Those who have watched and loved Breaking Bad are likely plagued with a question going into its origin series, Better Call Saul: Can Saul live up to Vince Gilligan’s magnum opus?
In contrast, those who haven’t watched Breaking Bad (shame on you) are likely plagued with a question of a very different kind: Do I need to watch Breaking Bad before watching Better Call Saul?
The origin series will track debauched criminal lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) in the time prior to establishing his strip-mall law office in Albuquerque. There, he eventually gives legal aid to Breaking Bad’s Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul).
Rhea Seehorn, who stars alongside Odenkirk as ambitious lawyer Kim Wexler, answered the questions above, and more, while speaking at EW’s Screen Actors Guild Awards party on Saturday.
EW: Better Call Saul’s premiere is just around the corner. People are getting excited.
RHEA SEEHORN: I’ve seen some billboards.
What was your experience like working on the show, and coming into a world that has, to a certain degree, already been created?
It was terrifying. It’s sort of like the job where everyone is like, ‘Oh my God, can you imagine if you got that part?’ I’ve worked with all amazing people that I’m totally proud of, but when you think of [Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s] type of storytelling and the complexity of roles they make for actors that are like this onion that keeps peeling, it’s the job of a lifetime. Then you get it, and you go, ‘Holy poop! I have to go do this, and I really need to not drive this car in a ditch.’
But you know what, I showed up on set in Albuquerque, and it was amazing. It was all the same crew. There’s Vince and there’s Peter, there’s Bob Odenkirk and [Jonathan Banks]. They all still wear their Breaking Bad T-shirts and caps. The crew people all do. You felt a little like, I don’t have a T-shirt. Then, there’s the welcoming reception, and you’re handed the first script, and you realize, oh my God, we’re going to make our own thing. It’s a whole new sandbox. I’d never felt energy quite like that where they could not wait for you to get in there and play, and play off you. Let’s make a whole new rich story! That’s probably the only thing that could have alleviated some of that anxiety. Vince and Peter pick which ballpoint pen is on a table in a scene. You weren’t forced on them. They picked you and they want you to contribute and they want you to be a part of this.
What can people expect from this origin story? How different is it from Breaking Bad?
It’s definitely Better Call Saul season one, not Breaking Bad season six, which I think is a good thing. That’s coming from someone who is a huge Breaking Bad fan. I am now watching it for the third time. Given that, there’s treasures to find if you know the history of Breaking Bad. There’s definitely, oh, I’ve seen that person, and very interesting recurring things, like location, Albuquerque. Underlying the whole thing is its DNA: Vince and Peter, these writers. It’s the same writers and producers and crew so that rich, rich storytelling, the layering of characters and the switches in storytelling, that’s all there. I think that’s part of why people fell in love with Breaking Bad. That being said, it’s definitely like you’re getting in a different car and taking a different road trip. You’ll see some of the same diners sometimes, which I think is cool. My mom asked me the other day—violence is hard for her, so she didn’t ever watch Breaking Bad—”Honey, do I have to watch it?”
Just skip over the box-cutter scene…
…Or someone dying choking on their own vomit. The thing is, I think it’s great that you could enjoy it either way. Watching an origin story, versus watching someone go down a well, or go down the rabbit hole, you don’t have to know who he is going to become. If you do, I think that’s a very exciting story to be watching, same with Mike Ehrmantraut (Banks). We get to see some of his origins. But if you don’t, I still think it’s going to be pretty awesome to watch, no matter what.
So you don’t have to watch Breaking Bad going into Better Call Saul, but would you recommend it?
I would recommend watching Breaking Bad as a human being on the planet. I don’t think it’s necessary to study up. It’d probably be fun to check in with Saul’s first episode, but I don’t think it’s necessary at all. I think it makes some colorful background probably even more vibrant to you if you know that stuff. It would actually probably be a really cool experience to ask someone who never saw Breaking Bad and has no idea who Saul is what they think of this journey versus somebody that has.
I think you just gave me a story idea.
Do it. Where are you going to find this person? It’s my mom! Do you need her number?
Better Call Saul kicks off with a two-night premiere event, airing Sunday, Feb. 8 and Monday, Feb. 9 on AMC at 10/9 c.