'Better Call Saul's' Nacho Teases Master Plan, "Atrocious Violence"

Michael Mando promises much more will be revealed about his character: "We haven't discovered the extent of what he's willing to do and what he's after."
Lewis Jacobs/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Monday's episode of Better Call Saul, "Nacho."]

Nacho (Michael Mando) is just getting started.

Nacho threatened Jimmy's (Bob Odenkirk) life, and found himself potentially in Tuco's (Raymond Cruz) crosshairs in Monday's episode.

After saving Jimmy's life and offering him the opportunity to rip off embezzling couple the Kettlemans (Julie Ann Emery and Jeremy Shamos), Nacho was arrested in suspicion of kidnapping the Kettlemans. He blamed Jimmy for his predicament, telling him he had 24 hours to secure his release or he'd be killed. It's no laughing matter. By going behind Tuco's back on the Kettleman scheme, he is risking serious harm.

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Jimmy found the Kettlemans, along with the $1.5 million they embezzled. That leaves plenty of questions for next week. Chiefly — will Jimmy try to keep some of the money for himself? And if so, will he keep Nacho in the dark, even though he also wants the money?

In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Mando teases violence in Nacho's future and weighs in on the great lengths the character will go to to meet his goals.

What does that jail scene reveal about Nacho?

We haven't really seen what he's capable of yet. He's conditioned himself to be very patient and keep his energy bottled up. That's how you have to be in this criminal world, because otherwise you won't last very long. People will know what your plans are, and you'll attract the wrong kind of attention.

Writer Thomas Schnauz says you improved that terrifying table slap. Where did that come from?

I felt the scene asked for some kind of real threat Jimmy would understand, that these aren't just words. That jump happened organically. Obviously I have to give credit to our amazing director Terry [McDonough] and Thomas Schnauz, who was on set, because they immediately liked it.

Going behind Tuco's back is quite a risk for Nacho, because now the police are poking into Tuco's business. That could be a death sentence for Nacho.

Nacho has seen people getting their legs broken. He's seen the underground world and he understands it very well. He's very aware of the risks his actions bring with them. He's willing to go beyond those risks, and that's what makes him so courageous and intriguing.

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Vince Gilligan has said it's the calculating, in-control guys like Nacho that really are scary. Is that something they talked to you about?

Nacho does have some kind of a moral code and within that criminal code, there's this moral justification for atrocious violence. That's what I find really intriguing about the character. He is an intelligent guy, and in his life experience there is a place for violence. We haven't seen him completely show us how far he's willing to go to get what he wants. But he only uses it when it is necessary, and I think that is a very interesting leadership quality.

So his default is not violence.

Exactly. His default is not violence. He has a giant plan that is mapped out, and he's willing to pursue that plan at the risk of his own life. Everything we've seen so far are little flashes of who he is and what he's after, but we haven't discovered the extent of what he's willing to do and what he's after.

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Going back an episode, that desert scene was very important to the series and your character. What were the challenges of that?

As an actor, you do our own research for as long as you can, and then you show up on set and Vince and [co-showrunner] Peter [Gould] approve our costume and your facial hair, and every color and every button and every wrinkle on your shirt. It's like this organic process where nothing is forced and everything starts happening by itself. At the end of the day, you realize this is a real person and this guy exists.

It sounds like a painstaking process.

I wouldn't say painstaking. It's like building a monument. If Breaking Bad is a monument, then maybe this is an extra one next to it or on top or inside it. Every brick is carefully laid out. Every color, every ray of light throw a window has a meaning. As an actor, this excites you. You're living in a heightened reality where everything has meaning and you're walking a tight rope because you don't know the circumstances of our actions. It makes you're worried for your life. You know you're goals are around the corner, but so is the end of your life, and that's what shapes these characters.

What is the most fun or challenging part of playing Nacho?

The challenging thing is trying to have the patience Nacho has in discovering Nacho. As an actor I need to have the patience he has, and the audience needs to have the patience he has in discovering who Nacho is.

For more from the episode, read writer Thomas Schnauz's breakdown of the episode.

Better Call Saul airs at 10 p.m. on Mondays on AMC.

Email: Aaron.Couch@THR.com
Twitter: @AaronCouch

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