Better Call Saul Made Bob Odenkirk Realize Just How Hard Acting Can Be

There's a certain way actors talk about their craft that can be, well, annoying. Think of the recent (but also evergreen) negative reaction to method acting, or the way you (read: me, but maybe also you) want to sigh when a person that makes more money on the regular than you'll ever make in your life talks about how the difficulty of the craft. It's not a charitable way to think — everyone has their struggles, etc. — and I'm certainly not trying to get anyone to join club hate with me. But it's a hard pattern to break.

Still, if there's any actor who is able to flip the switch on these firmly embedded hater tendencies, it's Bob Odenkirk. And in a sprawling and truly engrossing interview with the New York Times, he did just that. Odenkirk is in the middle of wrapping up the final season of "Better Call Saul," the artsy and somehow sadder younger sibling of "Breaking Bad." In the piece, he thoughtfully talks about the loneliness he's felt while playing Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill. It's an emotion that was so affecting during the earlier seasons of the show that he stopped living alone during filming and instead began rooming with costars Rhea Seehorn and Patrick Fabian. As Odenkirk explains it, soaking in the isolation gave him a true understanding of the downsides of the craft:

"It gave me great sympathy for someone like James Gandolfini, who talked about how he couldn't wait to be done with that character, and I think Bryan [Cranston] said similar things: 'I can't wait to leave this guy behind.' I finally related to that attitude."

The dark side of a dark character on a dark TV show

Bob Odenkirk even admits to being a person who would "... scoff and roll my eyes at actors who say, 'It's so hard.' Really? It can't be." He's been acting for decades, though largely in comedies and sketch shows. His role on "Better Call Saul" required him to ruminate on dark memories and tap into exhausting emotions, which, does frankly sound draining:

" ... The truth is that you use your emotions, and you use your memories, you use your hurt feelings and losses, and you manipulate them, dig into them, dwell on them. A normal adult doesn't walk around doing that. Going: 'What was the worst feeling of abandonment I've had in my life? Let me just gaze at that for the next week and a half, because that's going to fuel me.'"

The narrative about acting isn't new. While Odenkirk is open and thoughtful about his feelings on the difficult sides of the job, we've all heard the tortured artist stories before. It's the way he explains how his thoughts on acting changed over time, the way he dives into how he gets prepared for the hardest scenes of "Better Call Saul," and the way he doesn't romanticize the dark moments that make this interview more interesting than another tortured Batman acting story. In fact, Odenkirk readily admits that what makes him excel at playing Jimmy might not be good for him:

"If there was one thing that let me do this, it was some access I have to the emotional, even traumatic spaces inside me that maybe isn't the most healthy person to be."