Bryan Cranston tipped off Michael McKean before he got the role as Bob Odenkirk's brother on "Better Call Saul" in an unusual way, McKean told us in a recent video conversation at The Times studio.
"We were about to make an entrance, he as LBJ and me as J. Edgar Hoover," McKean says, referring to the Broadway show about Lyndon Johnson, "All the Way," "and he turned to me and said, 'You should really play the brother in 'Better Call Saul.' I said, 'What?' And I had to go on and do lines with him, but what I really wanted to do was say, 'One minute folks. What are you talking about Bryan?'"
What he was talking about, of course, was the part of attorney Chuck McGill, the older, responsible brother to Odenkirk's striving Slipping Jimmy McGill. The brothers' relationship was caring, supportive and, yes, sometimes exasperating through most of the season, but took an interesting turn toward the end when it was revealed that Chuck didn't think Jimmy belonged in his league.
"Slipping Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun," Chuck told him, dismissing (and betraying) his brother in a way that sets Jimmy on a course to become the Saul Goodman that "Breaking Bad" viewers know and love.
McKean spoke with delight about the surprise packed in that character revelation and the pleasure of working again with Odenkirk and "Saul" co-creator Vince Gilligan. He also does a pretty mean John Houseman. Listen in and see for yourself.