‘Better Call Saul’: Mark Margolis Was Cast as Hector Salamanca Because His Friend Refused the Role

Better Call Saul brought Mark Margolis back from Breaking Bad to play Hector Salamanca again. Margolis was so indelible in the role on Breaking Bad, he was too good not to show his backstory in the prequel. And the role would have gone to someone else if the other actor had been more open-minded. 

'Better Call Saul': Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) points his finger, sort of like Margolis to the actor who passed on the role
Mark Margolis | Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Margolis was a guest on the Better Call Saul Insider podcast on June 7. He shared how he first got the role of Hector Salamanca, and why the first choice for the role turned it down. Better Call Saul Season 6 returns July 11 on AMC.

Mark Margolis was the second choice for Hector Salamanca on ‘Breaking Bad’

When introduced on Breaking Bad, Hector had already had a stroke. He used a wheelchair and could not speak, so could only communicate by ringing a bell. Margolis didn’t name the first choice actor, but explained why he didn’t want the part. 

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“It was just offered to me,” Margolis said on Better Call Saul Insider. “So it’s a funny thing because a friend of mine before they offered it to me, they wanted to audition him. He lives in L.A., or lived. He passed away. I’ve known him for years. We were in a movie together but he looked at the [sides]. It’s the difference between a Hollywood mentality and a New York mentality among actors. He looked at the script, he flipped through and he thought, this guy doesn’t have any lines. I don’t want to do this.”

Even before ‘Better Call Saul,’ Mark Margolis loved the idea of a silent role 

Margolis had no problems memorizing lines as he showed on Better Call Saul when Hector could talk, as well as his many other roles. But when presented with the Breaking Bad version of Hector, Margolis was on board. 

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“I looked at the script and thought oh my, I don’t have to learn any lines,” Margolis said. “I just have to fly out to New Mexico, get into the scene and think. And for me it was heaven. His take was completely [different] and I think they might’ve given it to him because he is an authentic Latino from New Mexico. He was born in the slums of Albuquerque and he had a pretty good career in L.A. where he lived most of his life and speaks fluent Spanish. So he probably would’ve gotten it if he hadn’t been uptight about no lines. I thought this is great. I don’t have to learn any lines, I just have to think.”

Hector Salamanca doesn’t need to talk on ‘Better Call Saul’ or ‘Breaking Bad’ anyway

Another reason the lack of dialogue on Breaking Bad didn’t bother Margolis was because it showed that Hector didn’t really need to talk anyway. He got everything he wanted without the use of speech. Better Call Saul shows how he gained that power. 

“You only use words to get what you want,” Margolis said. “If you got what you want, I’m repeating things I’ve said on other things. If you come out to my log cabin and it’s the middle of winter and you come into the cabin and I’m somewhere outside. You’re freezing and there’s a pile of wood there. You throw it in the fireplace, start a fire, you feel good. If you don’t know where the wood is, you have to say, ‘Mark, Mark, where’s the wood?’ That’s the only reason you’re speaking.” 

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