Author of ‘Better Call Saul’ on Finally Entering the “Breaking Bad” Era

This story contains Spoilers for this week’s episode of Better Call SaulWe have recapped it here.

After Better Call Saul Peter Gould (co-creators), Thomas Schnauz (season three of Heisenberg-verse) is the longest-tenured writer. Breaking Bad He stayed through the final episode of the prequel series. And in a way, his involvement goes back even further, as he was the one who told Gilligan about an article he’d recently read about mobile meth labs, which got his old friend’s mental gears turning.

Now Schnauz’s tenure as both writer and director ends with the full-circle episode that is, appropriately, titled “Breaking Bad,” because it presents flashbacks where we see Saul Goodman’s first meeting with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, reprising their iconic roles) from Saul’s perspective.

Schnauz spoke with Rolling Stone After being unsure if Gilligan would direct Cranston and Paul again, I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to direct Cranston, Paul and Jesse again. That is why the writers felt it was important that the Walt and Jesse scenes were used to show the contrast between what Saul is upto under his new identity, Gene from Cinnabon.

Finally, Walt and Jesse were allowed to join the show. This idea was brought up many times throughout the years. Did you put it off until the last minute? Was there ever a thought that you just wouldn’t do it?
We were certain that they would return at some point. We just didn’t know when or how. We began to talk about the episode in which Gene was returning to his old ways. And we’re seeing what influenced him to become Saul, which was the Kim breakup and her not telling him about Lalo being alive for the reasons that she did — it really crushed the man who Jimmy McGill was. After that phone call he has at the side of the road in this episode, when he calls Florida trying to reach Kim Wexler, we don’t hear what happens on that call, but something on it brings back all the pain from the past, and his need to cover it up again. So his drug of choice is Saul Goodman, and that’s the best way to heal himself. That’s why we felt it was a good spot to flash back and forth between the two eras. And it helps pay some things off that you’ll see in the upcoming episodes.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in original “Better Call Saul” episode of <em>Breaking Bad</em>.

Lewis Jacobs/AMC

Peter has mentioned the idea that events should be shown on. Breaking Bad from Saul’s perspective as “running through the raindrops,” and he told me once he wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Were there ever points where he or someone else in the room argued that you shouldn’t do this?
Since Season One, i was a very strong advocate: “Let’s run through the raindrops.”I wanted to mix up the timelines. I don’t think anybody said, “No, let’s not do this.”As the final season approached, I believe we all felt like that. “Well, are we going to do this or not?”We were willing to try it only if it was successful. It worked here. We were even talking about it in 610 [the previous episode], but it felt like we didn’t have enough of Gene at that point to really say it works to bounce back and forth between the two timelines. He tried to cheat Jeff in 610. But then he experienced the rush of adrenaline. But then he made that phone call, the pain came back, and huge, he smashes the phone, he kicks the glass, and he’s hurting and he needs to take that drug. He slips back into the drug.

Were Aaron and Bryan able to reprise those roles? El Camino — in a scene set not long after what they’re playing here — give you more confidence that they could just do it again if you brought them back?
I didn’t really know how it was going to turn out. Before we could shoot 611, I had to write the scene. Because Bryan and Aaron weren’t available, we filmed it during 602 filming. Aaron had to adhere to certain facial hair rules. Westworld. It was April 2021, so this was the only way we could do it. So I had to write the scene — and luckily it was self-contained — so that even if things changed in 611, we weren’t going to be screwed if we filmed this so early. I took this picture of Bryan and Aaron, dressed in ski masks, posing as silly people. It made me so happy. The day before we had a rehearsal and everyone was locked in. We then set up the RV and got it running. It was a mad rush. It was incredible to be there and shoot with the guys in that situation. I can’t say enough about the job they did getting into those roles. Bob is the most notable. Bob is so unlike Jimmy in this scene that you can see he is full Saul Goodman. It’s such a different character than Jimmy McGill.

Aaron is now a man. He doesn’t look as boyish now than he did when he was younger. Breaking Bad. And I couldn’t help noticing that the scene takes place in a lot of darkness, and he has a beanie on the whole time. Is that an attempt to hide his age?
Yeah. I don’t mean to say that I hate the day people begin cutting. Better Call Saul Breaking Badinto a continuous thing. Everybody — Giancarlo and Banks — is older. You need to be on the lookout Better Call SaulYou think? “Oh, Banks kind of looks the same,”But if you set it against a scene Breaking BadThe difference is enormous. It’s going to be the same with Saul Breaking BadAaron will be there. Bryan looked amazing, but the beanies certainly helped. It was only to avoid lots of problems. The illusion was partially helped by the beanie being on. People will still say it, I’m sure. “Oh, he doesn’t look like a skinny kid,” but you either go with it or you don’t.

Did production keep the RV interior set over the years, or did they have to build one new for this episode?
This sucker was made from scratch. Airbags were used to lift the sucker off the ground and move it around.

The Saul/Francesca Flash-forward “Quite a Ride”The idea was that she would need to be at a Pay Phone on a certain date and hour. Do you know the details?
Not only did I not know what the call was going to be about, I didn’t even know at first that it would be in the episode, because it was added after we broke the episode in the writers room. Ann and Peter [Cherkis]After the season had ended, I wrote this into the episode and realized that we needed something. I don’t know what they were thinking! It was the first thing I saw. “What the hell is this?” Gordon [Smith]Others joked that I was against the whole thing. But somehow, it landed in my lap so I had to deal with it.

Gordon mentioned a flag that had been planted by the writers earlier in the series when he interviewed me a few weeks back. This would need to be addressed. This was it?
Yes, that was indeed the flag we planted. I mean, it’s no gun in the trunk of a car. It’s easier to answer. We can picture Gene in Omaha calling Francesca. We talked about Gene’s plans and the reasons he would need to speak to her. Obviously, he’d want to know how hot things are, where things stood in Albuquerque. “Is the heat off? Can I relax a little bit?”Gene’s life is full of fear and anxiety about being recognized. We discussed what he would like to learn from Francesca.

This call allows you to close some matters. Breaking Bad Skyler made the deal with prosecutors. This was important to you.
There wasn’t a lot of importance to it. I was just trying to imagine Francesca’s thoughts about how to wrap up the proceedings, where everybody stood.

A question was also raging and you answered it. Breaking Bad Huell was at the end: Will he just live in that DEA safehouse for the rest his life?
I hated the idea of breaking this illusion. I wanted to try and keep that going. We had to deal with that. Jimmy has a good friend in Huell. It turned out that they were very close. It was important for him to inquire about Huell. Kuby, we wanted him for an episode of Season Five. [Bill Burr] wasn’t available, that’s why we went back to Steven Ogg. He also mentions Danny. We made Pryce’s real name Daniel Wormald, and my dream was always to bring Pryce back and have him be the guy who runs the Laser Tag place as Danny. It just didn’t work out that way. But when Gene mentions Danny here, that’s who he’s referring to.

You might wonder why Mike is doing investigation work for Saul Goodman, when he has a highly lucrative job with Gus Fring.
I think because Saul Goodman is a player in town, who’s got his finger on the pulse of a lot of things that are going on. It’s an information conduit for Gus Fring. If Mike is close to Saul, it’s a way of gathering information. It’s also a pretty good cover job, apart from the Fring organization. Mike will find it useful in two ways.

There are moments to cherish Breaking Bad where Saul seems oblivious to Mike’s true loyalties, and other ones — like Mike threatens MikeIn “Full Measure” — where it seems clear he knows who Mike’s real boss is. How much did they talk about their relationship during the making of this show, as well as this particular episode?
We had the task of going back and watching scenes to see what was said. You know, there is no way to be perfect. Breaking BadThe show was created without knowing that it would ever have a prequel that featured all of these characters. So hopefully it doesn’t feel like we are twisting and turning to make things right. We tried to keep an eye on all the action. Breaking Bad It was to ensure that the progression from A-B felt logical and realistic. Sometimes, we’re bending a little, but hopefully, it doesn’t break.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut - Better Call Saul _ Season 6, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Jonathan Banks portrays Mike “Breaking Bad”Episode of ‘Better Call Saul.’

Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Mike seems to be genuinely dismissive when Saul asks him about Walt, even though it is clear that Gus was fascinated by blue meth after Gale shared the story with him. Mike doesn’t seem to know Gus is interested or is he just playing Saul.
I think Mike’s recommendation to Gus would be “Don’t get involved with this guy.” The investigating is done, and he knows Walt’s small potatoes, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he’s going to get caught or killed. And it’s just through a lot of dumb luck, or Walt’s ingenuity when they get themselves out of situations throughout the years. Both Walt and Jesse should have been arrested multiple times and taken to jail. But they managed to make it through. Gus wasn’t going to have anything to do with Walter White, but it was Gale’s fawning over how great this meth was. It spoke to Gus’ strive for quality in all things, from chicken to the drug business.

Kim left Jimmy with Jimmy a few episodes back, and then Saul Goodman got the final word. That really felt like the end to the story you’ve been telling for six seasons. In these last two episodes, the title rubric has changed from earlier in the season — no more “this and that”-style episode names — the opening title sequence is changing, and the cast credits now only feature the actors in the episode. Do you guys consider these four episodes almost an entirely different show? 
Those decisions about who got credited, what the credits would look like — that all came much later, after shooting. We wanted to end 609 with these episodes. 2001Moment when the caveman throws the bone into the air, and it transforms into a spaceship. Jimmy McGill actually gets hit by 609 trucks and, bam!, we are in future. He’s Saul Goodman. It was something we discussed for a while. I think it was very successful. Also, we teased Gene in all these teasers at the start of each season, and I think it would have been weirder if we just did another teaser at the start of Season Six, and that’s the end of Gene. What’s the emotional wrap-up of Jimmy McGill going through all these changes? Gene was temporary “I’m in hiding” moment, but he couldn’t suppress it. He didn’t have to deal with the death of his brother. He didn’t deal with any of it. When Chuck died, Howard went through the steps of healing himself, he took the blame for it, he went to therapy, and did all the steps that Jimmy should have done, so all these deep things he’s pushed down will rise to the surface. We are interested in how that ends. That’s where we’re heading in the final episodes.

That 2001 Cut is fantastic. Was there any discussion about showing more of Jimmy’s gradual change into Saul to see him set up the business as we see it? Breaking Bad?
We went with great care from a group who believed that he would play Saul Goodman at season’s end. We were at so many different points. “Is he Saul Goodman now?” “Not quite.”It felt like we were at the final step, when Kim was lost the way it all happened. I don’t think we had anything to gain from seeing any more steps.

Something we talked about is that when he’s really, really, full Saul Goodman is the point when he decides it’s OK to kill somebody. My first episode of Breaking Bad, “One Minute,”They discuss Jesse and what to do. He says that there are many options. “options.” That’s a much different character from Jimmy and from early Saul. There were some steps that happened that got him to that point that we’re not seeing. They did discuss whether they should be shown. “Should we see a moment where he feels like somebody needs to die?” We talked about there being a situation where there’s some case — I think they did this on The Good Wife — where Saul is saying something to Mike, “Well, if this guy is gone, it would be really helpful,”Mike says it all “You want this to happen?” It was one of those scenes we pitched but didn’t do.

Kim Wexler’s last appearance on the show is when she walks into her bedroom to continue packing her stuff. This was ever seriously considered.
I think people know that there’s no way to get to the end of the series without talking about her fate and what has happened to her. But we wanted to keep it a mystery for a while longer. So that’s why we don’t hear, we just know it’s something very upsetting on that phone call. We just don’t know what yet. Things will be clearer in the near future, I believe. Lalo was also missing when it happened. It was as follows: “What the hell happened? When is he coming back?” I feel like that’s some of the same thinking that went into Kim. We want the audience to be puzzled by what she is doing.

Finally, you’ve been writing for this franchise longer than anyone but Vince and Peter. Is it possible that your last episode was not written or directed in part by any of them?
Episode slots are not an accident. They are chosen very early. However, we don’t know what happens to them. It was accidental that I got the midseason finale. We planned on airing 13 episodes in a row, and because of the Covid restrictions and Bob’s health, we ended up dividing the season in two. The episode that was aired in the middle of the season ended up being a finale because it had a very dramatic ending. But me being third from last last and Vince and Peter going to the finale, that’s not random.

However, you were fortunate to be able to direct Bryan as well as Aaron.
Once we were saying it, “Yeah, they’re coming back,” I thought for sure it was going to land in 612 — that was Vince’s episode. These things are broken down organically. It just felt like once we started talking about Gene’s story, this felt like the right time now to see these guys. Peter and Vince agreed that this was the right time. I felt like it should have been Vince’s episode, but just because of the way the story broke, it fell on me.

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