Beverly Hills, Calif. — Creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan are hoping that Better Call Saul won’t just be a trip down memory lane for Breaking Bad fans.
“We’re trying to make something that stands on its own, that has entertainment value, not just seeing a series of (familiar faces),” Gould said Friday during the TCA Press Tour show panel. “It’s not the series equivalent of a clip show.”
With that said, Breaking Bad casts a shadow that looms absurdly large over its AMC spinoff/prequel, whose 10-episode freshman season is set to premiere in early 2015. The success and popularity of Breaking Bad created a challenge for Better Call Saul — already renewed for a second, 13-episode season —that both Gould and fellow creator Vince Gilligan called “daunting.”
First, the story is in some sense finite, at least due to the fact that Breaking Bad viewers know what happens to Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Walter White’s lawyer, by the end of the Breaking Bad timeframe.
Gould said crafting Better Call Saul reminded him of how season five of Breaking Bad started with a machine gun in the trunk of Walter's car. “We knew that was the right image, but we had no idea how the hell we were going to get there,” Gould said. The Saul viewers are introduced to in Breaking Bad, Gould said, “is the machine gun in the trunk.”
Better Call Saul takes place six years before Saul meets Walter in Breaking Bad, about 2002, according to Gilligan. “I hesitate to say it, but it is indeed a period piece,” he said.
As for the rumors about time-jumping, Gilligan said, “you saw from Breaking Bad that we like non-linear storytelling, we like jumping around in time ... Anything possible in storytelling in Breaking Bad is possible on Better Call Saul.”
Joining Saul on the series will be Breaking Bad stalwart Mike Erhmantrout (Jonathan Banks) and Saul’s brother Chuck, played by Michael McKean. Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian and Michael Mando are also set to appear as series regulars. Gould admitted that Walter's nemesis Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) could feasibly make an appearance at some point too.
At the beginning of the series, Saul is a small-time lawyer known as Jimmy McGill, perhaps not quite the “slippery lawyer in crazy suits in a crazy office,” as Gould put it, that he is in Breaking Bad.
Gould said that, for Breaking Bad, Saul made the drama more dramatic and the comedy funnier. “Saul moved (the Breaking Bad) universe two degrees to the left,” Gould said. Initially, he and Gilligan were worried that Saul would “be this puzzle piece that wouldn’t quite fit” in Breaking Bad.
Of course, that turned out to be quite the contrary for Breaking Bad. As for Better Call Saul, however, the puzzle might be how Gould and Gilligan differentiate it from its predecessor — to create a story that is unique despite taking place in the same universe with some of the same characters — and how they handle the pressure of spinning off last year’s Emmy winner.