Why Bob Odenkirk Saw Saul Goodman As An 'Action Hero'

This post contains spoilers for the series finale of "Better Call Saul."

The character of Saul Goodman is one that's defined the career of Bob Odenkirk since first taking on the role in the second season of "Breaking Bad." Saul was such a popular character that after the show ended its critically acclaimed five-season run, AMC announced the prequel/sequel series "Better Call Saul," with Odenkirk as the lead. When an actor spends much of their career with a single character, you'd think it would be hard to diversify work after that point. Odenkirk, however, found new and exciting ways to take his experience with a character like Saul into roles that were vastly different.

The most recent example is Odenkirk's character in the 2021 action film, "Nobody." The movie focuses on a retired assassin named Hutch, who lives a quiet and restrained life in the suburbs and springs back into action following a home robbery that leaves him frustrated with his life. Before the hard-hitting comedic action of "Nobody," it would have been hard to imagine Odenkirk in such a physically demanding role. It was critical aspects of his Saul Goodman performance, however, that sold the actor as a relatable action hero.

'The character of Saul Goodman is indefatigable'

Although Bob Odenkirk is only two years apart in age from Keanu Reeves, the two actors have had vastly different careers leading up to their action roles in "John Wick" and "Nobody." So when Odenkirk wanted to do an action movie, there was a level of uncertainty about whether he could sell audiences on his action star potential. In an interview with GQ, Odenkirk was asked how he sold the idea of someone like him starring in an intense, highly choreographed action film like "Nobody." Rather than being shot down, the actor was encouraged by his colleagues. To Odenkirk, it was because of the characteristics he had shown while playing Saul:

"I was expecting to get shot down by everyone I know. The first person I call is my manager, Marc Provissiero. And Marc says, 'You're right, Bob. You might be able to do an action movie.' The character of Saul Goodman is indefatigable. He has a lot of heart."

Throughout "Better Call Saul," especially in the first couple of seasons before he became Saul, Odenkirk's Jimmy McGill displayed extraordinary perseverance while trying to do the right thing. The character has always shown an indomitable will, even if it meant digging through the garbage of a retirement home in order to help his mistreated clients.

A bonafide action star

Even in the later seasons of the series and in the flash-forwards, Saul Goodman showed himself as a character not taken down easily — even when he went into hiding, he still re-emerged from the monochrome shadows to triumphantly transform into Saul Goodman one more time. How the character got himself back up after every dangerous situation is precisely why Bob Odenkirk sees Goodman as an action hero, as he told GQ:

"He gets knocked down over and over, he never quits coming back, and he's not above doing something devious. In a lot of ways, that's an action hero — except he doesn't fight. And that's how people know me around the world, more than Mr. Show or any of the comedy I've done."

The fact that most people know Odenkirk as Saul Goodman better than any other character he's played shouldn't be seen as a hindrance. Odenkirk doesn't view it that way, and how he leveraged his Saul performance to get "Nobody" made is an excellent example of how actors could reach into performances from their past and channel them into something new and fresh. While "Nobody" is mostly a clone of "John Wick," Odenkirk turning into a bonafide action star and using his physical appearance to make him look and feel like an underdog is admirable. If a sequel to "Nobody" eventually comes around, Odenkirk will hopefully continue to channel the action-hero traits of Saul Goodman.