Better Call Saul Tests the Bonds of Its Brothers

Better Call Saul
Ben Leuner/AMC
Better Call Saul

The bond between up-and-coming Albuquerque lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and his older brother, successful attorney Chuck (Michael McKean), will be dramatically tested in the March 30 episode, leading to surprising new insights about both men. “Chuck is a sympathetic character, and a lot of people are bonding to him,” McKean says. “But nobody is just one thing. I love when a character turns us on our heads.”

So far on the Breaking Bad prequel, Chuck has been defined by his electromagnetic hypersensitivity, a disorder that causes him to have debilitating headaches when in the presence of power sources like electricity or batteries. “There are real people that respond to electromagnetic craziness in a way that’s almost like a physical illness,” says McKean (This Is Spinal Tap, Laverne & Shirley). “If there’s a psychosomatic element, that’s for someone else to talk about. I’m playing it as though it’s a real, legitimate affliction.” Chuck begins to test the limitations of his condition this week in order to help his brother come to terms with a harsh reality. “Chuck believes he’s going to get well or will find a way to live with it,” McKean adds.

As Jimmy continues on his path to becoming Saul Goodman, he carries the weight of caring for Chuck, who bailed him out of jail several times years ago. “Jimmy feels guilt about that,” McKean explains. “He’s working off some emotional debt. You can’t really put it on paper.” And though Chuck does not exist in the original Breaking Bad universe, McKean isn’t worried about his fate on Saul–even if he’s in the dark about what producers have planned. “I don’t know what’s coming, and that’s a smart way to get a certain performance out of an actor,” he says. “But let’s face it: I’m a dilemma to our lead character, and it’s only going to get worse.”

Better Call Saul, Mondays, 10/9c, AMC