Better Call Saul fans are thrilled to see the splendid Rhea Seehorn logging more screen time as put-upon litigator Kim Wexler in Season 2 of the Breaking Bad spinoff, airing Mondays on AMC.
As Kim — Jimmy McGill’s biggest fan, sometime lover and longtime conscience — the actress has much to do as Bob Odenkirk’s morally flexible jurist marches ever closer to becoming outright shyster Saul Goodman.
“With Kim, it’s just as much about what she doesn’t say as what she does say,” Seehorn says of her no-nonsense character, “and that intelligence continues in her relationships. Kim does not love and support Jimmy because she’s in the dark about who he is. She knows who he is and she knows the things that he does — well, maybe not everything. But I think that they are both outcasts in a way and they are both loners in a way. They both put on this suit — pun intended — that they need to wear for the environment that they’re in. With each other, they don’t have to.”
We asked Seehorn about some of Season 1’s most touching scenes, what’s in store for the rest of Season 2 — and if there could be even a smidgen of a Saul-sister in the noble Kim.
CGM: Before we launch into Season 2 stuff, tell me a little bit about filming the scene in the darkened nail salon when you’re trying to convince Jimmy to take the HHM payout without having to tell him why. Because that, even more than his blowout with Chuck, was the end of Jimmy’s innocence to me. And even though it was heartbreaking, my favorite Season 1 moment because it was such an aching testament to their friendship.
Rhea Seehorn: Thank you. I loved that scene — and I love those two people so much. I think you hit the nail on the head. People ask us all the time, like, “What is this relationship? Is it girlfriend/boyfriend? Is it exes?” — well, I hope to God that it never is that succinct. Because no real, complex relationship in the world is that easy to label, and what you see that they are in that moment is that she loves him and she wants the best for him and that, deep down, I think he is a good person. Whereas other people give him a lot of flack — or in some cases, horrible consequences — because they think he’s basically a bad person. Kim thinks he’s basically a good person who does not deserve to be hurt. She would rather he never know what his brother has done. He doesn’t deserve to be hurt that badly, and that’s what all that scene is about.
There was such a perfect … quietness … to it.
I love that they didn’t make a big melodrama about it. And in the scene after you see him confront her and he does know, he says, “Why did you do it?” and she said, “I didn’t want you hating your brother.” That’s all that needs to be said. Nobody needs to say “sorry” and nobody needs to explain anything else. He gets it.
You’ve been asked a lot if Kim would be angry if Jimmy didn’t take the Davis & Main job, but I wondered about it a little bit differently — because I can’t get past the Season 1 “corner office scene” when Kim got a little emotional talking about possibly wanting to get away from HHM and have a simpler life. If she’s on the career path that Jimmy scrambled for while he worked out in the back of the nail salon — and not thoroughly certain that she wants it — might that be the sort of left ventricle of the heart of her devotion to him? Next to just loving him as a person? Maybe not necessarily guilt, but an awareness of, “I got here, I achieved this, and he’s still trying so hard”?
By the way, I’ve never gotten more tweets in my life — just people screaming at me, “Why don’t you take the corner office?” It was so much fun!
But I think that you’re right. At that point in Season 1, you would see Kim kind of collecting this information where everyone’s saying, “Jimmy’s a con man. Be careful of that guy.” She’s even worried about letting it be known that she hangs out with him. She doesn’t tell anyone that she’s seeing him around or talking to him. Yet, by the end of the season, the least duplicitous person in her life is Jimmy. He is honorable to her — and Chuck is not the man he purports to be and Hamlin will kick me to the curb the second I do something wrong, even though he’s not doing all the things that we thinks he’s orchestrating in the beginning.
Jimmy is the most honest man in her life, but what’s kind of great — especially great as a female character on television, I have to say — is that she had to turn him down because I owe money to HHM for putting me through law school. But I also want to be a certain kind of lawyer. And, at least at that time in her life, her idea of the kind of lawyer she wants to be — and could be — is not the kind of law firm or lawyer that Jimmy wants. And I think it was important for Kim to not be ancillary to another man’s objectives, but instead have her own. What of those paths can run parallel or will always be in opposition or will criss-cross or blend in the kind of careers they want remains to be seen.
They do a great job of that, too, in the scene of the billboard scam that he pulls off. I know that Hamlin is going “Oh great!” and I know that Jimmy cut corners. But you see her smile when no one’s looking about the way he pulled it off with so much flair and so intelligently and so creatively. And it’s not exactly illegal, you know? He’s smart enough to make it in the gray area, which I think is another reason people love to watch him. He’s operating on the peripheral. By the time he’s in Breaking Bad, it’s straight-up illegal.
Right now, they’re kind of kids walking on a fence, and you know the day’s going to come when they realize that they can fall off. Right now, he’s walking on the fence and keeps teetering and staying up there. But I appreciate you saying that you can see that she’s beginning to doubt what she thought was a one-way path, too, and a one-way path to happiness. Keeping your head down and just working your ass off does not necessarily ensure success — nor does it ensure the definition of success that you thought it would be.
About that gray area — obviously Breaking Bad fans know what he becomes, but at the end of Season 1, we saw Jimmy still hand Howard this incredibly detailed list and then make sure that Chuck’s supplies were delivered. Can you give me your personal take on that?
That’s heartbreaking. And it goes along with you asking me about the nail salon scene and me not wanting to hurt him about his brother. Jimmy’s probably even more loyal than Kim is, in that respect — that he won’t stop trying to take care of his brother, even when he’s treated so terribly. I think he thinks the world of his brother — and I think that’s why it hurts that badly. It’s crushing to have someone that you hold in such high esteem think nothing of you. At the same time, he doesn’t want any harm to come to his brother. It’s a real struggle for him.
And it’s another time when Vince and Peter and Tom, Gen Hutchinson, Gordon Smith, all of these brilliant writers that we have — many that were on Breaking Bad — continue this incredible ability to make sure that there are no cartoon villains, there are no clowns. Everybody has multiple sides and Jimmy has an incredibly honorable side that you have to wrestle with when you see what he’s going to become.
That’s what I think that scene is, is that stuff, that core of him that is something else entirely.
I spoke with Michael McKean earlier and he blew my mind a bit when he explained that he doesn’t see what Chuck said during their showdown as evil because Chuck is an astute lawyer and an astute business man, and he recognizes that this is business. His business and his vocation. And even if he does love his brother and does believe he has a shot at redeeming himself, he doesn’t want to be in the path of what happens if Jimmy doesn’t follow through and rise to the occasion. Which may now be shaking out …
What Chuck did is heartless, but that is a testament to the quality of the writing and the directing, how they allow us to give these performances and that you are wrestling with that. No one is just a villain, and it’s heartbreaking what Chuck does in that scene. I cried watching that scene be filmed. I cried when it aired.
But a part of what’s so painful about it is that there is some truth — and we know it — in what Chuck’s saying about it’s dangerous for Jimmy to be a lawyer, and it’s dangerous for a man like that to have the legal capacity to keep some people in prison and keep other people free. We know there’s danger in that, and that’s hard — but it’s terrible the way he says it. It’s also terrible to watch somebody basically say, “You will not escape your destiny. If I say you are a bad person, you will always be a bad person.” It’s so relatable to all of us. All of us has had somebody tell us “You can’t do what you say you’re going to do. You’re not going to amount to what you say you’re going to amount to.” What you do with those moments and what you do with the pain, well, most people have had to figure that out.
And Michael McKean is a brilliant actor, so he knows he cannot apologize for his character. You can’t play your character that way. You have to believe you’re doing the right thing. Chuck thinks he’s saving the world. He’s got some serious ego problems and I think Michael would probably attest to that, but he thinks he’s saving the world and he has great esteem for the law — as does Kim. She wrestles with those questions as well. Jimmy’s always finding the loophole or the gray area in a legal case. Is that smart, or is it disrespectful of the law?
So I applaud that Michael does not think Chuck is an evil, terrible person.
Part of the fun of Saul is watching for Breaking Bad Easter eggs and homages and ticking off the connections we know are coming. Do you do that on set, as well?
Yes, we do. Our props people are amazing. Our set decorators, production design, Arthur Albert, our director of cinematography, our costumer, Jennifer Bryan — the level that these people operate on is amazing. They know our fans like to freeze frame things and they make sure the detail is accurate. It used to be on a set, if you have a newspaper in a scene that’s laying on the desk and there’s not going to be a closeup of it, the headlines would be real and then the rest is gobbledy-gook because they knew nobody takes the time to read it. They now use really amazing, talented assistant writers who write full articles. because they know the fans freeze frame and will read the newspaper in the background that’s sitting on my desk.
And it’s all appropriate to the year the scene is taking place in. My diploma is accurate. If I look down at my desk in a certain scene, it’s stuff that Kim would have, Kim’s name on things and post-its she’s in the middle of writing. It’s that level of accuracy. Through the whole first season, you’d never see it on camera, but Kim might look like she’s wearing a navy blue or a black suit. But they don’t match. The blacks are off, or the skirt’s navy blue and the top’s black. Jennifer Bryan says Kim’s trying to fit in at the law office, but she didn’t come from the kind of money they have or else she wouldn’t start as an intern in the mail room, let’s face it. She’s still buying separates at Marshall’s. She can’t buy the whole suit yet. You can’t even see that on camera, but that’s just part of the detail that they want in things.
Jimmy’s wearing the Ferragamo of Gucci loafers to look really high-end in his suits and — I don’t even know if this is on camera either — it’s the loafers that have the horse bit style, the little metal clasp that goes across. And one of them is connected by a paperclip. It’s being held together by a paperclip. I would do scenes with him sometimes and if I’m really, really tired and we’re on take 17, it’s at the end of a long day, if I even for a second floated out of that scene, I would look at his shoes and my heart would break. You’re just instantly back in the scene, understanding Kim’s love for Jimmy and what he’s trying to do. He’s literally holding it together with a paperclip, you know?
I think everyone feels like we’re holding it together with a paperclip. At least some of the time. More often that we’d like to admit …
Right? Sometimes we all feel we’re wearing a costume to try to fit in, but we don’t, and Kim feels the same way. That’s why I hang with him in a nail salon. That’s why there’s never a scene of her saying, “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe you work and live in the back of a nail salon.” Never. Not a judgement. Never.
They are who they are, and I love that. And Bob’s a very, very generous actor. Obviously, he takes the brunt of the lines in the scenes, and they work at the level that he has and then what he brings to it on top of it, and it’s phenomenal. It’s an amazing thing to watch. I was a huge fan even before, but he would call me on the weekends if he and I had scenes, and he’d call his other scene partners if he has scenes with them, and he will give his time on the weekends to rehearse it. Or late at night. Because he wants that level, and so do I, in the Kim-and-Jimmy scenes. It should look like two people that have known each other for 10-plus years, where most of the acting is actually between the lines. If you know someone that long, nothing is face value anymore. Everything is subtext and the “what did you mean by that” and the pauses. We work hard on that — and they ask us to work hard on that. But it’s a pleasure.
I know you can’t tell me anything specific, but you guys pulled a comical fast one with the investment guy in the Season 2 premiere and Kim has said to Jimmy “your lousy days are more interesting than my good ones.” Could Kim find herself tempted to let loose a bit more?
You’re right, I can’t give anything away — but you see a lot more of where they came from and why they are so close, and they do continue that journey that you saw in Season 1 of Kim wrestling with her own ideas of what the gray areas are and what’s black and white, and who she is.
Like I said, she’s a bit of a loner and outcast herself, and you learn a lot more about what her foundation is — and the writers also raise other questions. They answer some and raise new ones about exactly what her feelings are about all this, and where she fits in and what she’s trying to do. Some of it’s with Jimmy, some of it’s in support of Jimmy … and some of it’s in spite of Jimmy.
New episodes of Better Call Saul premiere Mondays at 10/9CT on AMC.