Bob Odenkirk Says ‘They Shouldn’t Have Put Me on ‘Breaking Bad’’

‘I didn’t audition for it!’
Bob Odenkirk Says ‘They Shouldn’t Have Put Me on ‘Breaking Bad’’

Pop culture historian Tony Hawk just couldn’t figure something out as he figuratively skateboarded past Bob Odenkirk on his Hawk Vs. Wolf podcast. Odenkirk’s early career was stuffed with Second CitySaturday Night LiveThe Ben Stiller Show and Mr. Show. “You’re doing all this, and it’s all comedy all the time,” Hawk said. “And I don’t know what the transitional phase (to drama) is.” 

That’s because there was no transition, insisted Odenkirk. None of it made sense! “They shouldn't have put me on Breaking Bad. I did nothing to earn it.” 

Odenkirk means it, too — he did nothing. “I didn’t audition for it!”

Hawk still couldn’t wrap his brain around the situation. Wasn’t Odenkirk worried about taking on a dramatic role? What did he know about acting serious — or serious acting, for that matter?

That part didn’t worry Odenkirk. “I was more concerned, and I’m being serious, that I would show up on set and they would go, ‘Oh shit. What’s your name again? Oh, you're Bob Odenkirk? Okay, uh, just hang out at the hotel, We’re going to get back to you,’” he explained. “I was genuinely concerned that I would be told there’s another Bob Odenkirk, he went to Juilliard, he’s a fucking great actor. ‘I’m so sorry, we should have checked the names.’” 

Odenkirk’s theory was the Saul character on Breaking Bad was conceived as comic relief, hence his casting. The show’s writers and creators were big fans of Mr. Show, he said, and probably assumed the character wouldn’t last more than three episodes.

It took Odenkirk a minute to escape that Mr. Show creator mindset. When he got his first Breaking Bad script, he immediately went through with a pencil, editing his dialogue, adding and subtracting words for funnier effect. “And I realized, No, this is a drama. I don’t know these guys. What if I tried to be an actor? An actor would get this and just do what they wrote. And that would be his job.”

So Odenkirk took on a new challenge — performing the script exactly as written, “to the comma.” He didn’t quite reach that goal, but figures he stuck to the written word 98 percent of the time. “The only time I affected the show was on Better Call Saul,” he said. “In the later seasons, I would feel the confidence, knowing the character, to say, ‘Maybe he does this,’ or ‘Why does he say it that way?’ Then I felt like I wasn’t stepping on this thing. I don’t want it to be me. I want it to be this other person.” 

Showing up on Breaking Bad wasn’t that much of a risk, he said, despite his lack of dramatic chops. He compared the experience to his movie, Nobody. “If that didn’t work, so what? I never said I wanted to be an action star,” he said. “If Saul didn’t work, you asked me to do it! I had nothing at stake.” 

Hawk Vs. Wolf

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Odenkirk did skate with Hawk. And if it didn’t work, so what?


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