[This story contains major spoilers for Better Call Saul’s “Fun and Games.”]
It’s been quite a week for Rhea Seehorn as the actor is still on cloud nine following not one but two Emmy nominations for her performances on AMC’s Better Call Saul and Cooper’s Bar. It’s also been quite a night for Kim Wexler, Seehorn’s career-defining role that garnered her an outstanding supporting actress nom after five years of insistence from critics and fans alike.
In the aftermath of Howard Hamlin’s (Patrick Fabian) murder and nearly having to assassinate someone herself, Kim decided to pull the plug on her law career and relationship with Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) as a form of atonement. She had to be the adult in the room because Jimmy was never going to voluntarily give up on his dreams for the two of them.
“She’s imploding, and she’s absolutely desperate,” Seehorn tells The Hollywood Reporter. “She’s like, ‘I cannot be this person anymore. I have no right to practice law. I have absolutely no right to pass judgment on others.’ And ultimately, there’s an incredible amount of self-loathing in her thinking of, ‘I don’t deserve anything.’”
Seehorn was initially reluctant to admit whether Kim would’ve pulled the trigger to kill Gus Fring (or his double) and save Jimmy’s life in Gordon Smith and Vince Gilligan’s “Point and Shoot,” but she’s willing to do so now because it provides further context for Kim’s decision-making in writer Ann Cherkis and director Michael Morris’ follow-up, “Fun and Games.”
“I think she would’ve pulled the trigger, personally. I do,” Seehorn says. “I played it like there was no choice because that’s what that scene demands. She thought, ‘I’m going to pull this off. It’s the only way I can save his life.’”
In a recent spoiler conversation with THR, Seehorn elaborates on Kim’s game-changing decisions, and then she offers her reaction to watching a fully-realized Saul Goodman emerge via a time jump to Breaking Bad territory in 2008.
Two-time Emmy nominee Rhea Seehorn, congratulations.
(Laughs.) Did you ever think you’d say that phrase?
I was confident enough that I drafted a celebratory tweet years ago, so I’m glad I finally got to publish it.
(Laughs.) I’m so glad you could just go to your saved drafts. You didn’t even have to write it.
With so many people wanting this for you, does it feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders?
That’s a difficult thing to answer. Nobody should be an asshole and sit around thinking that they deserve an award, but it was not lost on me. (Laughs.) When I started seeing the social media outpouring of love and texts and DMs and critics’ pieces about how thrilled they were, it did hit me. I’ve been receiving all of this support from you and your colleagues, as well as the fans, and you don’t always get to check off both of those boxes. It’s quite the thing, and that’s been going on for years. So I’ve been incredibly grateful for it. I’m grateful that people embraced the character and my performance of it. It was not an easy performance at times because she is often inscrutable and doesn’t care about being palatable. So it was just so sweet and so touching to then be nominated, which, of course, I cared about. It was joyous. I was over the moon when I found out. And then the insane icing on the cake was the relief from all these people that I don’t know. People’s well-wishes were such a wonderful thing.
Well, this is a tonal 180 from Emmy nominations, but I was told that once Bob recovered from his cardiac incident, you went straight into 609 first and then finished 608 afterwards. So I have to imagine that Bob’s return to set was pretty emotional, and since “Fun and Games” is also an emotional episode for Kim, did you channel a lot of what you were already feeling on set? They’re not the exact same emotions, obviously, but it’s still a vulnerable headspace.
Very vulnerable, yeah. I told Bob that I appreciated that he had a very well-timed heart attack because when he was recuperating, we were always supposed to shoot those night sequences of Kim driving to Gus’ house and walking up to Gus’ house and all of that stuff that [Jimmy] wasn’t in. But nobody shot or moved a muscle until we knew that he was okay, obviously. So once he was completely on the road of recovery and out of the woods of having any physical or nerve or brain damage, there was a huge sigh of relief knowing that he just needed to rest. And Bob doesn’t like to rest, so we knew that it was probably going to be left to his wife [Naomi Odenkirk] to make that happen.
He stayed in the Albuquerque place for a while, and Patrick and I would see him there. And then he went back to his home in L.A., so we had some time to process that he was okay. And when he returned to set, it was emotional for the crew, for sure, because they hadn’t even gotten to see him up and walking around; Patrick and I had. So we did have to go back and shoot some of 608. We needed to turn around on [Lalo] holding us captive on the sofa, and in order to shoot some wides, Bob and I needed to watch dailies so that we could physically mimic the [previous] blocking and all of that. But thank god we had shot our coverage of Jimmy telling Kim to go — to try to get out alive — and her thinking that she’ll never see him again. I don’t even want to think about having to play that after he had a heart attack. Luckily, I played all that before.
So that’s a long-winded way to say that by the time he came back, it was very, very emotional off-set still, but we also felt the joy of getting to go back to our jobs. And I know that Bob felt guilty, which is absurd, that he had held up production in any way. So it was very important to him to put his focus on getting to do his job again and celebrating getting to do his job again and working on scenes together and going back to that thing we both love to do. So, sure, it’s there and it’s there in subtext, but it also wasn’t about prostituting those emotions, if that makes sense. It was not about, like, “Let’s go use our scene as therapy.” (Laughs.) The weight of Jimmy and Kim breaking up in that moment was its own heavy burden that we respected and played.
So Kim quits the law and ends her relationship with Jimmy. When you first read these seismic decisions of hers, were you surprised at all, or did they feel inevitable?
I was surprised. But as was frequently my reaction when I read these great scripts over the last seven years of my life, you’re surprised, and then you’re not. It immediately makes sense. Nothing ever feels like clever shock value. I was like, “Oh right. That’s how much she can’t live in her own skin anymore.” While she’s dealing with it by looking almost catatonic in her suppression of emotion, she’s imploding, and she’s absolutely desperate. She’s like, “I cannot be this person anymore. I have no right to practice law. I have absolutely no right to pass judgment on others.” She’s been tipping the scales in the favor of those that are “deserving” for years, which is absolutely an unethical way to practice law, and it ended up with a dead person at her feet. While she does acknowledge that there’s something they ignite in each other, she’s also acknowledging her part of it. And ultimately, there’s an incredible amount of self-loathing in her thinking of, “I don’t deserve anything.”
I kept thinking back to the moment [in Better Call Saul 208] when she first interviews with Schweikart and Cokely, and they say, “Why did you leave that small town life [near the Kansas-Nebraska border] as a cashier at Hinky Dinky? What did you want?” And she says, “More.” That’s all she could categorize it as, and I think she’s at a place now where she thinks, “How dare I have wanted more than my station in life. I don’t deserve anything. I don’t deserve anything at all. I don’t deserve love. I don’t deserve a relationship. I don’t deserve a noble career.”
So then it felt like, “Yeah, I can see Kim doing that.” And I love that Peter Gould, the showrunner, and our room full of writers, kept that thing that I think we’ve all thought was true of Kim the whole time: she does have integrity. She is incredibly strong, and she does have a moral compass. It’s just quite buried right now. And for her to make that choice, it’s the most penance she can figure out how to do.
Kim’s line, “You would’ve known,” really sold the lie that she told Cheryl Hamlin (Sandrine Holt) because she knew that Howard and Cheryl were estranged. And given how painful that last scam with Cheryl was, did she make these two big decisions on the heels of it? In other words, when she kissed Jimmy in the famous garage, did she already know that would be their last kiss?
I think so. I do. It’s fair to interpret it in other ways, but for me, yes, I did. There’s rising acid in her throat when she says what she says to Cheryl, and I’m so glad you picked up on the fact that even though she looks like she’s comforting her after she tells the false cocaine story, she digs the dagger in more because she knows their marriage was in trouble. And she does it so easily and so well that she knows she can’t be this person anymore. She cannot stand herself. And when Jimmy says, “It’s over now. Let the healing begin,” it felt like she was taking stock of this person and realizing, “It’s not for him to be my hair shirt. It is not his job to determine what guilt I should feel and what I should do about it. I can love him — and I do — but this will be a job that I do on my own.”
You’ve always been a sponge on set whenever you’re not acting, and that behavior culminated in you directing 604 this season. So did you hang around to watch Bob’s transition into full-fledged Saul Goodman at the end of this episode?
No, but I forget why it didn’t. There was a logistical reason. I think I had to do some inserts from earlier scenes or something. So there was some reason why I couldn’t go, but I didn’t avoid it on purpose. But when I saw the episode for the first time last night, I realized while watching him in full-fledged Saul mode that I’ll never see that character the same way again because of what they’ve done and what [Jimmy has] done. If I were to re-watch Breaking Bad now, that character is just tragic now. Yes, he was doing sinister things, but in general, he came off as a bit of a dangerous clown. And now, he just seems so sad. It’s such a loss of potential for both of those characters.
Since early season four, I’ve been waiting for Jimmy to tell Kim about Chuck’s (Michael McKean) last words to him. They would help Kim understand so much of Jimmy’s behavior, especially his manner of grieving in season four, and at Howard’s memorial, he alludes to that exchange somewhat by mentioning that his brother never respected him. So I briefly thought there was a chance that Chuck’s last words might finally come up afterwards between Jimmy and Kim. Anyway, as a fan of the show yourself, is that something that you kept anticipating as of season four?
Remind me of his last words …
“The truth is you’ve never mattered all that much to me.”
Oh god, that was awful. (Laughs.) It’s interesting and thoughtful that you bring that up, and he does grieve in a weird way. And we do know that he never fully got out from underneath that boulder that Chuck put on him. But I always felt like Kim knew that. If Jimmy had told her the words, I think she’d feel awful for him, but I don’t think she’d feel differently about Chuck. Going all the way back [to 402] when Kim deals with the estate letter and reams Howard, sort of as a stand-in for reaming Chuck because he’s no longer there, I think she is aware of the damage that Chuck has done. I also think that she thinks that Chuck is a stand-in, be it a formidable and horribly personal one, for how society has treated Jimmy.
So I don’t think [Chuck’s last words] would alter anything. If we were to see Jimmy tell her, it would be a moment that’s more about him. During that moment in the Cheryl scene, Kim knows that it’s a bit of a ruse, but you do see her take it in a little bit. I played it that way, and Michael Morris wanted me to play it that way. She always has her antenna up for how it would help Jimmy to admit these things, more so than Kim being validated. So I think she knows, but I think she also knows that Jimmy will never be free if he doesn’t own the fact that it was devastating.
Kim smoked inside her condo throughout the season as they were both breaking their own rules, but she was smoking outside again prior to the breakup scene. So is that another indication that she’s going to at least try to get back on the straight and narrow?
All of those things have thought behind them, yes. There was a level to which their house became messier and messier. There was eating in bed, clothes everywhere, smoking in the house, and those were all very purposeful decisions, as was her smoking outside. I took it to mean a lot of things myself. I think that she plans on attempting to restrain herself and to somehow pull back from the edge that she has gone over at this point. I also think that she can’t stand to be in that living room, at all. (Laughs.) It was nice to do that balcony scene, and she knows he’s coming. We can presume that she called him and said, “This is what I did today.” Then you see her just waiting for the car to show up, and she knows she’s going to have to do what she has to do. So her smoking outside means quite a few things.
You mentioned in a video on stage that you weren’t going to disclose whether Kim would’ve pulled the trigger or not at Gus’ house. Are you still keeping those cards close to your vest?
(Seehorn pauses for a good 10 seconds.) I think she would’ve pulled the trigger, personally. I do. But who knows? I played it like there was no choice because that’s what that scene demands. She thought, “I’m going to pull this off. It’s the only way I can save his life.” Whether or not she would’ve been a good shot or completely freaked out or projectile vomited and passed out, I don’t know, but she was in a place where there was no choice. And I say that now in hindsight, because to me, it informs the moment that you then watched during tonight’s episode, which is, “That’s who you are now? That’s who you are? You better run in the other direction.”
There’s a lot of [former Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad writer] Genny Hutchison in Kim Wexler as she had a great deal of influence on the character during the first half of the series. Once Genny departed for Middle-earth [The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power] at the end of season four, have the two of you had the chance to talk about Kim in the years since?
(Laughs.) We should! I have stayed friends with Genny, and I love her. She is a brilliant writer and just an amazing person. So I’m glad you brought this up because I’m going to check in with her. I do see her support online and we stay in touch, personally, but we haven’t talked about her thoughts on Kim’s journey. I think I will do that.
We’re just about out of time, but I have one last burning question. When Kim threw away the bullet-wounded travel mug in the season six premiere, did you actually make the shot? It seemed like you were a good distance away from that trash can.
I made it twice! Sure, I didn’t make it 48 times, but I made it twice. I was like, “Why didn’t they use that shot?” That was Michael Morris’ episode as well, so I trust that he probably watched it in the edit and decided that it looked a little too slick. What she’s doing is already cavalier and pronounced, so making a three-pointer might have been a bridge too far. But I did make it twice.
Better Call Saul is now airing on AMC. This interview was edited for length and clarity.