NEW YORK • Before AMC's Better Call Saul debuted in 2015, its star, Bob Odenkirk (left), spent time wandering around Albuquerque, asking himself why he had signed on for a circa 2002 prequel to Breaking Bad, the hit series that collected a slew of Emmy Awards.
"We were pretty far out on a limb," said Odenkirk, the sketch comic who plays Jimmy McGill, the wheedling lawyer and low-grade schemer who ultimately becomes criminal underworld lawyer Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad.
Instead of the crushing he anticipated, he was reintroduced to the world as a gifted dramatic actor.
Season 3, which begins today in the United States, finds McGill compulsively running small cons while still yearning to win the respect and affection of his rules-obsessed older brother, Chuck (Michael McKean).
Soon, he will encounter Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), the meth kingpin and fast-food chicken magnate last seen on the receiving end of a wheelchair bomb in Season 4 of Breaking Bad.
He says: "Having Giancarlo return is a jolt of energy for all of us on set, reminding us of this bigger world of Breaking Bad characters who will, it seems, be gathering like horsemen before an apocalypse."
Jimmy McGill - is there much you can relate to about him?
Well, I don't think I'd be a very good scam artist. But the way I relate to him is that I have enthusiasm for show ideas, sketch ideas and I can easily get carried away in selling or pitching them.
I think Jimmy is the same way with his schemes.
Will we see his alter ego Saul Goodman this year?
Here's what I can tell you and I'm sorry to be cute about it - but you will see Saul Goodman this season, but not in the way you expect. It's the first time he uses the name on this show - outside of a flashback.
He makes some choices that made me call Saul creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould and say: "I guess all we have left to do is buy the suit and the lime-green socks." They were like: "What do you mean?" And I said: "Well, if he's going to start shutting down like this, then he's not going to be Jimmy. He's going to be Saul."
When Jimmy and Gus first meet, is Gus already a villain?
I don't completely know Gus' back story. We will see Gus assembling his criminal enterprise. But he's already a bad guy with a drug trade going on.
For your scenes as a Cinnabon manager, you were coached by a Cinnabon executive on how to properly slather that icing.
I'm telling you, Cinnabon is not about skimping on any ingredients. It weighs everything out, but I think it also puts extra in. It is unabashedly putting everything your mouth loves into one hot lump - and it makes no bones about it. So don't skimp on frosting.
Are you surprised that you are the lead in a dramatic series?
I always thought that I belonged in a dramatic scenario. I have a complicated energy. I look like I have more questionable motives when I enter a scene.