A version of this story about “Better Call Saul” and Rhea Seehorn first appeared in the Down to the Wire: Drama issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
When “Better Call Saul” concluded its sixth and final season in Albuquerque last winter, Rhea Seehorn decided to take the long road home. “I was driving from New Mexico, just to clear my head, to get back to LA. And it was sad,” she said during a Zoom interview that took place three weeks before the series finale aired. “Saying goodbye to that character and saying goodbye to that job and saying goodbye to the kind of collaboration I’ve gotten for so many years was really hard. I don’t think it’s happened to most of us that we don’t go back because it’s airing (yet) – like, we excitedly anticipate talking to people about these last few episodes and the series as a whole.
It’s easy to see why Seehorn would be reluctant to let go: The prequel “Breaking Bad” gave her the role of her life in Kim Wexler, the wisecracking, often unfathomable lawyer whose moral compass becomes increasingly skewed as she becomes addicted to suspense. of scams with her husband, Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). Critics praised her performance from the start, but it’s only now, seven years after Kim’s tightly coiled ponytail first appeared on screen, that the Television Academy finally noticed her and nominated her for Supporting Actress in a Drama. (When it rains, she pours: She also earned a nod for her starring role in the short “Cooper’s Bar.”) Since the morning before the Emmy nomination, she’s been inundated with congratulations. “It was really, really great,” she said. “It’s really kind of surreal to have people share in that and really feel like they’re rooting for you.”
Due to the timing of the final broadcast date, Seehorn couldn’t tell us precisely what happens to Kim Wexler, but she had plenty to say about her character’s shocking break from Saul and the law, how the character was received in the “Breaking Bad” universe and where she herself is headed.
When you got the “Better Call Saul”“ role, did you find yourself thinking, “Okay, well, Kim’s not in” ‘Breaking Bad.’ What will happen to her?” Or did you just focus on the Kim of the present?
It went in stages. In the beginning it was: I don’t know how instrumental Kim will be. I knew I would somehow be a storytelling cog in the wheel, but I didn’t know how much I would be in it. So I was just more focused on what lay ahead. And as I got more and more absorbed in the story, especially Patrick Fabian (who plays the unctuous attorney attorney Howard Hamlin) and I talked about this. Like “Game of Thrones” or anything else where main characters can die all the time, we’d scroll through scripts like “Yay! I’m alive.” And then it changes in the third chapter. I was curious as a fan and intellectual: what happens to her? How will they handle this? How will they handle each of the journeys of people who are not in “Breaking Bad” or at least not? familiar to be in “Breaking Bad”? And I was aware of the thrill of that, because I was like, I don’t know either. I don’t even have to worry about spilling the beans because I don’t know. (laughs)
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The audience immediately embraced Kim, and as she became more of an integral part of the story, many fans became more concerned about her fate than even Saul’s, as we know he’s going to be Walter White’s shady lawyer in “Breaking Bad.” . It must have been interesting to be right in the middle of that.
For me, Saul’s fate is still a primary — if not the primary story. It was all about how we view his fate. He was a dangerous clown and now he is this tragic Arthur Miller character to me. So that became a question, versus Kim – literally, what happened to this person? What such a fun, mysterious place to live in. People feel protective of her. And I think part of that is the fact that she’s always had her own agency, very much made her own choices and, for good or bad, is the person who says, “I’ll save myself.” And I think people reacted to that in a way that was very, very beautiful. And it’s like they don’t want that person to be punished for that.
It’s in stark contrast to the despicable misogyny hurled at Skyler White—and Anna Gunn, who played her—in “Breaking Bad.” Ever wondered if Kim would get the same treatment because she’s a woman with agency?
It’s always possible, right? I mean, misogyny is always possible unfortunately.
Right, right. Oh, that’s so sad. It’s important to me not to add gas to that insane, misguided, baseless, incorrect, ridiculous thing that went down. Which I only knew about afterwards. I’m one of those people who watched “Breaking Bad” after everyone saw it. And I wasn’t aware of it until she wrote her wonderful piece “New York Times.”
It’s so out of touch that I can wrap my head around it with reason or logic, that it throws your hands in the air just as much as it was my character. There is nothing deserving or undeserving in our performances. I think she (Anna Gunn) is brilliant. I’ll never, in my life, forget the scene where it’s early in the series when she’s sitting at the table by the pool and she now knows that Walt has cancer, but he told her not to tell anyone in the family must tell. They sit around and they talk about what he’s going to do next, and she has tears streaming down her cheeks as she tries to behave herself. It’s a remarkable piece of acting.
So I was more concerned about being as good as her and that whole cast was — and my cast is. (laughs) The reception was a bit far above everything else. I couldn’t worry about it. I mean, listen, people could have just hated anyone who isn’t in “Breaking Bad”: me, Patrick, Michael Mando. All of us. You do not know.
Kim breaks up with Jimmy in episode 9 when she realizes their scam has gone too far (and Howard is killed). It was devastating to watch. How did you react when you heard that this was their end?
That was a downer for me to even read it. It’s the end of what they had and the tightrope they walked. It is incredibly well written and beautiful and complex. It wasn’t about them not loving each other anymore and it wasn’t even about her judgment about it (Jimmy). It’s about judging herself. Unfortunately, coming from a place of, “I’m the one who saves me,” she ends up becoming a character who says, “I’m the one who will judge me. I’ll set my jail term.” She is a self-loathing person, which to me is more tragic than many things that can happen to her.
She also quits the career in law that she loved. She will no longer aspire to be Atticus Finch.
Yes. She really thought it – is – a noble profession. And she thinks she can put her finger on the scales of justice, just light, so that it is in favor of the deserving — the deserving is in quotes. That is a dangerous and unethical, illegal way to enforce the law. (laughs) It’s Machiavellian or it’s Robin Hood, and it’s slipped away from her. She no longer has business as a lawyer. It has nothing to do with her to judge people. I think she thinks this is a punishment. It’s what she deserves.
The “more” that she said she wanted to get out of life during her job interview with lawyer Rick Schweikart in a previous season, became too much?
I’ve thought a lot about that. It’s a bit of an Icarus story in her head: how dare she want more than her station?
You directed the episode “Hit and Run” this season, where Kim and the great Mike Ehrmentraut (Jonathan Banks) finally meet. What was it like directing yourself in such a pivotal scene for the series?
My entire team in each department, led by Peter, had built an infrastructure that was set up for me to succeed. Jonathan Banks and I are very good friends and we lobbied forever for a scene together you know kidding because it’s like be careful what you wish for because if I want a scene with Giancarlo (Esposito) or Jonathan, it could be because I’m dead. (laughs) And we also thought that the characters we all created would be really interesting in a room together, because they can both be incredibly stoic. They are both very wary of other people. I was so glad we got to perform it on the bar stools at the El Camino dinner. I just loved that idea of putting them shoulder to shoulder because there’s something about bar scenes where you can really see the dichotomy between what one chooses to show the other person and what they do when they look away. We had a good time. We filmed that scene for a very long time. As Jonathan would say, I have the shit out. (laughs)
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What will you do next? Bob Odenkirk want you in the mockumentary he’s making with David Cross?
Oh my God. I can not wait. I love that he wants me to come and play with him and his cohorts. Apart from that, I’m just in a lot of development conversations and a lot of meetings with different showrunners and writers about different movies, limited series projects, as well as another series. And just trying to find the right one. The show opened a lot of doors, so I’m lucky enough to talk to different people and get a chance to talk about which part is right.
Are you going to miss Kim’s ponytail?
(laughs) I cut it off right after packing! I’m going to miss Kim and everything that comes with it. Her ponytail was part of her armor that eventually became the barometer of how she was doing, which was a lot of fun. However, I don’t think any of the pretty department heads with hair will miss my ponytail. That’s quite a bit of maintenance to make sure the thing is perfect.
Read more from the Down to the Wire: Drama issue here.