Bob Odenkirk: Saul Goodman Would Love to Be Trump’s New Michael Cohen
The star of ‘Better Call Saul’ says the ‘person in the world who most reminds’ him of his character is the president of the United States.
Now that Michael Cohen has officially flipped on the president, Donald Trump is in need of a new loyal fixer. Enter Saul Goodman.
Bob Odenkirk, who for the past nine years has portrayed the fast-talking, morally challenged lawyer on Breaking Bad and now Better Call Saul, recently told The Daily Beast that he thinks Saul would happily take the president on as a client, with a few reservations.
“I think Saul would do it,” Odenkirk said on set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ahead of Better Call Saul’s upcoming fourth season, which premieres Monday, Aug. 6.
“He might have an issue with getting paid,” he continued. “That might stop him, because he does like to get paid. And I’m told that Trump doesn’t actually pay people. So I think that would be a sticking point. But I do think he would enjoy the PR. And I do think he would enjoy figuring out a way to turn things inside out.”
It is unclear whether Saul would be a step up from Cohen, who may have learned some of his lawyerly techniques from watching shows like Breaking Bad. When Fox News host Sean Hannity briefly retained Cohen for some legal advice on “real estate,” it seems as though the pair took a page right of out of the Saul Goodman playbook.
“I might have handed him 10 bucks [and said,] ‘I definitely want your attorney-client privilege on this,’ something like that,” Hannity said of his business relationship with Cohen, drawing instant comparisons to an iconic scene from Breaking Bad in which Saul tells Walter White to “put a dollar in my pocket” so that their conversation would be protected. Unfortunately, New Mexico lawyers have argued, that’s not how it works.
“The person in the world who most reminds me of Saul is Donald Trump,” Odenkirk revealed during our interview. And it has everything to do with “situational ethics.”
“It’s not very Buddhist, but he’s very in the moment,” the actor added of Trump, laughing. “And I think that’s Saul. His brain is very much in the moment all the time, changing and altering what he’s saying to serve the moment. I think there’s a similarity there.” In Odenkirk’s assessment, both Trump and Saul “perceive the world as a gameboard” where “everything in it is a game that you play.”
“I don’t think it’s a great way to be,” he continued. “Saul Goodman takes the situational ethics point of view to an extreme. And I don’t think that’s good. But I do think there’s something to be said for occasionally behaving in a self-interested manner and trying to achieve something in the moment.”
On the other hand, he posited, “I think Obama would drive Saul crazy.” Trump’s predecessor was “thinking about his own legend all the time, thinking about people talking about him in 200 years.” Saul and Trump, meanwhile, can’t think past the conversation they are having at any given moment. “I wish there was some median between these two different personas,” Odenkirk mused.
Odenkirk has been a loud Trump critic dating back several years. Just before the then long-shot GOP candidate was set to host Saturday Night Live in the fall of 2015, the former SNL writer accurately predicted that an hour and a half of live television was “not going to turn out well” for Trump, adding, “It’s not a good use of your time if you want to be president. You’re not a serious fucking person!”
After Trump was sworn in as president, Odenkirk told The Daily Beast that he was “worried” about the “instability that he brings to every moment of his life, and to our world, and our nation.”
And yet as much as Trump reminds Odenkirk of Saul, the actor stressed that he does not try to channel the president at all while playing him. “I still think of the Robert Evans voice and some of the agents that I’ve known in showbiz,” he explained.
With that in mind, Odenkirk does see a throughline from his first real acting role as a manipulative Hollywood agent on The Larry Sanders Show in the early 1990s to the character still known as Jimmy McGill on Better Call Saul. “Without a doubt, to me, Stevie Grant and Saul Goodman have a fair amount in common,” he said.
That seminal comedy series, and his performance on it, have been finding new fans of late thanks to the release of Judd Apatow’s Emmy-nominated two-part documentary about its creator and star, Garry Shandling. Odenkirk said he still has fond memories of playing basketball on the weekends at Shandling’s home and expressed regret that he began to lose touch with the comedian after his children were born.
“I knew Garry enough to know that I didn’t know him well enough,” Odenkirk said. “But I loved him. I saw him a few days before he passed away and we had a great conversation. And I know he was proud of me and what I’ve been allowed to do in the dramatic world here.”
Stay tuned for more of our coverage from the set of Better Call Saul, coming later this week before the fourth season premieres on AMC.