Editor’s note: The below interview contains spoilers for Season 6 Episode 9 of Better Call Saul, “Fun and Games.”The long-running AMC series Better Call Saul might technically serve as a prequel to Breaking Bad, but has carved out a storytelling niche all its own in the realm of drama television thanks to unexpected twists and phenomenal performances. The show chronicles the journey of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a former conman who aspires to become a decent lawyer, through his seemingly-inevitable descent into the role of crooked criminal defense attorney Saul Goodman. Throughout the prior five seasons, Jimmy’s backstory has played almost in tandem with flash-forward scenes from his post-Breaking Bad life, as we learn more about the people who played such a formative role in shaping his burgeoning professional career in law (like his now-wife Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn, or his now-late older brother Charles McGill, played by Michael McKean). We also learn how Jimmy’s path first crossed with that of former police officer and security expert Mike Ehrmentraut (Jonathan Banks), and how he ultimately became a “friend of the cartel” rather unwittingly, thanks to tangling with members of the deadly Salamanca crime family, spearheaded by the unpredictable Lalo (Tony Dalton), who frequently clashes with rival drug lord Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).
Ahead of the premiere of Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 9, “Fun and Games,” Collider had the opportunity to speak with Seehorn about her character’s most pivotal moments in the episode. Over the course of the interview, which you can read below, Seehorn discussed how much (or how little) she knew about Kim’s arc this season and what was revealed to her in advance, when she realized that Kim’s role in Jimmy’s schemes was only going to do more harm than good, when she feels Kim reaches her breaking point in Episode 9, and how she and Odenkirk (as well as director Michael Morris) rehearsed that pivotal conversation between Jimmy and Kim. She also spoke about what it was like to direct Episode 4, “Hit and Run,” whether fans can expect Kim to return at any point within the season’s final episodes, and more.
Collider: First of all, I just wanted to say congratulations on the Emmy nomination.
RHEA SEEHORN: Thanks. Thank you.
How early were you made aware of what would be going on with Kim this season? When did those conversations take place, and did you get to have any input on how her journey would play out?
SEEHORN: I only got the scripts one at a time, and I had no input. (laughs) Other than what they had said, [the] other writers and Peter Gould said from the beginning of it. And Vince Gilligan when he was co-showrunning, as well. They do take in what you’re bringing to the performance and try to write to that, or write to what’s helping the story of what’s percolating and that kind of stuff. But no, I didn’t have any direct input on what her trajectory was or what her end was.
So, you were left in the dark until you read it in the script?
SEEHORN: Correct. Nope, I did not know they would break up until I saw the breakup, and I did not know she would quit the bar until I saw that.
What was it like for you to get to direct this season? I had spoken to Giancarlo [Esposito] about his experience, but I would love to know if anything in particular stands out in your mind from your time behind the camera.
SEEHORN: Lots of things. Lots and lots and lots of things. Huge, huge learning experience that I’m so grateful that I got to have. I wanted it, and I went to Peter and Vince early on, and I’m so glad that they allowed me that opportunity. But one of the things that did stand out to me was… I’m very much a collaborative actor, and I like working with the crew. I like learning other people’s jobs. I like watching other people’s work. But I’m not always privy to all of the behind-the-scenes stuff, as much as I want to be on set and ask people about what they’re doing. I’m not there for pre-production. I’m not there on a scout. I’m not there in the costumes show and tell, and the props show and tell, and all of those things.
Watching that process and seeing all of it and realizing on such a visceral level… The feeling of 250 people, multiple artists and craftsmen and skilled technicians and department heads wanting to help you realize the best illustration of the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it, was very humbling and incredible, especially on a show like Better Call Saul, everybody is at the top of their game. Everybody is the best of the best in what they’re doing, and they are all coming to you, wanting to help you execute whatever you envisioned or bringing you ideas if I’m describing what I want them to feel like. They’ve got ideas about like what that translates to in a jacket. What does that translate to in lighting? What does that translate to in lensing?
That was an incredible experience, and it made me even more aware of the collaborative spirit of this profession in the best way. I have never understood people that go about making television shows and films in a way that’s completely egocentric and about themselves, because it’s not. It’s a collaborative art form, and it is at its best when you are capable of allowing the collaboration.
Diving into this week’s episode in particular, and I guess maybe this is also more of a season-long arching question, when did it become apparent in your mind that Kim having more of an involvement, or even an authority, in these schemes was going to be more harmful than good for her?
SEEHORN: While I didn’t know, as we started the conversation answering, exactly where it was going, I knew that this would end in bad stuff. I understood her compartmentalizing getting to a sociopathic level and her thought that she could just… I mean, everything that she was doing, everything that used to be a character asset, becoming a character flaw. “I don’t accept help, but I do everything on my own.” Well, that worked all the way up to the place where she, over the last two seasons, has become someone that thinks, “As long as I have all the information, I can control the outcome,” which is not true, and incredibly egotistical, and that led to her not telling Jimmy that Lalo was alive and thinking that she could handle it. Thinking that she could somehow mess with Howard’s life just to the degree that she wanted and that it would somehow never get out of control. Going from believing that she’s the arbiter of who’s deserving of good things, all the way to also thinking she gets to punish people that deserve to be knocked down a peg.
I knew that it was becoming darker and darker, and I knew that this delicate game was going on of who’s influencing who. Who’s egging the other person on with Kim and Jimmy in some of those scenes where she’s a bit reluctant versus he’s a bit reluctant. It seemed to be more and more her [being] the one that was not reluctant as we went through the season, and I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to end in happiness.
Something had to give, and in this week’s episode in particular, Kim reaches her breaking point. She realizes she can’t continue on the path that she’s been on. Things have to change. She has to make some pretty big decisions, and those decisions involve not only quitting the bar, but leaving Jimmy. What was your read on when that moment of realization came? Was it after Howard’s memorial service? Or was it sometime before then?
SEEHORN: Well, I think there’s certainly mental steps going on even prior to the memorial service, but you see that she’s almost catatonic in her suppression and shock and doesn’t know what to do. There’s some fake until you make it and just keep taking a step forward. But I do think the memorial and what she says to Cheryl is the turning point for her of, “This is what I’m capable of.” It isn’t over with the fact that an innocent person just died very much because of things that she put in motion. She has become casually cruel.
When they wrote that line where she tells the false cocaine story, that might have been necessary to stop where that conversation was going, but it wasn’t necessary to say, “You were his wife. You would know.” Because she knows that they were having marital problems. The twist, the dagger, in that moment is so… Well, like I said, it’s just so casually cruel, and she is alarmingly good at it, and I think there very much is a realization in that moment of, “I can’t be this person. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this. What is the punishment due? How do you move forward?”
Jimmy, to some degree in the parking garage, when he says, “Well, that’s it. The worst of it’s over and now we can begin the healing,” he still believes that they can find light, that there’s still enough about them that’s good, individually and together, that it outweighs the dark. Kim is utterly eclipsed in that moment, and I don’t think she blames him. For me, the kiss was partially about… it’s not his onus to punish her, or to not see that she cannot get out of the well that she has dug. It’s upon her to do something, and she loves him, and realizes in that moment what she later has uttered, which is it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter anymore how much they love each other.
I do want to talk about that scene because it is so heartbreaking, and the two of you play it in such a… I mean, it’s lovely, but it’s also just a lot. I don’t have any other word for it. What kind of conversations did you and Bob have about how to play that moment? Did anything emerge in rehearsing it that maybe wasn’t on the page? How did the two of you work on that moment together?
SEEHORN: Well, and thank you for saying that. We played it as honestly to the characters as we could, which makes it… It’s not a showy, crying, screaming scene. I mean, there’s a lot of emotion in it, but we wanted it to be true to who these characters are in that moment. I’m very glad that it is affecting people in the way that you’re saying. We’ve talked to a couple of people that saw it in rough cuts and stuff [and] were telling us that they had to go get some air. It was just too much to watch, and very upsetting.
When we went about working on it, we knew instinctively that this was a hard scene, both technically challenging, [and] to make sure that you shouldn’t just be out there prostituting emotions and crying all over the place. What’s the actual structure of the scene? What’s the subtext? What’s what one planned to say versus when they didn’t plan it? He drove over there planning on saying something to her, and she sat on that balcony planning on saying something. But when did it go elsewhere? What surprised you? What surprised your partner?
Something very, very important to Bob and I, and I’m convinced it’s part of what people see as chemistry, is that we respect the work each other does so much that you make sure you leave the room, as any good actor should, where their line reading always affects your line reading. There’s nothing you could have preplanned about the way you were going to say something. So, we rehearsed it out at home, in the home that we lived together in New Mexico, and then when we decided to go rehearse it at the condo, we invited [director] Michael Morris to come by and watch.
When we rehearse stuff, we don’t nail it down. I’m not saying we don’t allow our directors and writers and showrunner [to] have input. We mostly just want the lines to be backwards and forwards and to know them in and out. And then we start talking about the infinite possibilities, because there are with that scene, and all of the great things that they’ve written for us have an infinite amount of ways that you can do them. Where is it flirty? Where is it kind? Where is it sweet? When do the dynamics change into an argument? When is it heated? When does it simmer down?
The more we ran the lines over and over, the more we realized there was this dynamic going back and forth of who was chasing and who was receding, who was defending and who was accusing — and then, the horrible realization that it’s a tie. Nobody can fix this. Jimmy thinks, “We can bury it,” and Kim thinks “I can’t live in my own skin anymore.” The question of whether or not we love each other is moot at this point. The self-loathing is beyond the pale. She can’t practice law. I was telling another journalist earlier today that it reminded me of an Icarus thing, as well, because Kim at one point told Schweikert & Cokely that the reason she left her small hometown was because she wanted more. I feel like in this moment she thinks, how dare she? She deserved nothing. She shouldn’t have ever tried to go beyond her station in life, and it’s very sad.
When we brought Michael Morris to watch rehearsal, he agreed with us [about] the physicality of them going room to room, and this feeling of being on a train that you can’t get off of, which is very much what Jimmy is feeling in that moment where he doesn’t want this to happen. “I don’t want this conversation to happen, make this conversation stop.” We thought we should see if [cinematographer] Marshall Adams could find a way to build it in that way where you can’t cut. Not because it would be clever to do a one-er, but because we wanted the audience to have to stay with that emotion — and also to have the freedom of if [Bob] slightly changes his line. If he slightly changes the way he says, “I love you,” it slightly changes the way I say, “I love you, but so what?”
It was this tight tether between us, and the only way to film it that way without doing traditional coverage back and forth — in those little doorways, you can’t do dual coverage, you can’t have two cameras there. So, we ended up orchestrating this whole dance that Michael Morris did with Marshall Adams and our camera ops, Jordan and Matt Credle on A camera, and Eli on the dolly grip. I don’t know if you could tell in watching the scene, but it was a dance where they are moving with us. Going forward with me, coming back with me, leaving with Bob when he goes to another room, it makes it quite breathless and quite claustrophobic, and that was a major orchestration that I think paid off. I was really proud. That’s another example of what you and I were talking about, the art of the collaboration to realize, in that moment, this was a group of people that made that happen.
Looking ahead, I’m sure you cannot say much at all, but is there any credence to the possibility that this is not the last time we won’t be seeing Kim this season?
SEEHORN: I can’t answer that. We’ll have to watch and see. (laughs) Even the people that sleuthed out when I was in Albuquerque and when I left, we shot a lot of stuff out of sequence this year, so people were coming and going after they were traditionally wrapped [on] everything else. But I can say that this ending, the tragedy of the chapter that ended that you just watched, is real. There’s no tricks about that. Whether or not we see her again and in what capacity, I won’t spoil.
Season 6 of Better Call Saul airs Monday nights at 9 PM ET/PT on AMC.