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Bob Odenkirk on Saul Goodman: 'I'm Amazed That People Like Him'

He doesn't know how the show ends: 'I want to watch it just like you!'

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman on 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote/AMC
September 24, 2013 2:00 PM ET

In anticipation of the Breaking Bad series finale on Sunday, September 29th, Rolling Stone will publish an exclusive interview with a new cast or crew member every day, Monday through Friday. Yesterday, Anna Gunn said it wouldn't be truthful to end with Walt arm-in-arm with his family. Tomorrow, Vince Gilligan will explain why he thinks Walt is (or isn't!) like Darth Vader.

Relive 10 of the Most Revealing Murders on 'Breaking Bad'

Do lawyers let you know what they think of Saul Goodman?
When I'm in a crowd or at an event, lawyers definitely come up to me, and they all say the same thing: "I know guys just like Saul." And they never say – never – that they're the one.

Someone has to be.
Someone has to be! I'm not sure they'd cop to it, although I don't think Saul is remotely embarrassed by who he is or what he does. Lawyers like Saul a lot. They like that he likes himself, that he enjoys what he does, and they think he's funny. They like the attention, for some reason. [Laughs] And they don't think they're him.

Saul conspires in drug-laundering, murder and other felonious activities. Why are lawyers happy to be depicted as criminals?
The New Republic did a Saul Goodman cover, with a big article about the way Saul does law. The premise of their article is that the way Saul does law is the way law is done nowadays. Nothing ever takes place in a courtroom. Nothing ever is brought before the court to be adjudicated on the principles of law. Everything is a backstage negotiation. Two nights ago at a party, I talked to a lawyer who read the article cover to cover, and said it's true.

I think it reconfirms people's sense that there's a shadow world where things get done, and it's not anything they can influence. Which is a bit of a paranoid view, and I think it's only partially true.

You mentioned paranoia. In season four, Saul gets paranoid, and it made me wonder if he's on meth.
I don't think Saul would ever touch meth. He's too selfish to do drugs that would deplete him, in a serious way, as a force of nature. He might do a few things. I don't think he smokes pot, but he might do coke.

So he dislikes meth not because it's illegal, but because it would be bad for his teeth.
Meth could be bad for every part of you. Meth melts human beings from the inside.

As one of the few people who know how the show ends, have you been able to keep it a secret?
I don't know how the show ends. I did not read the last episode and a half. Wherever I was not in it, I did not read it. Not only did I not read the parts I was not in, I put them in the trash in my e-mail, and then I deleted my trash.

Why not read the episodes?
I'm a fan of the show! I want to watch it just like you!

So when you watch the show or you read the scripts, are you rooting for Walt or against him?
I'm rooting against him. I don't like this guy anymore. I think he's a shitty guy. His protestations that he's a dad, and he's dying of cancer, and he wants to leave something for his kids – that's been superseded by his ego and the bitterness he's carried with him, based on his own choices. Walt's ego makes it impossible for me to feel any sympathy for him anymore. Plus, the violence is out of control. However much you're worried about your family and leaving them money, you should leave a legacy of good behavior a little bit, too. [Laughs] That counts for something. You may leave them money, but you also were a total shit.

Walt doesn't cook meth because he "has to" in order to provide for his family. He cooks meth because he likes to cook meth.
I started losing sympathy for Walt when he spurned his ex-partner's offer of money and even lied about it for a while. That was like, "You can't admit you're human, and you have to suffer a little on this earth, and forgive people around you for whatever they did or didn't do in the past. That's life, man. That's life."

There was a time lag between when you filmed the first episode with Saul and when it aired in April, 2009. Did you expect Saul would be as hugely loved as he is?
Not at all. I mean, how do you like this guy? He's an awful guy [laughs].

I was hired to do three or four episodes of the second season, and I don't think Vince had a sense that Saul would stick around. A lot of people say he brought a little lightness to an incredibly dark show, and that's true. Yeah, I didn't think he would stick around. I'm amazed and surprised that people like him.

What happened after it became obvious people loved Saul?
I was invited back for another season. Every episode I picked up, I expected to be killed in, you know? I even told the writers, "Listen, if you're gonna kill me, let's have fun with it. Make sure you decapitate me or something."

You said Saul isn't remotely embarrassed by the person that he is. Does he know how badly dressed he is?
He think he's dressing good, man! [Laughs] He thinks he's got style. He's an Irishman, but he changes his name to Saul Goodman so people will think he's a better lawyer, because he's Jewish. Everything he does is a role that he's playing. Being flashy is a part of him, like a puffer fish. It's a bit of a show, but he does think it's a classy show.

So he doesn't care if people are laughing at him, as long as they notice him.
I think he's a little mystified if they're laughing at him. Like, he would say to them, "What are you laughing at? These socks are pure silk! That yellow dye is illegal in America. I had to go far to get these."

Walt's in pretty deep shit this season. Should he have a better lawyer than Saul?
I think he's got the right lawyer. If there's a way out for Walt, it's the back way, not the front way. And nobody knows more back entrances than Saul Goodman.

What do you mean by back entrances?
It's nothing gay [laughs]. He knows the alternate routes, let's put it that way.

But Saul doesn't always have Walt's best interests in mind. For instance, introducing Walt to Gus Fring helps Saul more than it does his clients.
Ultimately, he's in it for himself. Is that a surprise? He has said to Walt, more than once, "You should take what you've got and go home."

Yeah, but it always seems a little half-hearted.
I know what you mean. I think that this all got too dangerous and scary for Saul at a certain point – at the end of season four. It was getting out of his control, and he felt the self-preservation itch. He's not gonna destroy himself – that's his number one goal. He's gonna get as much as he can for himself, and fuck everybody else.

Some people who work on the show have talked about internalizing all of the pollution of the show and, you know, feeling at times that there was sort of soot on their soul. Did doing this series get to you in any way?
No, it didn't. With the other actors, who almost all have more devastating parts to play than I do, I've seen how they've been affected. Watching Bryan Cranston play Walter White, losing his shit in my office, needing to escape and hide. Watching Aaron Paul, in a scene that will happen this year, get very emotional. The scene with Betsy Brandt and Anna Gunn, where Betsy is gonna take Anna's baby. I mean, Jesus, you can't do that scene and not be affected. That's why it looks so real, because on some level, it is real. The feelings they conjure up become real. So, yeah, I get how they are more devastated by their characters than I am.

How much backstory did you create on Saul? Did he go to a good law school? Did he make law review?
No, he went to the University of American Samoa – the diploma is on the wall of his office. He barely passed the bar. I have some backstory for Saul, but I'm not gonna tell you, because they're talking about a Saul spinoff series. I'll leave it to Vince to create that world, if he so chooses.

People love the character, and Vince said he has an idea for a show about Saul. It's very hard for me to look at it the way some people want me to look at it, like I should publicly push and ask and want it to happen. I'm thankful I got to do it at all. If there's more, that's great. You and I will both be surprised, just like with the final episode.

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