then do the film, El Camino, which was interwoven with the original series,” Marsh recalls.
Marsh doesn’t have a conventional prop house at her disposal like she would if she were working in Los Angeles or New York. “You have to get creative, which means finding things at garage sales and visiting every thrift store every day,” Marsh says with a laugh.
The most interesting recreation for Marsh came from El Camino, when Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman goes to the vacuum store to meet with the late Robert Forster. “When they shot Breaking Bad, that store was actually a vacuum store,” Marsh says.
“When we went back for El Camino, that store had become a furniture store… basically we matched everything through a tedious process of searching for fifteen and twenty year old vacuums based off pictures.”
One key player from the Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and El Camino trilogy the brilliant and versatile Jonathan Banks. The veteran actor was Emmy nominated for his role as ex-cop turned gun-for-hire Mike Ehrmantraut in the series’ first season.
Six years later, Banks has an even greater understanding of Mike and the character’s pesky morality. It’s a trait that’s putting him at odds with his dangerous employer, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). “Mike’s conscience is what gets him in trouble and it’s what gets him killed in the original series,” Banks shares. “Right now he’s standing up for Nacho (Michael Mando) and his father, when no one else will, and at great personal risk.”
Banks’ passion and appreciation for his beloved character is sincere, and he sees parallels in his own life. “Like all of us, we wish we’d done things differently looking in the rear view mirror… and that is really the key factor in Mike’s pain,” Banks says. “He can’t forgive himself for his heinous acts, and so he clings to his granddaughter because there’s love there… a light in a world of darkness.”
For Michael Mando, his character of Nacho Varga has evolved from an intimidating criminal to a reluctant undercover Lalo Salamanca informant for Gus Fring. Nacho risks his life to protect his salt of the Earth father — a mechanic who believes in God, family, and doing the right thing.
“You never know what a character is until you get to the end,” Mando says of his journey as Nacho. “Every year you’re adding strokes of paint to the canvass… now, to look back at the finished canvass, it’s a really romantic character.”
Mando lost his own father within the last two years, and it added another layer to his often emotional performance. “Nacho is a character that’s caught between two sociopathic Cartel families, and they’ve both had his father at gun point at various times,” Mando says.
“Despite being imperfect, Nacho refuses to go to the dark side… he will never stop fighting to protect his father who he sees as a Saint figure,” Mando explains. “It’s a dream role and I feel fortune to play the role.”
For series star Bob Odenkirk, he thought Saul Goodman was the dream role in Breaking Bad. “I always thought that I would do well in a drama, but this was not something that I considered in my wheelhouse,” Odenkirk says at the close of the red carpet.
For Odenkirk, Better Call Saul has given him the challenge off embodying three characters across one lifetime… Jimmy McGill, Saul Goodman, and Gene from Cinnabon. “Saul is the most fun character to play, despite me not liking him at all as a person,” Odenkirk says. “Jimmy is by far the most rewarding to play, and Gene you just feel sorry for, but you’ll see he’s still got some spark in him in the future.”
The always engaging and gracious Giancarlo Esposito, Emmy nominated for his role as Gus Fring, spent over an hour on the carpet. Unfortunately, he was pulled into the theater to be seated before he could finish the press line.
Season six of Better Call Saul premieres on AMC and AMC+ on April 18th. In the meantime, enjoy a quick refresher on Better Call Saul’s fifth season with the entire cast.