Get To Know This Better Call Saul Star Before She Blows Up

Photo: Ben Leuner/AMC.
No show could ever quite live up to the immediate high stakes of Breaking Bad (basic plot: an everyman is diagnosed with cancer and decides to cook meth, slowly descending into megalomania), but Better Call Saul does a pretty darn good job of pulling you in for a similar ride. For the uninitiated, the series kicks off six years before Walter White is using his chemistry background to whip up drugs, which will eventually lead him to criminal lawyer Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk.

In Better Call Saul, the titular character goes by the name of Jimmy McGill, and he's still the morally ambiguous shyster we knew in Bad. Jimmy hasn't entirely begun putting the "criminal" in criminal lawyer, though. He's still on the lowest rung of the legal ladder. That's what the series will be about: His Walter White-esque descent into moral turpitude. We're there for the ride, but in order to take said ride, we'll need to meet the Jimmy McGill not many other people get to see.

The person responsible for showing the us the lighter, more lovable side to his character is Rhea Seehorn. She plays Jimmy's love interest Kim Wexler his foil, and the person from his past who's outpacing him professionally. The two have a personal history together that runs deep, but in the skilled hands of creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, she's so much more than a gal Friday. 

We spoke to Seehorn about taking on the role of a lifetime, why this isn't just Breaking Bad: Season 7, and more.

What can you tell us about Kim?
"Kim is definitely trying to be the hero of her own story. She didn’t come from much, and neither did Jimmy. They share that background: that really scrappy, make-your-own-way-to-get-ahead [mentality]. She’s had some success that has paid off for her where it might not have for Jimmy... My relationship with him — I'm not going to give away where he’s at, but she’s obviously the one working in this big, giant firm on a two-year track to partner, which is incredibly ambitious. I think that their closeness and the candidness with which they question each other and just the things she’s beginning to observe, it’s compromising at times. Her relationship with him is beginning to complicate some of her ideas."

But, she's not just his love interest.
"In Peter and Vincent’s hands, that is a three-dimensional woman who operates independently and isn’t just reactionary. You can be a strong, independent woman who has a relationship with a man, and they write that. I've had people ask me, 'What exactly is their relationship now, though?' because they’ve got this long history that’s intertwined professionally, socially, personally, and is extremely complex. There's a richness to their relationship that I find more honest than some of the more simplistic ones that I’ve played or seen.

"It is beautifully honest, how complex her relationship is with [Jimmy]. It cannot be nailed down as one thing or another. You see why they are confidants to each other, and what purpose that serves them. You also see a really intelligent, really strong woman. Kim does not suffer fools well. She adores being around Jimmy. I think that that is a really great point of view for the audience to be able to have, and to see someone like her love his company but also be his peer and speak her mind without being judgmental or shrewish or anything else. That’s a developing storyline and relationship that I’m proud of."

What do you think makes Jimmy and Kim's stories worth telling?
"I feel like looking at this in Vince and Peter’s hands, it's the origin story of an everyman. A classic tale that’s epic. It’s as epic as a superhero’s story. To watch the descent or ascent of a man and his series of choices. and the ripple effect on those around him. It’s this beautiful, deep, and difficult question of what is good and what is bad. There's good and the bad in all of us, and what does it mean to want to be good? What did you want to become in life? Where did that get complicated along the way, and what is doing the right thing?"

"It's this tale of everybody trying to do the right things to get ahead and be a hero, and what if you just make a series of turns based on what’s thrown out you? I find that gripping to watch, that question of good and bad, black and white. Everybody exists in the in-between. I think it’s a story worth telling, and you see the other characters grappling with that as well."
Photo: Ursula Coyote/AMC.
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Were you a Breaking Bad fan?
"Huge one... Auditioning is nerve wracking anyway, but when you say, ‘Hey, would you mind going in that room and reading with someone that you’ve been obsessed with since Mr. Show, and for two genius writers who are at the top of their game in this industry and wrote the show that you think is one of the best shows ever in the history of television?’ Yeah, there were some nerves and some anxiety.

"They couldn’t be more excited for you to be great, though. These are people who really love actors and prop people and gaffers and lighting. They love the entire process. All they want to do is be master storytellers. If you want to help row the ship, they can’t wait to see how you row. It’s really amazing to be around."

Do you think Better Call Saul appeals to non-Breaking Bad fans, too?
"I do. [With] Walter White, you’re watching the descent of this man into madness, and sometimes they would flash forward. You do know that something’s coming, and this will unravel at some point. He is at the heart of his own undoing. With Saul, it’s very interesting to know where it ends up. You know what Saul is going to be like. How did that person become that? And why? It’s very cool...However, without any of that, the same as anybody could’ve come to Breaking Bad, you could still watch Jimmy’s journey to becoming Saul and not have any idea where it’s gonna end up, and I think it would still be fascinating and riveting. It’s definitely it’s own car trip."

What's it like working with Bob Odenkirk?
"He’s awesome. I wore a sleeveless blouse to my first meeting and audition with him and Vince and Peter because I knew the sweat stains would be ridiculous. I thought, 'I can’t wear anything light-colored, and it can’t be sleeveless.'...He’s remarkable. His tour-de-force performance in this is going to blow people away.

"What's intimidating about Bob is that he’s one of the most well-read people I've ever met in my life. I currently have 13 — and he’s going to say I’m lying, but I’m not — 13 books on my bedside all from four months in Albuquerque with him, because he reads multiple books at a time all while memorizing his lines. They’re all fascinating books, and he will tell you all about them and give them to you. About 24 hours later, he’ll ask you what you thought. We’re talking 300-plus page books. I’m like, 'I didn’t finish!'

"But, Bob’s very generous. He’ll be the first person to call you to say, ‘I know you have a huge scene tomorrow,' — and he’s got so much on his plate, and he’s a wonderful family man — yet still, he would ask you like, ‘Do you want to come over, do you want to run it? Do you want to work on it together?' [He's] just always there for you."
Photo: Lewis Jacobs/AMC.
Better Call Saul premieres Sunday on AMC at 10/9c, then continues airing at its normal time on Mondays at 10/9c.
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