"We had nothing! They wouldn't sell us food, remember? We had money! American money," Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk says, reminiscing about strolling Greenwich Village at 3 a.m. decades ago with his friend and then-fellow struggling comedian Jon Stewart. The Mr. Show alum visited The Daily Show Thursday night to talk about old times and his plunge into a leading role on a major drama in the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul.
"I don't know what happened. I was on a show called Breaking Bad and that was crazy good. Out of the clear blue I get a phone call. My agent says 'They're going to offer you a part on a show. Don't say no.' And I'm like, 'I'm not saying no to good parts,'" Odenkirk tells Stewart of working on the saga of Walter White. "So I did Breaking Bad, phenomenon, and then [Breaking Bad creator and writer] Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould teamed up and said they had an idea for the show. I said, 'If you guys want to do it, I'm there. I'll act.'"
Odenkirk's blasé attitude towards locking down a leading role dates back to his "jaded" times as a young comic in New York, when he, Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel all wrote for Saturday Night Live together. Odenkirk would see Stewart on the comedy club circuit and their friendship was born. While the two didn't share many credits, they both appeared in episodes of The Larry Sanders Show together in 1998, a year before Stewart's Daily Show reign began.
In an industry where the terms "prequel" and "reboot" are treated like dirty words, critics and fans (including Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield, who wrote a glowing review of the opening episodes) have been receptive to a Saul Goodman spin-off series. "I think that's because Breaking Bad ended too soon," Odenkirk says. "If it had gone exhausting people like many shows do, then I don't think people would feel the way they do, which is open to this and eager to see it and they're open-minded to what it could be."
Better Call Saul premieres with a two-episode, two-night event this Sunday and Monday on AMC.