'Better Call Saul' Boss on Jimmy's Turning Point and Rhea Seehorn's Emmy Snub
"Our show is about change," says Peter Gould, showrunner of AMC's Emmy-nominated spinoff, which in its fourth season sees Bob Odenkirk's character move closer to becoming 'Breaking Bad's' Saul.
The fourth season of AMC's Better Call Saul was pivotal for this Breaking Bad prequel, as Bob Odenkirk's Jimmy McGill was forced to sever emotional ties with his late brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), as he moved several steps closer to fully becoming Saul Goodman.
Series showrunner Peter Gould, who created Better Call Saul with Vince Gilligan, spoke with THR about the key season of the drama, the gratification of seeing veteran McKean finally getting the first Emmy nomination of his storied career (as Odenkirk notched his fourth lead actor nom for his role) and the frustration of co-star Rhea Seehorn's ongoing Emmy shutout.
What's it going to take to get Rhea Seehorn a nomination?
Any nomination is a wonderful gift, and I am thrilled that in a universe with so many TV shows, our show gets recognition at all. But having said that, I think everyone on the show was disappointed and surprised that Rhea didn't get the recognition for the incredible work that she did in season four. What's it going to take for her to get a nomination? You know what? It's very hard for me to say. The Academy is made up of a lot of different people, it's not one hive mind. I really hope that she gets recognition for her work on the show before this is all done. I will say, on a happier note, it was a source of delight and celebration that Michael McKean got a nomination for season four. I was really beside myself that that happened.
It's remarkable that he'd never been nominated. How did that feel?
It's wonderful. To see Michael McKean get recognition is so special because he is brilliant on our show. He's brilliant in everything that he does. He brought such a depth and complexity and a tragedy to Charles McGill, and I miss working with him. I think we all do. The only thing we're sad about is that he's not joining us in Albuquerque every day the way he used to.
What goes through your mind when you see 30-something nominations for Game of Thrones?
You know, this is a great year for Game of Thrones. I don't think anyone can argue that the show is an overwhelming piece of filmmaking. I happened to have spent a little bit of time with George [R.R.] Martin, who I think is a brilliant guy but also a very decent, funny human being. I'm as happy as I could be for him with all the recognition that the show received.
You've had your own experience being part of an end-of-series awards juggernaut. What memories do you have of that year when it seemed like Breaking Bad was winning awards practically every week?
The final season of Breaking Bad, it really felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It felt like being a peripheral member of The Beatles. It was a moment when the show really seemed to take over popular culture in such a huge way, and it was such a rewarding end to the ride because when we had started on the show, of course, it was pretty obscure. Breaking Bad was pretty darn obscure for the first three seasons. I always knew it was great, but we didn't know for sure that it would even get picked up season to season, so to have that climactic bit of fireworks was just really special.
Does it feel like Saul's fourth season was a particular turning point? Are we finally shifting to the downhill slide of the series?
Our show is about change. It's about how people change and whether, when they change, they're truly changing or whether the different parts of themselves are manifesting. It's very specifically about Jimmy McGill. When we started the show, the question Vince and I asked was, "What problem does becoming Saul Goodman solve for Jimmy McGill?" Season four was really the moment when we understood that. We understood that the problem that he's solving is he doesn't want to be Jimmy McGill anymore because of everything that happened with Chuck and everything else in his life.
After the fourth season, you said that you felt like you were closer to the end than to the beginning. As you worked on season five, has your perspective changed at all on the ideal length for this journey?
I don't know about the exact length of the journey, but I will say that for the first time, working on season five, we started to get a feeling for how we were going to end all this and what the end might be. I will say that we frequently have ideas in advance and they don't end up happening, but I have a feeling in my gut that we have a much better idea of how this all ends, and it's not incredibly far away.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This spinoff's endurance in the Emmy race, racking up another nine nominations in its fourth season, is a testament to industry affection for both the Bob Odenkirk vehicle and the Emmy legend (Breaking Bad) that inspired it. But from the 23 noms that Better Call Saul has previously scored, it's won zero trophies — and all the heat around season four seemed to center on actress Rhea Seehorn's performance, for which she was ultimately snubbed! It's almost undoubtedly going to be an instance of "better luck next time" for Saul. Still, if there's a sleeper win, it will likely go to supporting actor Giancarlo Esposito and his reprisal of character Gus Fring. — MICHAEL O'CONNELL
Saul's Short-Lived Short Nominations
Better Call Saul's shortform series Employee Training: Madrigal Electromotive Security — 10 minisodes available on the AMC website — was recognized with two noms when the Emmy nominations were announced July 16. But three days later, the TV Academy rescinded both, one for outstanding shortform comedy or drama series and one for Jonathan Banks for outstanding actor in a shortform comedy or drama series.
The Academy found that the project was no longer eligible for either category because it did not meet the minimum required run time of two minutes for at least six episodes. SundanceTV's State of the Union, the submission with the next-highest number of votes in the category, was added to the shortform comedy or drama series group, while the actor category added Ryan O'Connell, whose Netflix series, Special, is based on his 2015 memoir about living with cerebral palsy. — REBECCA FORD
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.