Breaking Bad: Betsy Brandt talks scrapped Better Call Saul cameo | EW.com

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Breaking Bad alum Betsy Brandt talks nixed Marie cameo on Better Call Saul

(Ursula Coyote/AMC)

At a Better Call Saul panel last month, co-creator Vince Gilligan dropped an intriguing tidbit: The season 2 finale of AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel spin-off was to feature an appearance by a Bad character, but Gilligan was persuaded by co-creator Peter Gould and his fellow writers to scrap the cameo because it would have “distracted from a very important thing that was going on in that moment.”

As it turns out, that moment was Chuck’s CAT scan after his unsettling copy shop concussion, and that character was Hank’s wife/impulsive kleptomaniac Marie Schrader, played colorfully (specifically in purple) by Betsy Brandt. The plan was for Marie to help Chuck (Michael McKean) with the scan, given her occupation as a radiologic technologist. “I thought it would be a great and organic opportunity to bring back one of our fundamental Breaking Bad characters, and Peter and the other writers rightly talked me out of it,” Gilligan told EW earlier this week. “Not because they don’t love Betsy just as much as I do, but it would have distracted the viewer in the moment. It was a big moment in which we wanted to stay squarely inside of Chuck’s head as he goes through the terror and the agony of the scan.”

“You can’t do a Betsy Brandt scene without having a great Marie moment, and how are we going to make that a great Marie moment and still keep the focus, as Vince says, on Chuck?” added Gould, noting, “It hurt [to lose the cameo], though, because we miss Betsy.”

This Moment of Marie truly never made it out of the writers’ room, because Brandt first heard about it when contacted by EW for her reaction. “This is crazy! I’ve talked to all those guys and they never said anything!” she says with a laugh. “Even on Breaking Bad, Vince would have ideas for stories for your character, and a lot of times he wouldn’t tell you because if it didn’t happen, you’d get disappointed. So I respect that.”

And after viewing “Klick,” Brandt agrees with the producers’ decision to nix Marie’s hospital visit. “Oh no, she couldn’t be there,” she says. “What are they going to do, stick me in the background? That would be weird.” She adds: “In that moment, you know she’d be wearing purple and probably bitching at somebody … Would Marie ground herself before she touched him? Would they both be wearing the silver blankets?”

“It’s not her time,” she sums up. “I hope she has her time. Vince always makes the right call … That said, I would so love to work with Michael that I would never say no to working with an actor that I love. I think he’s phenomenal, and that role? Oh my God!”

As you can tell, Brandt is a big Saul fan; she calls “Five-O” — the season 1 episode that unspooled the story of how a guilt-soaked Mike (Jonathan Banks) sought murderous revenge for his son’s death — “some of the best television I’ve ever seen.” “One of the things I love about the show is that you can tell that it’s from the people that made Breaking Bad, but it just feels totally different,” she says. “They take you through this journey, and you’re never feeling as if there’s a flashing sign saying ‘Exposition! Exposition!’ yet you know everything you should know. You don’t know everything, but you know everything you should know. … Not only am I not getting [the sense] that there is a happy ending at all, it’s that they were so sad years before we met them.”

For the record, she was captivated by the reveal of Chuck playing up his mental and physical frailty to Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and then secretly recording Jimmy’s confession in the last moments of the finale. “It was so intense, I don’t even know how I feel,” she gushes. “I was just like, ‘Oh no you didn’t!’ when he lifted up the pillow and, it’s like, ‘Oh, who’s your friend now? Electricity?’ I thought it was just amazing. It was a great ride. Perfect. Perfect season finale.”

Gilligan is leaving open the door for a Marie appearance (“Anything’s possible,” he says. “We love her”), and Brandt is ready to bust through it. “Of course I would love to do it!” she says. “I love these people! But also, it’s such great television. What actor would be like, ‘No … thanks, guys, but I’m good’?”  

Does she have any preferences for what type of scene she’d like to do? “I would come and do craft services if that’s what they asked me to do,” she quips. “There really is nothing that I wouldn’t do. I mean, I’ve never had a scene with Bob and Jonathan, and I love both of those guys as actors and as humans, so I would happily run into them in a pizza parlor. I really don’t even care what it is. But, of course, I would love some huge meaty scene to chew on.”

Although Brandt has moved on to other projects — she currently stars in the CBS comedy Life In PiecesBreaking Bad still deeply resonates with her, and the chance to reprise her role on Saul holds a special draw. “I loved playing Marie. I have to tell you, I didn’t want to play Marie after I played Marie,” she says. “But … I miss her all the time. I miss all of them. That would be the only reason I’d wear purple again. Really.”