Bob Odenkirk Ditches Drug Cartels For Spicy Wings on ‘Hot Ones’
Bob Odenkirk would describe the experience of leaving his Better Call Saul character Saul Goodman in the past as being as cathartic as downing a cold glass of water after tearing through a dozen spicy wings. On the latest episode of Hot Ones, he does just that.
“Very upsetting, very unnerving to play a guy…,” Odenkirk says, trailing off while talking about the resentment the character was driven by. “This speaks to playing people who have serious issues, which are the only kind of people they write to because that’s fun to watch and I remember reading about Bryan [Cranston] playing Walter White, and I remember reading about [James] Gandolfini playing Tony Soprano and the frustrations and the challenges they felt staying in those guys’ heads. And I‘d be like ‘come on it’s acting, I mean how hard can it be?’ And then I got to do Saul and was like ‘this is fucking hard’ because you’re that guy for 12 hours a day for years.”
Earlier this month, Odenkirk officially stepped into his new role as Professor Hank Devereau, English department head at a university with mediocre – his words – students in the AMC series Lucky Hank.
“After playing Saul Goodman for so long, this guy is sort of fundamentally different than Saul because he is connected to people in his world,” the actor explains. “He loves them. They love him. Not to mention, there are no drugs, no guns, there are no cartels, there are no zombies. It’s not a genre piece. Lucky Hank is closest to an Alexander Payne film. It’s equal parts comedy and drama.”
Odenkirk’s connection to comedy goes back decades, but one particularly pivotal moment was the launch of his one-man show in Chicago in 1989. “Getting a sketch group together and finding a stage for a show isn’t always too easy. So stand-up comedy boomed when I moved to Chicago,” he recalls. “It had this crazy hay-day that was insane. There were 14 comedy clubs in Chicago at one point, and I had thought that my stuff could live in that world. It was almost like sketch comedy done by one person.”
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Off-stage, he got some acting practice while working as a waiter at the Chicago restaurant DeBevic’s. The retro-themed diner is known for its bad service, but in a good way. But Odenkirk found that his delivery of harsh demands and rude remarks to customers felt more personal coming from him than from his co-workers who would treat them the same way.
“Well, my biggest problem with Debevic’s, and it says something about my ‘talent’ as an actor, you know, being a waiter there you’re supposed to be a smart aleck and be rude,” he says. “Well, all the waiters and waitresses would do that, and it was fun and whatever. But then when I became a waiter, I didn’t really want to do it but also I can’t because when most people would say ‘SIT DOWN’, most people are [laughing] and when I go ‘SIT DOWN,’ they go ‘What, I’m sorry… He’s mean.’”