Bob Odenkirk is first on the call sheet for Better Call Saul. When he was on Breaking Bad, it was Bryan Cranston at the top, but the prequel is Jimmy McGill (Odenkirk)’s show. Odenkirk takes his responsibility seriously. He rehearses his lines with his costars, sometimes even if he’s not in the scene. Even he has limits though.
Odenkirk was a guest on Michael Rosenbaum’s podcast Inside of You. He described his commitment to rehearsals, but also described a time during the first season where he was overworked. It wasn’t until he found out the crew was overworked too that he said something. Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
The producers of ‘Better Call Saul’ kept squeezing more work out of Bob Odenkirk
Odenkirk noticed the difference between Breaking Bad and becoming the main character of Better Call Saul. He had a lot more dialogue to learn, and a lot more scenes to shoot. When production would fall behind, they’d ask him to return to set less than 12 hours later. Technically, actors are guaranteed a 12 hour turnaround, but Odenkirk was magnanimous about it.
“I was so thankful that we were making this show, I didn’t want anybody to have any problem because of me,” Odenkirk said. “I’ll just work harder. I kept asking the AD [assistant director], ‘Can I say no?’ They would never say, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ They would always say, ‘Hey, we need to force your call and we need to do it for blah blah blah blah blah’ then they’d look at me. I’d be like okay, well, do it I guess.”
The ‘Better Call Saul’ schedule was taking a toll on Bob Odenkirk
“A couple weeks into that, I was getting really fatigued,” Odenkirk said. “I lost my voice.”
Odenkirk tried to figure out if he could say no to pushing his call time, but the producers and assistant directors dodged the question.
“I was like, ‘Are you asking me? Are you telling me?’” Odenkirk said. “Even when I said that question they’d go, ‘Well, it’s just that we can’t make…’ They wouldn’t answer the question. It was driving my f*cking crazy.”
Even Rosenbaum informed Odenkirk that the actor has the right to say no and insist on 12 hours turnaround time.
“I know, they would never present it to me that way,” Odenkirk said. “It was like, ‘We need to.’ It was like I think you’re just informing me of what you need to do. All right, you don’t even have to tell me that. The way you’re talking is so weird. Just give me the sheet that says I have to wake up earlier.”
Bob Odenkirk finally stood up for the crew
The last straw came over a weekend. Actors are supposed to get 36 hours of turnaround on a weekend.
“This is week six or seven and episode five where they were going to force the weekend call,” Odenkirk said. “We were shooting ‘til around 7:00 a.m Saturday morning. Starting Friday at 6:00 p.m., we shot until Saturday at 7:00 a.m. Then Monday we start at 5:30 a.m. So [they say], ‘We need to force the weekend call. You can’t have your 36 hours.”
When Odenkirk threatened to say no, he learned there was more at stake than himself.
“That was the point where I said, ‘Can I say no?’” Odenkirk said. “This person looked at me and said, ‘I think the crew would really appreciate it if you said no.’ They’re f*cking dying. They must think I’m an *sshole for saying yes to this over and over. I thought I had to say yes. You didn’t even offer it to me as a question. So I said, ‘Well, f*cking no then.’ Then I got on top of it. From that point on I was like okay, hold on a second.”
‘Better Call Saul’ has been much smoother ever since
Odenkirk gave producers the benefit of the doubt that they were still figuring out how to schedule Better Call Saul. He’s glad he put his foot down though.
“You know, the job of a producer in this business is to shoot as much as possible in as little time as possible, to save money,” Odenkirk. “That’s their job. They’re doing their job if your back is against the wall. But if you can’t do a good job because they’ve jammed too much in, then they’re not doing their job. They gotta find that line. These producers had not yet found that line.”