IN THE GRAY AREA

Be­tween Jimmy, Saul.

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Randee Dawn

Con games are about trust — but Bob Odenkirk, who has a trust­wor­thy face, in­sists he could never pull one off. “I would feel too guilty,” he says. But Odenkirk, whose roots are in com­edy writ­ing for “Mr. Show” and “Satur­day Night Live,” has made an act­ing name for him­self as a con artist of mul­ti­ple per­sonas, in­clud­ing Saul Good­man (on “Break­ing Bad”) and Jimmy McGill (on “Bet­ter Call Saul”). With its third sea­son just ended, “Saul” has cleared the way for Jimmy’s tran­si­tion into the more cyn­i­cal Saul, while Odenkirk keeps ev­ery­one guess­ing (and laugh­ing).

We’ve just seen the third sea­son of “Saul.” How close is Jimmy to be­com­ing his new in­car­na­tion?

Jimmy right now is play­ing in the kid­die pool of crim­i­nals. Gus [Fring, played by Gian­carlo Es­pos­ito] is the deep end. We still had some fun in Sea­son 3, but this dark storm cloud is ap­proach­ing and build­ing around Jimmy. There was a big tec­tonic shift, an in­ter­nal shift to­ward the end of this sea­son.

How do you di­vide play­ing Jimmy from Saul?

Jimmy is some­body with a real con­science — a great Catholic con­science. Com­ing from Chicago and a Catholic fam­ily my­self, there’s this whole ma­chin­ery there that gen­er­ates guilt. When you see Jimmy mak­ing a choice this sea­son where he’s ig­nor­ing the ob­vi­ous dam­age he’s go­ing to do be­cause he’s an­gry with the world — that’s Saul to me. That’s ev­ery­thing but the lime green socks.

You sound like you un­der­stand Jimmy on a fun­da­men­tal level.

I’ve thought about what is uni­ver­sal about him in his jour­ney. Some peo­ple are very lucky and at a very young age they know how their tal­ents fit in the world, they go for it, they’re a suc­cess and a star. The more com­mon jour­ney is what Jimmy is go­ing through: They’re 35 and they’re like, “Am I ever go­ing to find the place where these tal­ents of mine fit?”

Do you think of your­self as an ac­tor who can write com­edy, or a comedic writer who can act?

A writer who acts. Writ­ing is more re­li­able to me. How­ever much you’re strug­gling, you can al­ways take out a piece of pa­per and write some­thing and feel good. Act­ing, you rely on so many other peo­ple to even get the job.

Had you ever con­sid­ered writ­ing some “Saul” scripts?

No, no. I’m a much bet­ter ac­tor if I haven’t helped, and if I can’t change the words. If there’s a chance for a line, I’ll con­trib­ute when com­edy is present. But big story moves — arc­ing and al­ter­ing — that’s out of my league.

When did you first know you were funny?

My brother’s fun­nier than me. Bill, he writes for “The Simp­sons.” I was silly as a kid. There’s like one pic­ture of me when I was 7 where I’m not mak­ing a face. I wrote com­edy sketches in ju­nior high for class projects, and I got big laughs. That was a big mo­ti­va­tor. But I was al­ways very skep­ti­cal of it. I was hired at “Satur­day Night Live” when I was 25, but I only started to have more faith in my­self around 32.

We’ve seen a fu­ture it­er­a­tion of Jimmy, on “Saul”: Gene, at Cinnabon. Is there a fu­ture se­ries for

him?

I’ve heard [”Saul” cre­ators] Vince [Gil­li­gan] and Peter [Gould] say they’d like to see what hap­pens with Gene. I hope to get to play a fifth char­ac­ter. There’s [con man] Slip­pin’ Jimmy, Jimmy McGill, Saul Good­man, Gene and then … maybe just James? I don’t know who he’d be, but I don’t think he’d ever lose his nat­u­ral pro­cliv­ity for work­ing a game.

How did play­ing Jimmy/Saul al­ter your ca­reer?

I’m still try­ing to fig­ure it out. Act­ing was al­ways such a sec­ondary thing for me. I have this op­por­tu­nity now to be con­sid­ered for other things, so it’s like, “Well, what do you want to do?” I’m 54 and I don’t have a mil­lion op­tions. These guys have trusted me with ma­te­rial they had no right trust­ing me with; there was no proof ex­ist­ing any­where that I could do it. I’d read some mono­logues and it’s like, “Why would you let me do this? Why would you trust me with this?”

Carolyn Cole

BOB Odenkirk awaits the call to play a fifth ver­sion of Jimmy McGill.

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