[This story contains spoilers for Better Call Saul‘s “Nippy.”]
When You better call SaulThe final season kicked off in April, fans were immediately taken aback when the season six premiere didn’t kick off with the life and times of Cinnabon manager Gene Takovic. Prior to season six, every season of Saul started with Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman living on the run as Gene in Omaha, Nebraska, but thanks to writer Alison Tatlock and director Michelle MacLaren’s episode “Nippy,” viewers have now experienced their first full-length episode in the post-Breaking Bad timeline. Monday night’s black-and-white episode also confirmed Gene’s adventures about five weeks after Walter White (Bryan Cranston) defeated the last of his foes. Breaking Badthe series finale.
According to Tatlock, delaying the Gene story until the second half of season six felt like a perfect left turn after last week’s groundbreaking episode, “Fun and Games.”
“After the emotionally intense end of 609 and the leap forward to the full Saul area, we felt it would be exciting and surprising and hopefully delightful to finally switch over and dive into our black and white future,” Tatlock shared. . .
The Season Four and Season Five Gene teasers also introduced Jeff (now played by Pat Healy), the menacing cab driver Saul Goodman recognized from his days in Albuquerque. So, to level the playing field, Gene devised a plan to get close to Jeff’s mother, Marion, who is played by the beloved Carol Burnett.
“We knew she was a fan of” [Better Call Saul] and Breaking Bad, so we just crossed our fingers. There were a lot of people working behind the scenes doing more than just crossing their fingers, but I personally crossed my fingers,” Tatlock says with a laugh.
In a recent spoiler conversation with THRTatlock – who joined the series in season four and is now an executive producer – also discusses the episode’s climactic moment where Gene confesses how he really feels about his post-Breaking Bad to live.
So you rejected the convention in season six by not starting with Gene. Instead, you saved him for tonight’s “Nippy,” the penultimate episode. What made this the right time for Mr. to use Takovic?
After the emotionally intense end of 609 and the leap forward in the full Saul area, we felt it would be exciting and surprising and hopefully delightful to finally switch over and dive into our black and white future. We weren’t sure it was going to be a 610 event, but once we got there it felt like the right time.
The episode title, “Nippy”, also broke the season’s title pattern, but it makes sense because this is such a distinctive episode from the rest. Was that the reason?
Exactly right. We almost felt like we were starting something new. The score is different, the cast is slightly different, and we’ve never had a completely black and white episode. So there were so many new elements in this episode that it felt good to mix it up now that this is the second half of the final season.
You cast Carol Burnett as Jeffie’s mom, Marion, and Carol was actually mentioned in Ann Cherkis’ 205. Chuck (Michael McKean) and Rebecca (Ann Cusack) discussed signaling to each other if Jimmy got too unruly over dinner, and they chose Carol’s earlobe tug. Anyway, how did this casting come about?
Well, we’re big fans of her, and we were excited about the possibility of her playing a part. We didn’t plan the role specifically for her, but once the role was born, we realized pretty quickly that she was going to be incredible in it. And she was perfect for it. We couldn’t ask for more than to have her, and we were very lucky that it all worked out. We knew she was a fan of [Better Call Saul] and Breaking Bad, so we just crossed our fingers. There were a lot of people working behind the scenes doing more than just crossing their fingers, but I personally crossed my fingers. (laughs.)
So it was just great to work with Carol Burnett. She had a great chemistry with Bob and she brought such an amazing energy every time she showed up. She was super game. And because Bob was the remaining star of the show without our usual [series regulars]It was a little scary showing up in Albuquerque with some sort of new team, but what a top team it was with Carol, Jim O’Heir as Frank and Pat Healy as Jeffie. It was a pretty strong lineup and it was really exciting and satisfying to watch them perform.
I know they went bankrupt in 1985, but did the writers’ room ever consider reviving Hinky Dinky for Marion’s grocery store? [Writer’s note: Kim referenced that grocery store chain in Gordon Smith’s 207 as she was describing her best case scenario had she not left her tiny town on the “Kansas-Nebraska border” for bigger and better things.]
(laughs.) We actually talked about Hinky Dinky quite often in the writer’s room, but I don’t know if we were talking about it specifically for that supermarket. That supermarket, Hansen’s, was eventually named in honor of our brilliant real estate master, Mark Hansen. So there are several nods in the episode to people who have worked really hard behind the scenes. You may also have noticed Schnauz Farms Cheese [in honor of writer-EP Tom Schnauz].
I wanted to ask you this! Ever since Marion shied away from the taste of Schnauz Farms’ Extra Sharp Wisconsin Cheddar, have you prepared yourself for an onslaught of angry letters from Wisconsin cheeseheads?
(laughs.) Yes, there may be some people who can get annoyed for some reason, but it’s all done regarding the [cheeseheads] from Wisconsin.
The schedule changed, understandably, and as a result, Don Harvey was no longer available to play Jeff. So you recast the role with Pat Healy. Did you have to rewrite the character at all to explain what brought Pat to the role?
We didn’t rewrite for Pat at all. When I was writing, we didn’t know the casting was going to change, so we didn’t know enough about the differences between the two actors or who we would necessarily be talking about. So it was written with the original Jeffie in mind, and what Pat brought with it back then, we found really captivating. He took exactly what it said and made it his own.
Returning director Michelle MacLaren is royalty in the Breaking Bad universe. Was there an early moment on set when you realized why she has such an illustrious reputation?
First of all, I was very excited to work with Michelle. Peter [Gould]Vince [Gilligan] and others told me in advance that Michelle was going to be the best so I knew she was a great match for the complex filmmaking of the episode with all those monitors and movies in movies and montages and so many shots and so much math. When we started filming the parts of the montage at the mall, she had Bob, as Gene, walk over and over down the hallway and dial it in as his confidence grew and grew. It was a subtle build and it made for an incredible collaboration between director and actor. Bob turned up the volume of his own confidence in a very nuanced and calm way, and then I said to myself, ‘I see. I’m in good hands.”
So the episode culminates in a series where Gene uses the truth to distract Frank (Jim O’Heir), and in doing so we learn how Jimmy really feels about his current fate in life. He is lonely and full of regret. What can you tell me about writing that moment and then capturing it on set?
It was a lot of fun to write and I loved writing all of the Frank-Gene scenes, including the emotional climax. The duality of what Gene/Saul/Jimmy is doing at the moment is just psychologically interesting. One of Jimmy’s tricks or skills – even if he doesn’t consciously think so – is to use his own emotional revelations as a manipulative device, while also experiencing the true emotion of the moment. There are times on set where the stakes feel pretty high and you wonder how the actor will channel what’s on the page, but this was definitely a moment when we all felt in sync. You could tell Bob realized exactly what we were talking about.
In 201, the mall concierge listened to the… Rich Eisen show as of October 21, 2010, and in 610, Jim O’Heir’s character was referring to a college football game from the night before, namely the Texas vs. Nebraska game on October 16, 2010. This detail reaffirms that about five weeks after the massacre of the Walter White’s M60 on September 7, 2010. Will we eventually find out why you kept Gene within reach of Breaking Badhis conclusion?
I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
The Albuquerque Cinnabon you used for the Omaha location no longer works. So it was quite a process to get that location back up and running somewhat?
We had incredible help from amazing, talented Cinnabon people who not only got it going but showed the actors how to do their thing.
Marion was referring to the “bad crowd” Jeffie walked with in Albuquerque. You know who that bad crowd is?
We don’t, but we hope it’s suggestive because we obviously know so much about the world of Albuquerque. But we don’t know specifically.
In a word, how would you describe the rest of the season?
You better call Saul is now streaming on AMC. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.