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Bob Odenkirk Precisely Pinpoints The Difference Between Jimmy And Saul Goodman On ‘Better Call Saul’ (Uproxx)

In this week’s episode (3.08), when Jimmy threatened the parks and rec guy with a lawsuit in order to free the drug dealer from his community service hours, that wasn’t exactly a move closer to Saul Goodman for Jimmy. “I don’t think that’s Saul,” Bob Odenkirk said on the Better Call Saul Insider podcast. “That’s Jimmy. That’s who he is. That’s a facility he has. To manipulate other people and think about what matters to him and negotiate.”

It’s his ability to manipulate other people and negotiate, in fact, that makes Jimmy a good lawyer, but not necessarily Saul Goodman. If coming up with a quick scheme to allow Jimmy to rest his back while doing community service and freeing a drug dealer to make a deal is not Saul-like, then what is?

The difference between Jimmy and Saul is not in their actions, it’s in the consequences, Odenkirk says. “Saul is the guy who doesn’t really care about the collateral damage. And knows it. And is aware of it.”

While Jimmy sometimes “does things to hurt people,” Odenkirk continues, “it’s not the purpose of his schemes. He’s oblivious to the collateral damage. Or he doesn’t want to look at it.”

Saul, on the other hand, is more “fully mature. He’s fully aware of who is going to get hurt, and he doesn’t care. It’s about serving himself. So, when he makes those emotional choices without regard to the consequences, that’s when we’re getting in touch with Saul.”

“It’s not the name,” Odenkirk continues. “It’s not the fast talking. He did that when he was 16. He’s done that his whole life. It’s the growth of the character to an awareness that people get hurt by his schemes and then not caring. A choice to be mercenary.”

So why exactly does Jimmy turn into Saul Goodman? “It’s just getting his feelings hurt in life over and over,” Odenkirk presumes. Jimmy has learned the wrong lessons in life. “We very often feed our kids too many cookies because our parents wouldn’t give us cookies. That’s not the right lesson.” Giving cookies to your kids is fine, but it’s important to give the right amount of cookies.

In Saul, Jimmy gets his feelings hurt by Chuck, by Kim, and by Hamlin, and instead of being more careful of other people’s feelings, Jimmy McGill simply takes the wrong lesson in life and decides to double down by hurting other people even more.

That’s the journey of Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman. In other words, we’ll know that Saul Goodman has arrived when Jimmy hatches a scheme fully knowing that it will result in someone else’s emotional pain, and he goes through with it anyway, indifferent to the consequences.

Dustin Rowles

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Inside the Breaking Bad writers’ room:

 "By the end of the 4 season, it should be that Jesse is torn between two friends, or masters … “ Gilligan said, groping toward a breakthrough.
"Just say ‘lovers’,” said one of the writers.
“No, it’s a custody battle! 'I don’t know whether I want to live with Mom or Dad!’” Gilligan nearly shouted, grinning.
And the room’s energy was suddenly refocused.
“Walt is like, 'He’s trying to turn you against me, don’t you see?’”
“His house is bigger than mine. Is that the problem?”
Gilligan was laughing: “He’s got a PlayStation. All I have is Sega.”

©

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What A day it had been, what seemed like a promising way to score some cash had turned out to be a bust.

Rather than some ‘run a scheme in hopes of getting a valuable Pokemon’ that he was accustomed to, he had been scoping out the newest bank branch to open up a few towns over.

Of course he had been the one to do the dirty work, dressed in a pair of khakis, a button down shirt, and tie, that Cassidy said made him look professional. They had run down the whole plan, he’d go canvas the place under the guise of opening a new account, and they’d return later that night to empty out a few safe deposit boxes, earning them some well deserved, and much needed praise from the boss.

Unfortunately upon checking the place out, the security system and guards were going to make that near impossible.

Sighing, Butch ducked around the side of the headquarters building and loosened his the, he felt like a tool in this get up.

Fishing in his pocket, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one, taking a long drag. Anything he could do to avoid going inside to break the bad news was welcome right about now.

Highlights of the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, Ep. 107 “Bingo”

Guests this episode are Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, and Julie Ann Emery (Betsy Kettleman).

  • Julie Ann Emery and Jeremy Shamos spent a lot of time in character as the Kettlemans doing ordinary things like going shopping, going to the Macaroni Grill, etc. Had they not done such great work in their roles, their characters probably wouldn’t have continued on the show past the second episode or so.
  • An example of a spontaneous, unscripted moment created by the two actors: Betsy shooing away the waitress bringing coffee while Craig clearly wants some. Emery: “[Jeremy Shamos] was continually making choices that were the opposite of what I was doing.” The Kettlemans’ dialogue trying to figure out what elder law is was improvised as well.
  • Emery thinks of Betsy as a sort of Lady MacBeth who ultimately wants her husband to hold a high place of power, but feels they first need to cultivate a certain image of wealth and success in order to do so.
  • The man who bumps into Jimmy in the diner bathroom is the same character as one of the guys in coveralls who helps build the giant magnet on Breaking Bad; he is played by Todd, one of the show’s teamsters.
  • Both Vince Gilligan and podcast co-host Chris McCaleb worked with Barry Shabaka Henley (Detective Sanders) on the show Robbery Homicide Division (2002-2003). McCaleb actually got in trouble for doing impressions of Henley and another actor on the show’s temp ADR recordings.
  • Kelley Dixon talks about the importance for an editor of loving all the characters, in the sense of seeing them from their own point of view and really understanding their motivations, in order to craft the best performance possible out of the raw footage. 
  • Vince Gilligan prefers to think of it as being obsessed with the characters rather than loving them – which was his relationship with Walter White. 
  • Julie Ann Emery chimes in from an actor’s point of view: “You can’t be judgmental of a character and walk in their shoes at the same time.”
  • Speaking of total immersion, Kelley Dixon has had dreams where she is trying to edit the scenes in her dreams and it isn’t working.
  • Detective Sanders is named after Vince Gilligan’s art teacher in high school. Irene, the old lady who wins bingo, is named after Gennifer Hutchison’s grandmother.
  • In connection with the shot of the chrysalis, Gilligan tells a childhood story about how his mom gave him a mason jar half-filled with gasoline and paid him 50 cents to pick Japanese beetles out of the cherry tree. Lil’ Vince saw a cluster over his head, jumped up to grab them, and all the gasoline and dead Japanese beetles stuck to his hair and face. His mom ran out to his screams to see him running around in a circle screaming.
  • Julie Ann Emery was intimidated by the scene where Betsy Kettleman has her breakdown because she felt it was important, yet difficult, to make this otherwise ridiculous character relatable in that moment.
  • Kelley Dixon talks about how different Jimmy, who performs a selfless act for his friend and has an emotional breakdown at the end of the episode, is from Saul Goodman. The show is ostensibly about how relatable Jimmy transforms into to not-so-relatable Saul, but Dixon suggests that there may still be a bit of Jimmy left in the Saul we see in Breaking Bad, as yet unbeknownst to us given how relatively little we see of him in that show.
  • Asked what it’s like being the only woman writer on the show, Gennifer Hutchison says that she is aware of the danger of being defined as “the woman’s voice,” when a male writer wouldn’t be pigeonholed in that way. She tries to be a writer first, yet she does find herself invested the female characters in a special way because she is a woman.

Highlights of the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, Ep. 103 “Nacho”

Guests this episode are Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, music supervisor Thomas Golubić, and writer/co-executive producer Thomas Schnauz.

  • All of this season’s episode titles end with –o.
  • The scene after the teaser, in which Jimmy calls Kim in the middle of the night, was Rhea Seehorn’s audition scene.
  • Some of the other audition scenes for Better Call Saul were fake scenes written by junior writers or writers’ assistants to avoid leaks. This practice was carried over from Breaking Bad; for example, Jesse Plemons’s audition scene for the character of Todd involved being in the Army in Fallujah, which never happened on the show.
  • The teaser with Jimmy in jail in Chicago is set in 1992. Chuck’s chunky old cell phone is the same model as one used in an episode of The X-Files. The location is the same one used for the jail parts of the courthouse montage in the previous episode, “Mijo.”
  • The director of this episode, the Brit Terry McDonough, is beloved by the Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul crew for working quickly and getting them home early; hence his nickname “Ten-Hour Terry.”
  • As I suspected, Nacho is indeed the Ignacio mentioned by Saul in Breaking Bad episode 208, “Better Call Saul.”
  • In the original script, Mike was supposed to read For Whom the Bell Tolls in his booth rather than doing the crossword puzzle, but the producers couldn’t get the rights to the title.
  • Better Call Saul’s title music, by an English trio called Little Barrie, was meant to fit Jimmy’s personality, which has a streak of melancholy, as well as reflecting the fact that he often improvises and makes things up as he goes along.
  • The titles themselves are meant to look like something from cheap, early-to-mid 80s home video or public access TV, “artfully shitty” in contrast to the beautiful, sophisticated title sequences on so many modern shows.  The music was deliberately clipped at the end to add to the low-budget feel.
  • A different video is underneath the titles every episode. They’re always images from Saul’s world, not Jimmy’s, which parallels Dave Porter’s intent in creating the title music for Breaking Bad, to reflect where Walt ends up, not where he is now.
  • Nacho slapping the table in the jail was improvised by Michael Mando.
  • The window where Jimmy gets paid is in the same hallway where Hank got Walt out of trouble after he got arrested in Breaking Bad 302, “Caballo Sin Nombre.”
  • SPOILER for those who haven’t seen Breaking Bad: the location in the photo above is the same location where Mike died.

Highlights of the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, Ep. 102 “Mijo”

The guests this episodeare Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Bob Odenkirk, and director Michelle MacLaren.

  • Jimmy’s funny lines in thecourtroom montage were improvised. (From what I understand, this is the first time Bob Odenkirk has ever ad-libbed while playing Saul/Jimmy, despite his background in improv.)
  • Some of Jimmy’s lines to Mike (“Troll alert,” etc.) were “pocket dialogue.” This is dialogue that has been filmed without necessarily intending to use it; for example, in montages where you see characters talking but only hear music. In this case, Odenkirk’s performance was so funny that they turned the sound up.
  • Conversely, there was plenty of scripted dialogue filmed during Jimmy’s hot date, but everything was so clear from the actors’ body language that they took the dialogue out and just used music. (Another reason was that the characters were talking about chocolate milk and Gilligan worried that the audience would think that strangely specific detail was somehow important to the plot.) All we hear besides the music is breadsticks breaking.
  • The desert scene with Tuco’s gang was originally going to be in a warehouse.
  • There was a “roof pizza moment” when Michelle MacLaren was shooting the scene where Chuck throws Jimmy’s phone outside with tongs – Michael McKean made the phone land exactly where it was supposed to on the second try.
  • Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean (Chuck) have acted together before in a Mr. Show sketch – ironically, set in a law school. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxMS59sxwxs
  • Michelle MacLaren points out the importance and challenge for an actor to stay in character during physical scenes and when handling props, such as when Jimmy has to move all the furniture in his office to go to bed and then move it all back quickly when Nacho shows up.
  • Peter Gould: “Nacho looks at Jimmy and sees Saul… it’s almost as if Nacho has seen what Jimmy will become.”