We spoke to the man behind Jimmy McGill about Gus Fring, Cranston joining the team and his love of Alan Partridge
Hi Bob. Where are you at the moment?
I’m currently outside, at my very own Hollywood pool. It’s the greatest pool ever, I mean it. Really nice. Like most people in Hollywood though, I never get to use it. I’m just working and shit, I never have the time to actually go in.
Sorry to hear that
Yeah but it’s OK, I’m just outside, looking at it, I’m starting to make everyone feel bad about my success. But I’m really happy, it’s good to be too busy to use your own pool.
You’ve been working on Better Call Saul. What happens this season then?
This year we see my character, Jimmy McGill, really move forward to ‘become’ his alias Saul Goodman. This show isn’t going to last forever, but this year we move a big step closer, in my eyes anyway. The plan is obviously to bring him back to where we met him in Breaking Bad.
Breaking Bad’s uber-villain Gus Fring appears this year, doesn’t he?
He does. It’s no cameo, he’s a very big part of the season, we see into more of his world. I think the guys behind the show are more confident in regards to what Better Call Saul can be, and the crime and the comedy elements really amp up this year.
With the UK in a bit of a mess at the moment, and the US in a bit of a mess at the moment, do you think comedy is more or less effective in these dire times?
[Long sigh] Maybe it’s because I’m older, but everything seems pretty serious right now, you know? Comedy doesn’t seem like one of the tools that will help people see what’s going on, and understand it on a deeper level. It certainly doesn’t seem like it’ll turn the tide on anything. I think comedy is necessary, but not at the top of the list of what matters now.
Real life is quite stressful
It is. But the relatively new problem is that audiences are split up, it’s actually very hard to influence people anywhere. It can feel like there’s no broader opinion; everyone has their favourite comedy show, a trusted news source, a curated news feed they follow on social media. It makes things a lot less powerful.
That’s quite bleak
Sorry buddy. But I’d say Saturday Night Live is killing it, it’s so powerful right now. It’s well written, the political stuff is funny and it’s making people happy while also being fearless and diving into the wider problems in the US. For me, I like a safer world, I don’t know if my talents are up to this.
Do you still keep in touch with Brian Cranston?
We don’t text all the time or hang out in bars, but I see him occasionally. He watches the show, he’s really proud of it, there’s talk of him helping us out soon, maybe directing an episode, we’d really like to get him on board.
I read you’re working on a memoir. How’s that going?
Oh man. I’m supposed to be working on it right now. I think it’s going OK, we’ll see. To be honest I’ve been watching a lot of Alan Partridge with my son, I was watching it when you called. I’m such a fan. It’s so funny. But the book! I’ll get there, I’m still figuring out what kind of story I’m able to tell.
You’ve played a lot of morally corrupt and cynical characters. Do you think it has made you more or less cynical as a person?
Wow, OK. I think acting can make you more sympathetic to other people, even if the role you're playing is bleak or corrupt, you feel sympathy for them because you're inhabiting that mentality, even if it is only temporarily. Jimmy really shuts down this season, emotionally, he gets madder at the world for not being as forgiving as he would like it to be, and I feel for him in that journey. Because there are all kinds of people mad at the world, people who feel betrayed by their own luck or fortune. I get it. Someone once asked me, during Breaking Bad, if I saw Saul Goodman at a party, would I talk to him? I was like no way, I wouldn't go near that guy. But doing this show, exploring the choices someone like him has to make to survive, seeing how people cut themselves off from hope and human connections, I feel more sympathetic.
There’s a petition online for you to voice a character in Rick & Morty. Would you do it?
I haven’t seen it, but the show is in my orbit. I know Dan [Harman, creator] and Chris Parnell [voice of Jerry]. Should I drop them a line, or wait for them to call me? Basically, I’ll consider it.
Not that you need any more work on your plate
That’s true. But you know what? I’m in a good place, literally! Seriously, you should see this pool.