Vince Gilligan Was Against Adding This Fan-Favorite Character To Better Call Saul

Despite being arguably one of the standout characters to appear in "Better Call Saul," it was never a certainty that Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) would surface in the show. This might seem strange given the two episodes from "Breaking Bad" that reference him, which felt like a tee-up for an eventual reveal. Lalo is first mentioned by Saul Goodman himself (Bob Odenkirk) during a terrified rant in Season 2. Then in Season 4, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) reveals he's killed every Salamanca except Hector, implying Lalo is dead or unable to retaliate. Seeing how the "Better Call Saul" Season 5 finale, "Something Unforgivable," ended, we wouldn't exactly bet against his survival just yet.

From the moment he appeared in Season 4 of "Better Call Saul," the character of Lalo has lived up to his fearsome reputation. It is often in ways that contrast him from other Salamanca family members like Tuco and Hector, something owed to Tony Dalton's fantastic flexibility as an actor. It's no wonder how quickly the audaciously stylish Lalo has become a fan favorite. But what's surprising is just how long it took creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould to agree if and how they'd introduce Lalo into the "Better Call Saul" storyline.

Gilligan lagged on Lalo

Apparently, there really is only one person to blame for the delay in Lalo's appearance on the show, and that's Vince Gilligan. But since he co-created "Better Call Saul" in the first place (not to mention "Breaking Bad") and is intensely repentant, it's hard to hold it against him. During an interview with Rolling Stone, Gilligan explained why he initially thought it was unnecessary for Lalo to appear at all:

"Back in Season 1 or 2, when I was more active on the show, Peter kept saying, 'We've gotta answer who Lalo is,' and I finally said, 'I don't know that we need to answer every single question.' And, man, I was wrong. If Peter hadn't pushed, we wouldn't have Tony Dalton. We wouldn't have this amazing character. So, some of the ones that I found the most frustrating to deal with, that I said, 'Ah, the hell with them. Who cares?' tend to be the best ones of all."

It's nice to know Peter Gould was there to badger Gilligan over Lalo, and it's clear he's grateful for the persuasion. In retrospect, the world of "Better Call Saul" would be a much less fantastical place without Dalton's often larger-than-life performance. He's more than just an amazing character. He's an antagonist that rivals even the scarily astute Gus Fring and does so with a charm that only makes him more unpredictable.

Gould knew Dalton was perfect from the start

After Vince Gilligan finally conceded to adding Lalo to "Better Call Saul," he and Peter Gould sat down to decide on characterization. Then came the hard part: casting. Gould went into detail with "Rolling Stone" about the whole process and their unbelievable luck in finding Tony Dalton.

"We went to our brilliant casting folks, Sharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas, and Russell Scott ... and we told them, 'We have a new member of the Salamanca family. He's a charming Salamanca, and playful.' They brought us Tony Dalton, and I don't know what else to say. We found a guy who's got movie-star charisma, and he's athletic, and he's charming, and he plays every layer to every scene."

Dalton's charisma is unquestionable. His athleticism also doesn't hurt, especially considering how often his character is seen leaping from high places. It's just one aspect of Lalo's extraordinary nature that Gould discussed is at times difficult to portray realistically.

"First of all, we try to make sure that the characters obey the rules of physics ... Everything Lalo has done was actually accomplished by an actual human being without wire work. I think that helps. The problem we run into most often is that Lalo, Nacho, Gus, and Mike are savvy, intelligent people. Gus, in particular, is a brilliant chess player who sees many moves ahead. Sometimes it's very difficult to dramatize what's going on beneath all these moves and countermoves. How much does Gus know before he becomes omniscient? How much can Lalo deduce from what he's seen? It's the intellectual side that gives us fits."

Dalton certainly has a flair for portraying the fiercely intelligent and deceptively charming Lalo. Even when characters like Saul or Fring can see right through his smile, it's still nearly impossible to detect his reactions or motivations. The harder he grins, the more sinister it feels.

Dalton drew inspiration from a Pulp Fiction character

There's a certain tension Lalo elicits the moment he walks into a room. But despite being the source of that anxious apprehension, he's always the coolest and calmest present. It's no accident that Lalo is magnetizing to watch as Tony Dalton designed him to be that way. As he told Looper:

"You got to start with how he talks, how he walks and start seeing other maybe characters or people that he could be similar to. For example, one of the things that I pride myself on is I think Lalo is very similar to Jules Winnfield, which is Samuel L. Jackson's character in 'Pulp Fiction.' Kind of this smart a**, sort of scary but kind of carefree, kind of cool guy. That's one tiny little thing that you grab. Also, I have a friend down here in Mexico who's just the most charming guy in the world, so I kind of grab a little bit of him, and then the stuff that's written and then how he walks and how he kind of bends over. You start doing all that stuff for a while at home like a crazy person and then you got to go show up on the set and you kind of got it."

All that prep clearly paid off by the time Dalton made his first appearance as Lalo in the Season 4 episode "Coushatta." After arriving unannounced at his father's restaurant to talk shop, Lalo tells Nacho Varga with a sinister grin: "You won't even notice I'm here." Who else is known for hiding menacing implications behind over-the-top niceties? Jules Winnfield — a man who is all too polite when asking to taste your Big Kahuna burger, but not so much when he points his gun at you. Dalton gave us a glimpse of this vengeful other-half of Lalo's personality in that bloody season finale. Facing betrayal by Nacho and the deaths of his family members, I think the mask is about to come off. I'm looking to Dalton to give Lalo a more than fitting end.