AMC had so much success with “Breaking Bad” that a spinoff series was inevitable.
Most producers would tried to continue the much-heralded world of Walter White, despite the fact he had was killed in the “Breaking Bad” finale.
But “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan doesn’t think like most producers.
If he did, there wouldn’t have been a show about a high school teacher with cancer who becomes a murderous drug dealer. “Breaking Bad” took all of the conventions of television dramas and twisted them into a dark and original story that was as addictive as the drugs on the show.
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Gilligan and fellow executive producer, Peter Gould, have taken the same approach to their “Bad” spinoff, “Better Call Saul.” They are building a show around an anti-hero — set before what happened in “Breaking Bad.” This allows them to use familar characters and locations without limitations on what can happen to those characters.
No matter how much his sleazy clients threaten him, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) must be around to be part of the “Breaking Bad” world.
“I guess we’re somewhat contrarian in the sense that we like showing people stuff they haven’t necessarily seen before,” Giligan says.
“Saul” is set six years before Goodman became Walter White’s lawyer. Goodman is known as Jimmy McGill, a small-time lawyer with big ideas and little hope. The series will track McGill’s transformation into a criminal lawyer who’s more criminal than lawyer.
The series debuts at 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, after the mid-season opener for “The Walking Dead.” “Better Call Saul” then moves to its regular time slot at 10 p.m. Mondays, starting Feb. 9.
Odenkirk describes Goodman as a lawyer with “slippery ethics.”
“I think Vince and Peter have a great time creating highly conflicting ethical situations where your personal drive juxtaposes with good behavior, and the character has to navigate a complex and sort of ever changing prism of ethical choices,” Odenkirk says. “That is fun to watch with this character because he has an ability to be ‘oh (expletive deleted). I’m stuck’.”
Gilligan and Gould say Goodman wants to be a good man. The interesting part for them is figuring out what motivates him. “Breaking Bad” fans know that Goodman ends up being a slippery, two-faced lawyer with no ethical center. “Better Call Saul” will chart his journey to becoming that guy.
The show will not look at whether a person wants to be good or bad. Rather, situations occur where no matter how hard a person tries to be good, there’s no way to follow that path.
Setting the show in the past gives actors like Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks, who reprises his role of Mike Ehrmantraut, a chance to return to familiar roles but take a fresh approach to them.
“I had to rethink him. He’s a different guy. The guy you’re going to meet in this show is a far more dimensional character than Saul Goodman was on ‘Breaking Bad,’ a much richer character,” Odenkirk says. “By necessity, he’s on screen a lot more and the story’s about him, and so I had to do the job of acting and reading the script and talking to Vince and Peter about the character and figuring out who these new sides of the character.”
Despite playing the character for years on “Breaking Bad,” Banks is still learning about his character. His main concern is just remaining true to the role.
Like “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul” is being shot in Albuquerque and has many of the same crew members.
Neither producer will say how many “Breaking Bad” actors will pop up during the run of “Better Call Saul.” Because Gilligan doesn’t take a traditional path with his shows, any guest spots won’t be presented just to cause a bump in ratings.
“We need to let the story and the characters tell us, dictate to us, tell us where to go. If it ever got to the point in the show where we said to ourselves, “we need Bryan (Cranston) in this one,” I will hope that will be the day I quit,” Gilligan says. “The sky’s the limit and any of these characters from ‘Breaking Bad’ could conceivably, theoretically, show up in future seasons. But our intention is, and our hope is, that when we do, it will feel proper and fitting and organic. If it feels like the stunt, then we have, in the writers’ room, have done something horribly wrong.”