AMC’s “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul,” which premieres Sunday night, introduces a new cast of characters into Jimmy McGill’s world — including Kim Wexler, a lawyer at a prominent firm in Albuquerque. Actress Rhea Seehorn calls it a “dream job.” In fact, she was so excited to be cast that when the network told her she couldn’t reveal her character’s name, she thought they were telling her she had to change her own name — and nearly agreed out of enthusiasm.
Seehorn talked to Variety about working with series star Bob Odenkirk, her character’s romance with Jimmy, and what “Breaking Bad” fans can expect.
Did you have any trepidation about joining the cast?
I got to set and the whole crew was the same crew from “Breaking Bad” — they were all there with “Breaking Bad” hats and shirts and mugs and wearing them with pride. I felt like I was the only person without a team shirt! But instantly my fears were quashed. Everyone was so inviting. The attitude from [showrunners] Vince [Gilligan] and Peter [Gould] was “we can’t wait to start a new journey.” “Saul” has a lot of the same DNA, but they were ready to make a new sandbox, and couldn’t wait to get me in there.
What was it like working with Bob?
He’s so much quieter than I thought he would be, given Saul. But you see his performances in “Fargo” and “Nebraska,” and you get how he can grapple with a character who has an interior monologue. He’s so generous and down-to-earth — he’d be one of the first people to run a scene with you. The only thing that remained scary about Bob after being such a huge fan for so long is I’ve never felt not well-read in my life. Every other day he’s reading four or five books. Ask him about a book, he’ll give it to you and then the next day he’ll ask you what you think about it. He’s crazy smart.
In the first episode, you’ve got a short scene with Jimmy that says a lot — without saying much at all.
It’s such a slow burn as to why this character is important. Vince and Peter apologized for how minor my screen time was in the pilot. I’ve never been introduced with such mystery and intrigue and such incredible use of economy of language and gesture. That first scene when you see them alone in the garage tells a lot of history of a very complex but great intimacy. They have a knowledge of each other and a shorthand that was just so much fun to play. My character plays her cards a lot closer to her chest than Jimmy does which is a lot of fun to play. I wouldn’t say it’s a role reversal, but it’s fun that it’s the woman that’s more reserved.
We do get to learn a tiny bit more in the second episode. Again, another small but powerful scene.
Vince and Peter don’t waste anything — a gesture, a word, a shot. Everything is for a reason. I tried to make such a mountain out of it because I really wanted to be directed by Michelle MacLaren. The next day I ran into her on the street in Albuquerque and she said, “I know you’re not going to believe me because it was just a little smile, but I just want you to know it was perfect, the exact smile that I wanted it to be in that moment.” I was all excited! I stayed on set just to watch her work.
What’s coming up for Kim?
I think you’ll see more of just what this relationship is with Jimmy. Everyone’s been asking, “Did they or did they?” “Are they or aren’t they?” She is his love interest. We’re both very scrappy at getting ahead and ambitious. We’re both bulldogs at getting what we want. I feel they’re at a place now where there’s a great comfort and a great intimacy. All the most interesting relationships most of us have had, they’re not black and white either, especially if they’ve lasted for years. We’re going to continue to see their relationship evolve and get clues about where it’s been and where it’s going. You do see that she is his confidante and not his judge, which is a very different thing for him. Around her, he’s the Jimmy who is charming and insanely frustrating and magnetic and he can totally be himself. If that woman can enjoy being around him, that’s another way for him to be accessible to the audience.
Will they end up on opposing sides?
Their relationship does begin to complicate Kim’s own actions. And I think that is part of her journey. As much as she asks him to question himself, he asks her to question herself. While it might seem like they are on opposite sides, I don’t know where that’s going.
Tell me about Bryan Cranston’s cameo.
You mean when I saw him in Whole Foods a month ago? He was very lifelike! [Laughs.] Vince and Peter are doing a great job keeping it open for themselves to re-imagine moments from anywhere on the timeline. There are treasures for “Breaking Bad” fans that show up here and there — details and locations and characters that people know. But it’s its own show. I was a “Breaking Bad” fan and I don’t think I’d want to watch a show that was about extending that into season six. I think it’s better to have this be its own thing, season one. I think they’ve done a great job of, we’re in our own car and on this road trip, you might end up driving by the same diner or stopping by some of the same places you remember. There are these easter eggs if you’re on a scavenger hunt that the “Breaking Bad” fan will love. But for the most part, it’s a separate road trip.
As a “Breaking Bad” fan, any one easter egg you can tease?
No, I can’t. But I will say the opening scene brought me a great satisfaction prior to us launching out on our own journey.
“Better Call Saul” premieres Sunday, Feb. 8 at 10 p.m. on AMC.