‘Better Call Saul’ Q&A: Rhea Seehorn on Jimmy and Kim’s Relationship

Spoiler Warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “Better Call Saul” season 1, episode 7, titled “Bingo.”

One of the biggest mysteries so far on “Better Call Saul” is just what’s up with Kim Wexler? The ambitious legal eagle clearly has a history with down-on-his-luck Jimmy McGill — which causes some conflict with her boss at the powerful firm Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill — and whatever went on in the past between Kim and Jimmy hasn’t been entirely resolved in the present.

In tonight’s episode we learn that Jimmy has a secret hope of partnering up with Kim, in the professional sense, and even found some fancy office space where they could practice elder law together. But Kim has other career plans in mind, and Jimmy winds up helping her out, even though he gets the chance to steal away problem clients the Kettlemans.

Variety spoke with actress Rhea Seehorn about playing Jimmy’s leading lady, how she bonded with Bob Odenkirk and how much she knows about Kim’s past with the man who will be Saul Goodman.

Do you think Kim would ever really entertain the thought of leaving her firm and partnering up with Jimmy?
You see it in the nail salon scene in 104, when Kim goes to give him the cease and desist order. He tells her, “You should be working for someone who cares about you.” She sort of deflects and doesn’t answer. In this case, in tonight’s episode, it’s not an emotional response. It’s very matter of fact. I do think Kim is very much a pragmatist. Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill put Kim through law school. Now she has an extremely ambitious two year plan to become a partner at the firm.

I think it’s kind of awesome that they’ve written this woman who has her own ambition and is not just reactionary. She has a plan. Even if Jimmy adores her and she adores him, it’s not really fair to ask her to leave the firm. She’s indebted, and she has her own career she’s trying to map out. However, as you see in the scene, it’s a subtle thing. It’s not about hurting him or not wanting to work with him, it’s about what’s best for Kim and trying to take care of that.

And what truly is the better professional opportunity.
I think it remains to be seen or interpreted what the Machiavellian self-serving pursuits are in any of the various characters we’re following. But she’s technically indebted to Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill as well. There are a lot of things for her to factor in that have nothing to do with personal issues with Jimmy.

We see Jimmy make a significant personal sacrifice by sending the Kettlemans back to Kim. Does she realize the extent of what he did for her?
It’s an interesting question. She’s not in on the bribery and all of that, but she knows he’s hurting for money and this would be a big get for him. I think she’s telling the truth when she tells him he can’t get a better deal. She knows if they go to court, they’ll lose. But I also think she’s asking for a big favor. It was interesting to play how much do each of the characters realize the sacrifices they’re asking for and giving up? I think it goes both ways.

How would you define Jimmy and Kim’s relationship at this point?
I can’t define it and I am very happy about that. They have a deep intimacy. The way Vince and Peter want to map out relationships — I’m so happy they don’t want to make it black or white. There’s a lot there. I think they give the audience teasers of this deep history, but it’s not spelled out with any kind of label yet. I’m excited to have people watch that play out and see where it goes.

Obviously they have some history together. Did you need to have that defined for yourself in order to play the role or did you just wait for each script to find out more?
I asked some questions, but a lot of times the information I would get wouldn’t come until I got a script. They don’t sit you down and tell you the whole background and bio — the here’s where you’re going and here’s where you’ve been kind of stuff. There are discussions but I think Vince and Peter wisely, with the brilliant writers room, leave themselves open to explore storylines, which does mean as an actor you’re finding out a lot of it as it comes.

Did you talk about Jimmy and Kim’s history with Bob Odenkirk?
Bob and I would discuss the scenes and rehearse them a lot. There are a lot of discussions, and Melissa Bernstein is on set knowing all of Peter and Vince’s wishes for tone and content in scenes. Given that, there’s still room to play. You play it a lot of different ways. You check out all the places a scene goes, which is really fun as an actor. You try it and see what’s the best for the story you’re trying to tell.

Going back to the pilot, Jimmy kicked the crap out of a trash can before he shared the cigarette with Kim in the garage, and we see callbacks to that tonight. Do you think binge watchers will come away with a better appreciation of smaller details like that?
I see merit in (watching either way). There’s something really fun about the specific pacing that Peter and Vince lay out. For me, shooting it, there was a lot of fun to be had in mulling over what it all means. It’s fun to have the breathing room to think about those things. But you’re right, there are also parts where it’s like, “Is that the guy who was in the background of that scene? And he’s important now?” I think it’s good that you have a choice.

How has it been working with Bob?
I’m a huge fan, going back to “Mr. Show” and his sketch stuff. Then when I saw his dramatic turns in “Nebraska” and “Fargo” I thought the breadth of his acting was incredible to watch. As nervous as I was the first day on set, it was also (working with) this man who I respect so much. He’s lovely in person, seriously intelligent and ultimately makes you want to be better, so that’s a great thing to be around. But in that first scene you mentioned in the garage, we were supposed to get across so much history in all the spaces between saying anything.

The weekend before we shot it he graciously offered to hang out with me for a day so we could try to get to know each other. But his throat was getting sore, so he couldn’t speak. We actually spent the day together not speaking. It was kind of amazing. All the crutches we normally use to try to get to know somebody — try to be funny, laugh at their jokes, have information and be knowledgeable — they were all taken away. You just have to sit with all your weird embarrassed awkward dorky feelings. By the time we got to that garage I couldn’t have been more comfortable to just stand next to him and just feel this history of a relationship without having to say anything.

What did you actually do if you weren’t able to talk?
It’s kind of amazing how well you can get to know someone without talking. We drove to Santa Fe, looked around at stuff. Bob draws in a journal and so do I. We drew things and showed each other the drawings. I highly recommend it to people.

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