TCA 2015: 'Better Call Saul' is like 'Breaking Bad,' but different

'Better Call Saul,' the spinoff of 'Breaking Bad,' will star Bob Odenkirk as a lawyer with ethical issues

Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way right off the bat: Walter White and Jesse Pinkman will not show up in "Better Call Saul," the upcoming spinoff of the award-winning "Breaking Bad."

At least not in Season 1, which premieres Feb. 8 with the first episode of a two-episode debut that will conclude Feb. 9.

Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the executive producers of the new series, said "Better Call Saul" will have some of the flavor of "Breaking Bad" but will be a distinctly different show.

The AMC series, which predates the time period before the events of "Breaking Bad," revolves around the evolution of White's attorney Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk. While characters from the previous series might show up, "Better Call Saul" will have to stand on its own.

"It is a risk," Gilligan said during a session for the series at the Television Critics Assn. press tour. "But all of life is a risk. I'm anxious for the world to see it, and still anxious on how it will be received. But I'm really proud of it. It's a ... good show."

Still, there's the "Breaking Bad" factor. "Every time I come into the office, I say, 'Has Walter White called yet?,'" quipped Odenkirk.

Also returning is Jonathan Banks, who played criminal enforcer Mike Erhmantraut. Michael McKean co-stars as Chuck McGill, the brother of Odenkirk's character.

In  the series, Odenkirk plays Jimmy McGill, which was his name before he became Saul Goodman. Like Goodman, McGill has ethical conflicts.

"He wants to be good, but the question is, why does he want to be good?" said Gilligan. "Sometimes it's very hard to be good. The fun for us in the writers' room is examining 'Why should he be good?'"

Added Gould, "He was an unethical guy in 'Breaking Bad,' but what we found with this show is that is not the guy we started with. There's a lot more nuance to his being unethical."

In taking on the early Saul, Odenkirk said he had to readjust his approach to the character. "I had to rethink him--he's more dimensional, it's a richer character."

But he said he felt comfortable because of the presence of Gilligan, who directed the pilot, and many of the members of the crew who had also worked on "Breaking Bad." "It was a lot like 'Breaking Bad.' We all felt pretty grounded."

Banks stressed that there was still a very vibrant connection between the previous series, which starred Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.

"The ghosts of Bryan, Aaron, all of them are there," he said. "But this is a different show."

The first season will be 10 episodes, and AMC has already greenlighted a second season of 13 episodes.

Twitter: @GeBraxton

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