Odenkirk cover
Photo Credit: Rainer Hosch

Today we are putting the spotlight on Chicago’s very own Bob Odenkirk, who is also this month’s cover star for Michigan Avenue Magazine. Inside the magazine he talks with fellow comedian Ben Stiller about the highly anticipated Better Call Saul.  Fresh off the heels of the success of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is already proving itself to be a big contender of yet another great show from Vince Gilligan & Paul Gould. While Breaking Bad left some pretty big shoes to fill, Better Call Saul just might be able to fill them. Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould clearly have a hit on their hands if we are judging it by the first two episodes alone.  Fans of Breaking Bad might be pleased to know that the writers did not stray away from the formula that made Breaking Bad an iconic body of work.

If you ever thought to yourself while watching Breaking Bad that this episode needs more Saul Goodman; with Better Call Saul you get that and then some. We aren’t introduced to the Saul Goodman that we know just yet. Instead we meet Jimmy McGill.  Jimmy is a public defender that is just down on his luck. He drives a beater that spews toxins, he has a small cramped office located in the back of a nail salon, and to top it all off, he can barely make ends meet. Much like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul does a great job of creating a sympathetic character that causes you to root for their wrong doing. We know that Jimmy will one day become Saul; so it’ll be interesting to see how the backstory comes together.

From the first two episodes we learned something that we already knew. We learned that absolutely no one else could have played the role of Saul Goodman better than the phenomenal Bob Odenkirk. What made Breaking Bad less stressful to watch, were the comedic moments delivered throughout the episodes. Odenkirk comes from a sketch comedy background of Saturday Night Live and he has been able to transition smoothly into a dramatic actor with Breaking Bad. However, as evident through his character Saul Goodman, the comedy hasn’t completely left this versatile actor.

Photo Credit: Rainer Hosch

When we think of drama’s like Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul we don’t typically think of comedy. On the contrary, it’s the comedic elements that make these shows so dynamic. Odenkirk mentioned something very important in his interview with Ben Stiller for Michigan Avenue Magazine regarding being a comedic actor. He stated that “…I think that’s why other comic actors often surprise people, and it seems like every year there are one or two great opportunities for a comic actor, and they surprise everyone. The weird thing is oftentimes when serious actors try to do comedy they think it means, ‘Act goofy all the time.’ Most of what we do in sketch comedy is about what you said: plain commitment, playing like you believe it” The comedic elements present in Better Call Saul is what ties the show together. The writers know that we are already on the edge of our seats, but these laughable moments are necessary so we aren’t having a heart attack every episode. I would argue that being a comedic actor is much more challenging. We’ve seen comedians transition well into drama, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a dramatic actor transition seamlessly into comedy.

Without giving too much away, I was instantly hooked by what happened in the first two episodes. Odenkirk told Stiller in the magazine “When I walk away from Better Call Saul there’s a lot of intense s*** going on. There’s a lot of self-revealing and self-discovery and clashing of people’s emotions and desires- I mean, these guys write really intense stuff, and it’s the same writers from Breaking Bad…” Intense is certainly an understatement for all that happened in just the first few episodes. I was cringing, screaming at the TV, and closing my eyes. It was quite the dramatic ride. Anyone who enjoys Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul is an emotional masochist. You will experience all human emotions in just one episode. But I think that’s what we love about the writing in the first place.

When the latest episode ended I was upset that this was not a Netflix show; because then I would have had the option to binge watch. That’s the only issue I have with Better Call Saul. I must now wait a full week for the next episode.

To hold me over until next week’s episode, I learned some interesting facts from his Michigan Avenue Magazine feature that I didn’t know about the show’s star Bob Odenkirk. For one, I learned that Odenkirk is from Naperville.  When asked about what he enjoys when he’s back in the Chicago area he says “My mom still lives there…I’ll do stuff at Second City. I haven’t seen the new Annoyance [Theatre], but I can’t wait-and I’ll eat at Al’s Italian Beef, and get to a place called That’s-A-Burger on the South Side. I still eat meat. And I go see a Cubs game”. 

My favorite moment from the interview is when he talks about how being conservative almost derailed him from his dreams and his career. He stated “I made a pact with myself that if I didn’t get work by the time I was 30, I would stop. I mean, I’m a conservative guy in my life and I’m a Chicago guy and my dreams are somewhat grounded…My autobiography, Grounded Dreams.” Good thing Bob Odenkirk didn’t stop, because then we would have never met the lovable and charismatic Saul Goodman.

If you want to find out more about Bob Odenkirk in his Michigan Avenue Magazine feature, read the full interview at MichiganAveMag.com

And stay tuned next week, where I’ll be providing coverage for his Michigan Avenue Magazine cover party.

All images and video were provided by MichiganAveMag.com. Photos were taken by Rainer Hosch