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Bob Odenkirk winds down his journey as Jimmy McGill, uh, Saul Goodman, no, Gene Takavic

Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"I'll allow that," Odenkirk says. "But I don't think it explains that outpouring of warmth. I think that came from COVID, which freaked everyone out and led to this feeling of 'Can we just not have more bad things happen to us for a little while?' And then, you know, I'm not a movie star. I'm just a guy who acts and works hard. I think people see me and think, 'If I was an actor and had a great bit of luck, I'd be like him. He's not a flashy guy. He's not even particularly gifted. He just shows up and goes to work.' People can relate to that. And maybe that provoked a certain amount of empathy."

Odenkirk isn't pushing false humility. He likes to analyze things — his memoir could be used as a textbook for understanding sketch comedy — and this is his genuine take on why the world joined hands last summer and wished him well. I think he's wrong, but his reasoning is completely in character.

"Bob, being who he is, is always grappling with the subtext going through his head," says his co-star and friend Seehorn. "Like, when he was writing the book, he had to wrap his mind around, 'Well, who am I to be writing a bio?' And I would tell him time and time again that he has this breadth of work and expertise in comedy and a million funny stories and he's a great writer and has taken risks and tried things and they haven't always worked out, but he keeps trying. That's interesting. Who wouldn't want to read about that?" She pauses. "It took some convincing."

The book, which Odenkirk wrote over the course of a few years ("Oh, my gosh, the cursing you would hear from upstairs," roommate Seehorn says, laughing. "I just thought he was going to light so many reams of paper on fire on a weekly basis"), ended up containing a fair amount of advice, along the lines of "if I can do it, so can you." Odenkirk doesn't consider himself some wise old sage ("old, maybe," he says), but he does think people can learn things over the course of time and even change. That belief has been at the heart of the many arguments he's had over the years with "Saul" creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan.

"My pitch to them is always: Sometimes people learn the right lessons from challenges and trauma," Odenkirk says.

The first five seasons of the series have opened with a flash-forward of Saul, now going by the alias of Gene Takavic, living in Omaha, Nebraska, managing a shopping center Cinnabon and living a bleak, empty, low-key life. The last time we see Gene, he believes he's been made and needs to change his identity and disappear again. And then he seems to see something and changes his mind.

 

"He's looking back on his whole life and asking himself, 'Do I react the way that my instinct tells me, the same instinct that has landed me in a f— mall in Omaha, making cinnamon rolls? Do I keep following that gut?' He's still Jimmy McGill. He's still Saul Goodman. I promise you that. But in his growth, he's asking himself, 'Really? Is this all worth it?' And you see in that moment that he can't hold that s— in any longer. He needs to be himself."

We've spent the good part of an hour dancing around what's to come in the show's remaining episodes. Odenkirk can't tell me, and I don't want to know. But without getting into specifics, it would seem that Odenkirk may have finally won his long-standing argument with the series' writers, allowing Saul to step past his resentments.

"You know, I've had my bitterness and frustrations, but whenever I see that at play, especially in a choice I'm going to make, I say, 'That's bull—. That is not a way to move forward,'" Odenkirk says. "And with Saul, I've always told Peter and Vince that sometimes people learn the right lessons and not the most selfish, resentful lesson from a bad thing that's happened to them. They become bigger and more gracious and not smaller and ground-down.

"This is not a spoiler, what I'm saying here," Odenkirk adds. "It's weird, because it sounds like maybe I'm pitching that Saul becomes this goodhearted, generous, caring person. I can't tell you where he ends up, but it's not like he has some revelation of humanity. I think he gets to …" Odenkirk pauses. "I think I've said all I can say. But I like where his journey ends. And I think you'll like it too."

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©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

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