‘Better Call Saul’: Bob Odenkirk Talks Playing Jimmy McGill Under Duress — ‘I Just Like Seeing Him Tortured’

It can’t be easy playing a character like Jimmy McGill on Better Call Saul. Because the show is a spinoff prequel to Breaking Bad, fans already know that Jimmy will eventually become Saul Goodman, a shallow, vapid, con man criminal lawyer who only cares about money. Meanwhile, his past self is much more complex.

Actor Bob Odenkirk pulls off this switcheroo perfectly. The Jimmy he plays in early seasons of Better Call Saul is “naïve” and has a shocking lack of self-awareness. But by the end of the explosive fifth season, fans are starting to see why Jimmy becomes Saul.

Recently, Odenkirk sat down with TV Insider to discuss how much the character has grown since season 1 and why his favorite scenes are the ones where Jimmy is in peril.

Playing Saul Goodman is much easier than Jimmy McGill, Odenkirk said

Jimmy McGill
Jimmy McGill | Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Tel

RELATED: ‘Better Call Saul’: ‘Bagman’ Was Filmed in the Same Desert Where Walt and Jesse First Cook in ‘Breaking Bad,’ Vince Gilligan Reveals

Even though Jimmy and Saul are technically the same person, that doesn’t mean they’re equally easy to play. Odenkirk reflected on how Saul from Breaking Bad is much easier to understand because he has the depth of a puddle.

“[The role of Saul] is actually not hard to play. That’s the easiest thing I do because Saul is a very shallow person. He’s a compartmentalized, single facade that the character is playing,” Odenkirk said during the interview.  

“There’s not really any depth behind it because the point of it is to not show himself. He wants to be this easy-to-grasp voice of a shifty, shady lawyer, con-man dealmaker. So that’s kind of easy to play.”

Meanwhile, portraying Jimmy with all his emotional complexity requires more effort and skill.

Odenkirk loves seeing Jimmy McGill suffering, like in ‘Bagman’

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Seven. Million.

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Like many actors, Odenkirk has begun to sympathize with his character and want the best for him, even though we already know his fate in Breaking Bad. The 57-year-old acting veteran explained that the most challenging situations lead to the most character growth.

“I would say I love episode 8 of season 5 (“Bagman”) in the desert because I particularly like when Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman is under great physical duress,” he explained.

“Early on in the show, I was in a garbage dumpster. There have been many times when he’s physically in danger and he always is a fun character to play because he’s somewhat the mechanic of his own terrible fortune. It has a funny dimension to it and his brain works in triple speed. I just like seeing him tortured.”

Odenkirk went on to say that Jimmy emerged from the desert as a “different guy — frail and a bit more hesitant.” Those life-altering situations are bound to continue during season 6 right up until the series finale.

Jimmy McGill will fully become Saul Goodman soon enough

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This isn’t Jimmy McGill anymore.

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All along fans have been waiting for the “Aha!” moment when Jimmy finally becomes the Saul we know from Breaking Bad. But the process is long and winding — even showrunner Peter Gould expressed surprise that it hasn’t happened yet. The final season will provide answers fans have been waiting for, including what happens to Jimmy in the post-Breaking Bad world of Gene Takovic.

When asked about season 6 teasers, Odenkirk said he didn’t know for sure. But he’s hopeful.

“Well, all indications are that it will be tragic. And yet, I hold out hope that as opposed to Walter White, the character can end up in a better place than he started,” he said.

“I don’t think that having self-awareness, even if it’s earned through incredible pain and trauma, is a bad thing to get. I think it can make you more happy with your life … I don’t like Saul, but I liked Jimmy and I like the man inside the man. I have an affection for that guy and I want him to be OK. We’ll see … I doubt it, but I can hope.”

Better Call Saul Season 6 is tentatively scheduled to premiere in 2021.