There was an initial reluctance to embrace AMC’s Breaking Bad follow-up Better Call Saul; understandably, many viewers didn’t want to sully their experience with a potentially weak sequel.
It’s been a pleasant surprise, then, to watch Better Call Saul, along with its stellar cast, sustain and in some aspects even exceed the memory of Breaking Bad, while taking the work of Vince Gilligan in a whole other direction. With scenes reminiscent of classic theatre (except replace a musty stage with a blue-skied, wide open desert), Better Call Saul has been a mesmerizing delight as it’s grown over its sophomore season.
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Canadian Michael Mando, who didn’t return to his role on Orphan Black to play the Nacho character on Better Call Saul, is right at home in his snakeskin shoes and rattlesnake earring. Ever sincere, he’s overjoyed and proud to be a part of the ensemble, and says the finale is a game-changer. Global News spoke with Mando over the phone from Los Angeles.
Global News: First off, how proud are you to be a part of this show?
Michael Mando: If I’m going to use one word, it’s going to be “gratitude.” I’m grateful to the universe for making my career so interesting. Going from a video game, Far Cry 3, to a webseries, then to a hit Canadian show Orphan Black, then to Better Call Saul. I always feel the responsibility to give back as much as possible. I try my best to shake everybody’s hand and listen to their stories. When you’re blessed with being successful and you keep it in, you’ll self-destruct. You’ve got to share that out.
In Season 2, you don’t have that many scenes with Bob [Odenkirk].
I didn’t have a single scene with Bob this season! It’s the complete opposite of last season. Last season was all Bob, and up to this point, it’s been all Jonathan Banks. I get to work with a lot of recurring characters from Breaking Bad —; Mark, who plays Hector, Luis and Daniel Moncada [“The Cousins”], and Max, who plays Krazy-8 —; and I immediately fell in love with these people as actors. We became close friends, and we do a lot of stuff in Albuquerque when we’re together.
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How was shooting all those intense scenes with Jon?
Jonathan Banks has been acting twice as long as I’ve been alive. He’s extremely experienced, and it’s a real treat to share the screen with him and to see our characters grow off of one another. I’m surrounded by people who’ve done incredible work for generations. I’m blown away.
The writers should be thanked too. They write such beautiful, three-dimensional characters. They pay so much attention to detail. No word is in there by accident.
Do any of you ever have an emotional, visceral reaction to the story and your characters on-set?
There have been points where any one of us could be overwhelmed by something, either professionally or personally, and we were always there for each other. We’re shooting out in the desert, and there’s nothing there. There’s breathtaking skylines and sunsets, but it’s an unfamiliar city to all of us, and that bonds us together in a very strong way. The desert also has a very spiritual effect on me, it has a very interesting energy.
Has that had an effect on the show as a whole?
I know for a fact that the city, the skyline and the desert are all characters in the show. Nacho wears boots that are made out of crocodile skin, and he has a rattlesnake earring. These are all idiosyncracies and attributes that wouldn’t happen if this took place in another city.
Do you and the rest of the cast still do your desert walks?
I haven’t hiked for a long time, but we’re all due. I saw Bob and the gang yesterday, and we’re planning to do it really soon.
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People inevitably draw comparisons between Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. Would you say the shows are the same, or different?
I’ll tell you my analogy for this. [Laughs] It’s like Vince Gilligan bought this really beautiful corner plot of land. On one side of it, he built this fantastic piece of art of a building called Breaking Bad. Then he decided on that other piece of land, he would build another work of art called Better Call Saul. Everybody who was a big fan of the first building said, “You’re going to ruin the first building by building a second one next to it.” They ended up making another building that not only stands on its own, but complements the first. There are a lot of tunnels and shared rooms, some connected underground parking. What I envision, in the next few years, are these two pieces of art standing next to each other, and you’re going to be able to get lost in either one of them.
What does the future hold for Nacho?
So, Nacho’s full name is Ignatio. I can tell you that. When Saul Goodman has a gun to his head from … Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, Jimmy asks, “Did Paolo send you?” The answer he gets is, “It wasn’t me, Ignatio did it!” So … whatever that means, is some kind of insight into who this character is. [Laughs] In this season, Nacho came of age. He’s been under the rule of a very irrational boss, and now wants to take arms against a sea of troubles.
What can you reveal about the Season 2 finale?
All you Breaking Bad fans: Vince Gilligan wrote and directed this finale. When I read it, I had to put it down because I started laughing … about what it could imply. Yeah, it’s amazing. The last episode takes the show to another level.
I can also tell you that there’s something huge that will happen. I think it’ll be enough to have people talking through the entire off-season. It’s been six months since we wrapped, and I don’t think a single one of us can wait for this finale to air. It’s a fantastic cliffhanger.
Catch the Season 2 finale of “Better Call Saul” on AMC on Monday, April 18 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
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