“If you were to put a gun to my head about what surprised me most, it would be how tragic it feels” confesses Peter Gould about “Better Call Saul.” In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), he elaborates, “The thing that surprised me is how deep Jimmy McGill turned out to be. Saul Goodman, when we saw him on ‘Breaking Bad,’ didn’t seem to have a lot of different levels. The longer we work on the show the more we’ve found. A lot of that has to do with Bob Odenkirk’s amazing performance.”
Gould is the co-creator of “BCS” with Vince Gilligan. The series tells the story of how the affable attorney Jimmy McGill becomes criminal lawyer Saul Goodman. The character first appeared in a Season 2 episode of “Breaking Bad,” titled ‘Better Call Saul,’ which was written by Gould. Of that early entry, he adds, “We all thought he’d be Saul Goodman complete by the end of the first season. During the first season we realized that is the story of the show: How this guy that has so much heart and humanity becomes somebody who has the inner coldness that Saul does. The more we got to know Jimmy the better we liked him and the harder stretch it seemed that he would ever become Saul Goodman. It was this season that the fog cleared about how this happens. It saddened me a lot, but it’s an exciting and tough journey.”
This evolution was explored in the most recent fifth season when Saul helps a dangerous drug cartel member get released from jail. Gould explains, “He helped a killer get away from the justice system and he has knowingly deceived a courthouse. He let this guy loose on the world, right in front of the victim’s family. That’s about as bad as anything he’s done. Who’s more responsible for the terrible things that happen? Sometimes it is the person that pulls the trigger. But, sometimes the person that makes it possible is just as responsible. Just because someone wears a suit and a tie, it does not cut them off from the repercussions of everything they do.”
Comparing Jimmy’s descent with that of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) from “Breaking Bad,” Gould says, “Walter White was on a one-way trip to death. Jimmy McGill is a little more open ended. We’re a prequel but, in some ways, it’s also the sequel. We see glimpses of what happens after. He survives and where there’s life there’s hope. Walt had a darkness to him that he’s in denial about. Jimmy thinks of himself as a good guy and part of what makes him likable is you see him fall in love. There is this very complicated adult relationship that is very different. These two shows have a lot in common, there are touch points and you are going to see more cross overs. But they are very different shows.”
A theme of “Saul” this year has been how choices made set characters down a particular road. Likewise, choices made by the writers set the show down a particular road. Gould adds, “The realization that Chuck McGill (Micharl McKean) was not just a burden to Jimmy but an older brother that despised and blocked him was a major turning point for us. The other turning point, and it didn’t happen in a single moment, is that Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) has become so very important to the show. Her journey is very open ended because she doesn’t appear on ‘Breaking Bad.’ At first, we didn’t know what Kim was going to be and where she was going. As we evolved she becomes a central figure.”
On the love story of Kim and Jimmy, Gould reveals, “What we’re investigating is how much the choices these people make are completely independent. How much do they owe to the people who are around you? Being with someone, especially someone you love, changes you. It acclimates you to a way looking at the world. As we start season six we are starting to feel that these two are terrible for each other. You can love someone and still be toxic. It’s a revelation Jimmy had at the end of Season 5.”
Saul Goodman is known for his TV ads, and Gould worked on commercials near the start of his career. Trying to come up with a tagline to sell “Better Call Saul,” Gould thinks for a moment and then says, “Come for the laughs, stay for the tears.”
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