Vince Gilligan Interview: Breaking Bad, the Saul Spinoff & MORE!
Here’s the story on Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul from Lacey Rose at The Hollywood Reporter posted Oct. 16th, 2013.
‘Breaking Bad’s’ Vince Gilligan Reveals Details of ‘Saul’ Spinoff and Terror Over What’s Next
It was mid-February of this year when Vince Gilligan settled in to finish the script for Breaking Bad‘s 62nd and final episode.
Filming was set to begin in a little over a week. He sat down at the dining-room table of his Albuquerque, N.M., condo, which had doubled as the temporary home of Bryan Cranston‘s Walter White when his wife kicked him out of the house a few seasons earlier. With an Old 97s version of “El Paso” playing on a continuous loop on his iPod, he wrote the final scene in which the camera pulls away from White one last time. After five seasons of morally reprehensible behavior, the chemistry teacher turned meth dealer — one of television’s least sympathetic antiheroes — finally would meet his demise.
But as Gilligan typed “End of Series” at the bottom of the page, his hazel eyes grew heavy with tears. “I knew it was the end of an era for me,” he says. “The end of the best job I will likely ever have.”
Much of that time together in the final year was devoted to the series’ conclusion, which at points included alternate endings ranging from Walt killing the cops to Skyler (Anna Gunn) taking her own life. The writers would sit around for hours at a time hashing over their favorite TV finales and film endings, with M*A*S*H and Casablanca among the standouts for Gilligan. It was during those conversations that they came to an important realization about what they were looking to accomplish with their final hour. Says Gilligan, “What we realized is that we wanted to satisfy the viewers more than we wanted to surprise them.”
Having had months to tinker with it in that room and in the editing process, Gilligan was able to reach a place where he felt confident — “for the first time in my career,” he jokes — about the sense of closure he and his writers would be able to provide Bad’s loyal audience. So much so that when Jeffrey Katzenberg ran into him at the Polo Lounge the morning after the Emmys and offered him $75 million — roughly twice the cost of a Bad season — to make three more episodes to be doled off in short digital segments, he wouldn’t even entertain the idea.
Gilligan knows he could be setting up himself — and his fans — for the disappointment he so ably dodged by making his next project a continuation of his last one.
“There’s obviously a danger inherent in doing a spinoff, but I just love the character of Saul Goodman [Bob Odenkirk] so much, and part of me doesn’t want to say no to this world,” he says of the prequel, acknowledging that he’s familiar with the potential pitfalls of a follow-up, having worked on the X-Files spinoff, The Lone Gunmen, which was met with critical derision and a quick ax after 13 episodes back in 2001.
Better Call Saul initially was conceived as a half-hour sitcom until Gilligan and Gould, who created the character during season two, realized they weren’t comfortable with a certain number of jokes-per-page format. “We’re both one-hour drama guys,” he says, but more to the point, they realized that so much of what they enjoyed about Breaking Bad was the show’s visual elements. “So we figured, ‘Why not shoot Saul in the same way?’ Let’s shoot it in Albuquerque, let’s get as much of the crew back together as possible, and let’s do it the way we did it before so that it will be of a piece with that pre-existing fictional universe that we had so much fun creating.”
While they’re still working through plot, they anticipate the series being set in an office with a much lighter tone than that of its predecessor. If Bad was 75 percent dramatic and 25 percent comedic,Saul will be the opposite. The challenge has been finding the dramatic tension in their lead character. Unlike Walter White, who was damaged and needy, Saul has been portrayed as happy-go-lucky until now. Says Gilligan, “We’ve had to find the ongoing itch that Saul needs to scratch, so to speak, or else we wouldn’t have much of a show.” The pair made a formal pitch this summer to AMC, which haggled with Sony over money for longer than expected before ultimately deciding to move forward at the eleventh hour. Others, led by Netflix, WGN America and FX, were ready to pounce had the flagship’s network passed.
Both Cranston and Aaron Paul, in addition to some of Bad‘s other actors, have expressed interest in making appearances, which Gilligan intends to make happen. “Personally, I’d have a hard time resisting putting all these guys in for a cameo or two every now and then,” he says, smiling at the very thought. He and Gould would like to lure at least a few of the other writers, too, with Bad writer’s assistant Gordon Smith already on board. (They’ll need to begin staffing up soon as the tentative plan is to have Saul on the air sometime between August and October.) Gilligan says he envisions being in the writers room full-time, at least for the first season, and already is slated to direct the pilot. Once Saul has found its footing, he’ll turn his focus to other projects — assuming he is able to detach.
The first test will come with his police drama, Battle Creek. He wrote and developed the hour-long entry a decade ago for CBS, which passed at that time. Now, in what is a testament to Gilligan’s clout, the network has made a rare 13-episode straight-to-series commitment, and House creator David Shore has been brought aboard to write, produce and run. Gilligan says it’ll very quickly become known as Shore’s show — “and rightly so,” he adds — admitting he has little desire to return to a broadcast schedule.
Hollywood Reporter Interview
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