Obsessive “Breaking Bad” fans had some comfort in the wake of the show’s finale: Creator Vince Gilligan announced he was planning to create a spinoff prequel called "Better Call Saul!" about everyone’s favorite seedy lawyer, Saul Goodman. Or Jimmy McGill, as he was known before his glory days. While Bob Odenkirk will, of course, reprise his role, Jonathan Banks was also announced as a returning cast member, in the role of endlessly calm hitman/private investigator/fixer Mike Erhmantraut. But don’t expect him to be quite as goofy as Saul. Banks assures us he’s the same old Mike.
What did Vince Gilligan say when he asked you to sign on for the prequel?
Three or four years ago, in the show, I was dropping my granddaughter off at the house with balloons, and then I go shoot people. I say to her, your momma’s waiting, now go on, and Vince was directing that show, and I said to Vince when we cut, “That’s my granddaughter. That is not my daughter. Whenever Mike is what Mike is, it has something to do with his son.” And Vince said, “Well, hmm” and when Peter [Gould] called me 13 months ago, he said, “Remember when you said…”
Have you come up with your own version of Mike’s back story?
I can’t tell you exactly because they will throw me to the wolves and burn me at the stake and all that kind of stuff. I’ll be coming up with Mike’s back story twenty years from now.
Will we learn a lot more about Mike now?
I always liked that you never know quite where and what Mike was from, and I hope that continues. I hope there will always be a little mystery about him.
Is there hope for him?
Among all those characters, Mike knows he lost his soul, and Mike doesn’t forgive himself. At the same time, buried in there is a decent man who does some really horrible things, but if he has a flaw, it’s…I don’t think he thinks he can save other people, but he does have a tendency to try to protect them.
Since Mike is so smart, how does he get mixed up with these criminal types?
Well, we all are fallen. And some of us fall a lot further.
What’s it like working with Bob on the new show?
I got my first paycheck 47 years ago, and I’ve been lucky enough to work for 47 years, and it’s not like there weren’t terribly dry times, but I had never seen in television or in film a load like that. The amount of dialogue and monologues, I thought, how in the world is he ever gonna do this? And boy did he.
Have you given him a hard time about the wigs he’s wearing?
Of course. Bob gives Bob a hard time about the wigs.